After-School Snacks Ideas: Are They Really Healthy?
Most kids are famished when they come home from school, so it’s important to have something ready for them to enjoy after a big day of learning and exercise. We believe that highly sweetened and nutrient-poor snacks and drinks are not the best choices for hungry kids. Overconsumption of these can lead to poor oral health and obesity. That is why offering kids nutritious AND tooth-friendly after-school snacks is important.
So we did a bit of research to see what the most popular healthy after-school snacks were and to determine whether they were tooth-friendly.
To our surprise, many of the suggestions we found in our online research didn’t seem like particularly healthy options to us.
Even worse (from our point of view) we discovered that many of the so-called ‘healthy’ after-school snacks definitely weren’t tooth-friendly.
First off we needed to develop a list of healthy after-school snacks. So we did what any parent who was looking for healthy snack options would do.
We decided upon the phrase “healthy after-school snacks’ as this seemed the one most likely to provide – well – healthy after-school snacks. We decided to look at EVERY RECIPE that was listed in the results, and to see if it met our criteria for being tooth-friendly (see below).
Googling “Healthy After-School Snacks” Produced A Lot Of Interesting Options
Here’s the screenshot of our results:
The top ten organic (natural) listings are:
Of the ten results, we chose to use just use the first nine, because the result coming in at #10 was a Pinterest board, not a single website, and therefore had hundreds of recipes and snack ideas. There was also a paid ad right at the top which we didn’t include in our results because it wasn’t a site that Google ranked in the top 10 search results.
Now, before we show you our results, let’s get clear on our definition about ‘tooth-friendly’.
What Types of Snacks Aren’t Tooth-Friendly?
A snack is not good for teeth if it:
- Contains added sugar (so any sweet cake or biscuit is not tooth-friendly, even if it is home-made).
- Contains added sugar in other forms (agave syrup, molasses etc)
- Contains any confectionary (like chocolate, jam or ice cream)
- Is fruit in a concentrated form (like fruit juice, fruit puree or dried fruit)
- Contains any other ‘natural’ sweetener like honey
- Is highly acidic
We’d also like to remind you of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines for sugar consumption for children. The WHO strongly recommends that children (and adults) get no more than 10% of their daily caloric needs from free (added) sugar. They also suggest that a further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.
When they released these recommendations in March 2015, the WHO reported in their press release.
“We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay. Making policy changes to support this will be key if countries are to live up to their commitments to reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases.”
In providing these guidelines, the World Health Organisation is NOT suggesting that we stop consuming sugars naturally present in fruits, vegetables and milk because “there is no reported evidence of adverse effects of consuming these sugars.” They are concerned about the added sugar in our diets, especially those that are hidden in our foods and beverages.
This means that children under 8 years old should be consuming no more than 16 grams or 4 teaspoons of added sugars. And older children and teens should limit their added sugar consumption to 5-7 teaspoons per day.
When you learn that a small tub of low-fat yoghurt can have 2 teaspoons of added sugar (http://www.mynetdiary.com/how-much-added-sugar-is-in-yogurt.html) and a 200 ml serve of unsweetened apple juice has 21 grams of sugar (5 teaspoons) you can see how important it is to keep track of a child’s sugar consumption across the day. By the end of breakfast, a young child may have already consumed their recommended daily allowance of added sugar.
Here’s the nutrition information of a popular Australian brand of unsweetened apple juice. Note that the serving size is 200 ml, NOT a standard cup size of 250 ml. This serving contains 20.6 grams of sugar, which is a little less than 5 teaspoons. A serving of 1 cup (250 ml) would contain 24.5 grams of sugar or nearly 6 teaspoons (5.84).
The video below calculates the amount of free sugar in an (adult sized) ‘healthy’ breakfast of fruit juice, Just Right Cereal and yoghurt.
We were stunned! Each of the nine websites we visited had a significant number of after-school snacks which were definitely NOT tooth-friendly, nor particularly nutritious.
Of the 297 recipes and snack ideas that we reviewed, only 44% were tooth-friendly, because they DIDN’T contain added sugar.
Snacks That Should Never Have Been Called “Healthy”
In the snacks we examined, there were some examples that should never have been considered healthy or tooth-friendly. In fact, there were so many we found it a little hard to choose which ones to share with you…
You just have to read this list and you’ll know that every single one of these after-school snacks has plenty of added sugar in it.
- Peanut Butter and Chocolate Dipped Pretzels
- Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Chewy Chocolate Granola Bars
- Anzac Biscuits
- Honey Popcorn/ Caramel Popcorn/Crunchy Caramel Corn
- Sugar Cookies
- Chocolate Banana Crepes
- Cherry Limeade
- Choco-Berry Bars
- Chocolate-Coconut Graham Crackers
- Peanut Butter and Jam Crepe roll
- Chocolate Chow Mein
- Nutella Egg Cream
- Jam Pockets
- Cinnamon-Sugar Sticks
- Berry Brownies
- Peanut Butter Cookies
- PB&J Bites
- No-fry Cinnamon Doughnuts
Anything that has chocolate, sugar, honey, Nutella, brownies, cookies, doughnuts, biscuits, caramel or cookies in the name clearly contains added sugar and is therefore, according to our definition, neither tooth-friendly or healthy nor healthy.
Snacks That Are Being ‘Sold’ To You As Healthy
There were many examples of food that sounded like they could be healthy, but, on closer examination of the recipes, clearly were not. Here are some examples:
- Homemade cereal bars and muesli bars (lots of sugar in these)
- Bran muffin bites (small, but still made with lots of sugar)
- Frozen banana bites (these are dipped in chocolate!)
- Skim milk hot chocolate and 2 low-fat cookies (made to sound healthy because of the low fat ingredients)
- Low-fat ice cream (for after school?)
- Nut-based snack bar (sweetened with sugar)
- Banana Yoghurt Smoothie (sweetened with honey, and depending on the brand you use, the yoghurt may also be sweetened)
- Popcorn Balls (Made with mini-marshmallows and raisins)
- Healthy Oatmeal Cookies (made with brown sugar and raisins)
- Cranberry-oat cereal bars (made with marshmallows and cranberries)
- Trail mix kettle corn (mixed with honey and M&Ms)
- Zucchini muffins (sounds like brilliant vegetable goodness, but the recipe calls for a cup of brown sugar)
- Peanut Butter Protein Balls (made with honey)
- Ernie and Bert Fruit Snacks- (these look like they are just made with fresh fruit, until you realise the eyes and noses are marshmallows and red lifesavers)
- Apricot bars (made with lashings of sugar and dried apricots)
- Homemade granola (three types of sugar and two dried fruits)
- Minted watermelon and ice pops (sweetened with sugar)
- Berry and banana smoothie (made with orange juice and honey)
- Chewy coconut granola bars (lots of sugar)
- Chewy oat squares (apple juice, golden cane syrup, chocolate chips and dried fruit)
So, what DID we find that ticked all the boxes for nourishing and tooth-friendly? You can find the full list of the 30 most outstanding after-school choices from these 9 websites on this page.
Last edited: 24 January 2018