“Mom! I’m hungry! What is there to eat?”

I could set my watch to my son’s after-school hunger pangs. 

Every day at 2:15 p.m., “the hungries” strike as my 6-year-old drops his book bag, wiggles out of his jacket and begs for cookies or crackers. I make sure he also gets some fruit – an apple or berries – but an hour later, rushing out the door to taekwondo or Scouts, the kid is ravenous again.

What just happened here? 

An incomplete snack is what happened, says pediatric registered dietitian Kathleen Sheldon, L.D.N. Fruit is a good start, but foods with protein and fat are the building blocks to a snack that will keep kids sated from the school bell to the dinner bell.

“Sometimes kids don’t know why they feel so blah after eating,” says Sheldon, who worked with my family for six months on our diet. But when a snack is basically all carbs – and, yes, that includes fruit and crackers – a kid’s blood sugar will spike and then drop, making him or her feel suddenly depleted of energy. “Protein and fat hold your blood sugar levels higher for a longer period of time, to carry you through the next few hours,” Sheldon says. 

I know firsthand that we parents are busy, and it’s easier to buy boxed snacks than to block out time for food prep. But this simple formula – fat + protein + fruits or veggies – could be as simple as a cheese stick and an apple, or baby carrots with full-fat Greek yogurt for dipping. Or, for something a little more fun, try one of these straightforward recipes, perfect for a kid on the go.