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In the book Harriet the Spy, the heroine eats the same snack every single day after school: a piece of chocolate cake and a glass of milk. Cake and milk, every day! As a kid, this struck me as pure genius. As a mom who has seen her kid melt down between the hours of 3 and 6 pm (and who experiences her own 3 pm slump every day when there’s still work to be done), I’ve learned that some foods are better than others when it comes to getting through the afternoon with energy and focus.

Make afterschool snacks filling, nutritious — and snack-sized

If you want your child to be able to focus on homework and also eat well at dinnertime, don’t let him fill up on non-nutritious snack foods after school. “Dinner” foods like last night’s leftovers are great. So are mini grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, carrots, or eggs.

Go easy on the sugar

Sugary snacks after school give kids a short-lived burst of energy, followed by a blood sugar crash — which means they’ll be hungry, tired, and grumpy when it’s time to do their homework. Avoid candy, cookies, and soda or other sweet drinks, and even “energy” bars, which are often packed with sweeteners.

Pack in the protein

Instead, go for something high in protein (without a lot of added sugar). Some good choices are cottage cheese or plain yogurt with fruit, tuna with crackers, sliced apples with nut butter, or ham and cheese. Pair high-carb snacks like popcorn with cheese or a glass of milk to provide some protein.

Have breakfast for snack

Hard boiled eggs, a whole grain frozen waffle spread with peanut butter (sorry no syrup), or a bowl of whole grain low-sugar cereal (like O’s, plain corn flakes, or oatmeal) with milk are just as good for midday as they are in the morning.

Dip it in something healthy

Dip sliced fruit, baby carrots, cucumber sticks, crackers, and pretzels in something that adds protein and calories, like plain yogurt, hummus, bean dip, or peanut butter.

Hydrate!

Finally, encourage drinking water. Most kids forget to drink water during the day, and a big glass of water after school can help fend off homework headaches and fatigue. If your child refuses water and begs for sweet drinks, add a little juice to their water to get your child drinking.

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