As parents prepare for yet another “back to school” season, they will scurry to malls in search of new clothes for their ever-growing child along with a litany of school supplies too numerous to name. But, let’s not forget healthy school lunches and after-school snacks as we plan ahead for the upcoming school year.

It’s common knowledge that after school is prime time for snacking, and it is also a time when many kids make, shall we say, less than nutritious food and beverage choices. Here are some waistline-friendly after school snack alternatives your kids are sure to love:

Potato Chips/Fries – Cut the potato in the desired shape (round, rectangular, oblong, etc.). Fully coat with egg whites. Season with a touch of salt or other herbs as desired. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Serve with sugar-free catsup.

Popcorn: Air pop popcorn and on it drizzle a moderate amount of powdered butter substitute, light parmesan cheese, or even honey for a tasty twist.

Pizza: On a fat-free/low-calorie/low-carb whole grain tortilla (or whole grain bagel), smear tomato paste or sauce and top with fat-free cheese, whatever veggies the child likes, and even lean meats like ham or turkey dices. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted with a few brown spots on top.

Tortilla Chips: Cut Chinese wonton squares (usually found in the produce aisle) in half diagonally so they become triangles. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet, lightly spray with cooking spray, and sprinkle on a dash of salt. Bake at 350 degrees until crunchy. Eat alone or serve with fat-free salsa or the below-described Mexican bean dip.

Mexican Bean Dip: Drain and food process two 14-ounce cans of black beans. Add 3/4 cup of fat-free salsa and 1/2 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and blend until completely smooth. Top with a dab of fat-free sour cream, fat-free cheese, diced tomatoes, chopped green onions, etc. as desired.

Fruit Smoothies: These are a warm weather staple that can, and should, be enjoyed year-round. While fruit smoothie recipes abound, it need not be a complex process. Simply blend, in amounts to your personal liking, either plain or flavored fat-free/sugar-free yogurt with skim milk, ice cubes, and either fresh or frozen fruit chunks. For added sweetness, you can add a touch of honey or an artificial sweetener, such as stevia. Blend and enjoy!

Healthy Ice Cream Sandwiches: These are a snap and always a crowd pleaser! Purchase any type of round fat-free/sugar-free cookie on the market (preferably the new whole grain varieties) or bake any low-fat/low-calorie cookie recipe from scratch. Sandwich waistline-friendly sherbet, sorbet, or gelato between two cookies and press to make a sandwich. For added excitement, flavor, and visual interest, you can also roll the outside edge of the “sandwich” in chopped unsalted nuts, shredded coconut, raisins, or finely diced fresh or dried fruit.

Parfait: While the word “parfait” may not be in your child’s vocabulary, (s)he will love making — and eating — this snack layered with goodness. In a cup or bowl, simply create thin, alternating layers of non-fat yogurt, low-fat granola (or other heart-healthy cereal product), and fruit slices or whole berries. Make as many layers of each as you like and then dig in!

Jell-O: Let’s not forget how much colorful, jiggly Jell-O can delight, especially when it is jam-packed with diced fruit.

Children’s health advocate, health industry veteran and two-time fitness champion, Merilee Kern is the creator of the ground-breaking “Kids Making Healthy Choices” APP for children, parents/caregivers and educators (available on iTunes), ased on her award-winning, illustrated fictional children’s book, “Making Healthy Choices — A Story to Inspire Fit, Weight-Wise Kids.” She may be reached at www.KidsMakingHealthyChoices.com.

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