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Keeping Kids Out of the Cookie Jar

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Hidden Valley Ranch Veggie Nachos

(Family Features) - There's no doubt that kids build-up big appetites throughout the day. In fact, the Nemours Foundation's TeensHealth survey found that 99 percent of teens say they snack after school. Just like breakfast, lunch and dinner, a child's afternoon snack is important because it provides the fuel necessary to maintain energy during after-school activities.

Whether your kids are running to soccer practice or tackling homework assignments, keep them away from the cookie jar. Make sure they get the most out of snack time with these simple tips:

Subtract Sugar. Limit sugary snacks and sodas that can leave kids feeling hungry and may not give them the nutrients they need to power through the afternoon. Instead, try whole grain breads and crackers combined with protein-rich toppings such as peanut butter or low-fat cheese.

Do Your Homework. Prepare multiple, pre-portioned snacks at the beginning of the week and keep them in the refrigerator or cupboard for kids to grab and go. Remember to use food labels as a reference for appropriate serving sizes.

Multiply Their Options. Keep your kids from getting bored with the same snacks day after day by trying alternative preparation ideas. For example, bell peppers can be served with dip, as a main ingredient in crust-less quiche and on top of mini pizzas. Use recipe Web sites as resources for new snacks that can be made in advance.

Raise the Bar. Make snacks more appealing, especially those that contain low amounts of fat such as pretzels or low-sodium, low-fat popcorn - by adding a burst of flavor. Lightly coat with cooking spray, sprinkle on seasoning, such as Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix, and bake on a tray for about 10 minutes at 350°F. Toss into a paper lunch bag for snacking on the run.

Empower the Pupil. Always keep a variety of healthy, convenient foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruit, within reach. Providing a healthy environment at home can lead your kids to the head of their class at school.

Try this delicious after-school snack recipe for kids created by kids. Between concentrating on school work and creating recipes, James Beard Award-winning kid chefs Isabella and Olivia Gerasole know how to work up an appetite. Whip up their very own Veggie Nachos for some afternoon snacking goodness.

Hidden Valley Ranch Veggie Nachos

  • 1 (12-ounce) bag pita chips
  • 1/2 cup diced red pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow pepper
  • 1/2 cup matchstick carrots
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 packet Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix
  • 2 cups reduced-fat shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Low-fat sour cream to taste (optional)
  • Olives to taste (optional)

    1. Pile pita chips in a shallow serving dish. Mix peppers, carrots and chickpeas together in a bowl; combine with chips.
    2. In small bowl, sprinkle Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix over cheese. Microwave on high about 45 seconds; stir. Microwave another 45 seconds or until melted. Immediately pour cheese mixture over chips and veggies. If desired, top with low-fat sour cream and olives.

SOURCE: Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix

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