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Energy-Boosting After School Snacks

The best brain foods for focus and energy with after school snacks you can make yourself

Sep 25, 2018

When you get home from school or sports practice at the end of a long day, chances are the first thing you do is reach for a snack. Do you often find yourself standing in front of an open refrigerator, staring at the contents with no idea of what to eat? Or perhaps you just grab a soda and a bag of chips on your way to your room to study. Mindless eating is as easy as it is unsatisfying. As your probably know, it’s unhealthy, too.

If you’re reading this article and you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably ready to change things up a bit and start eating things that are actually satisfying and good for you, and you’re hoping we make it easy, too. Well, you’re in luck. We won’t bore you with the science behind what causes food fade or why certain foods give you more energy than others. You get enough of that in health class. The upshot is that healthy eating is all about finding foods that give you a slow burn and steering clear of the fast crash-and-burn foods that feel good for a minute before you start feeling b-a-a-a-d.

Movie Food

Popcorn is a great source of vitamins B6 and B12, and E which are all said to help your memory, focus and overall brain power. B vitamins help unlock the natural energy in foods, so keep ‘em flowing throughout the day. Pop a bag of microwave popcorn or grab a serving of Smart Food. You can also pop your own popcorn in the microwave. All you need is a brown paper lunch sack, popcorn kernels, and some flavoring and you’ll have a super healthy snack in minutes that costs only pennies to make.

Quick and Easy Microwave Popcorn

  1. Pour 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels into the paper lunchbag.
  2. Fold over the top of the bag 3 times and put it folded side down in the microwave.
  3. Press the popcorn setting on the microwave or set the timer for 3 1/2 minutes. Let it run until the popping slows to one pop every five seconds. If you’ve set the timer and it’s still going strong when the timer beeps, add another 30 seconds and keep an ear out for when the popping slows. Don’t wait until the timer runs out or you may get burnt popcorn.
  4. Add flavor, then close up the bag and shake to distribute it among all the kernels.
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt
  • Cinnamon, salt, craisins, peanuts, and anything else you’d put into GORP (see below)
  • M & Ms
  • Crushed pretzels
  • Salt, chili powder and lime juice
  • White chocolate chips and sprinkles (hello birthday cake flavor!)
  • Add chocolate chips and a touch of salt to hot popcorn in the bag and shake to let it melt
  • Mix 1/4 teaspoon each of cumin, paprika, granulated garlic, chili powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper if you like your popcorn a little spicy. Squeeze on a little lime juice for a zesty touch.
  • Go tropical with some shredded toasted coconut and dried pineapple
  • Spray on margarine or melt 1/4 teaspoon of butter in the microwave for 30 seconds, then pour it into the bag


Caution: Discard any un-popped kernels before eating. Those hard little nuggets can crack teeth and break braces!

Go green with avocados

Buttery, creamy and easy to eat, avocados are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which makes them a healthy, mercury-free vegetarian snack. Avocados are great by themselves — just cut one open along the long side, pop out the pit, shake on a little salt or your favorite seasoning, and dig in with a spoon.

You can also turn this ordinary snack into a gourmet experience. Just spread it on a piece of toast and add your favorite flavor combination to turn it into a trendy snack.

Avocado Toast Add-Ins

  • Cooked egg, salt, and pepper
  • Halved grape tomatoes, halved grapes, and balsamic glaze
  • Bacon
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Cream cheese, dried garlic, sesame seeds, and salt
  • Salsa
  • Feta cheese or goat cheese and olives

Try adding tomatoes to your avocado toastTry adding tomatoes to your avocado toast

Go blue with berries

A handful of blueberries a few times a week (fresh in season, frozen or in juices or smoothies in cooler months) can not only boost your immunity and fortify your body against certain types of cancer, it can also help you keep your focus longer and boost your attention span. Grab a handful of berries plop them onto a container of yogurt. The result? Better focus on the playing field or in your studies

Nuts to you

A handful of nuts fills your body with healthy antioxidants that help you stay focused. At the same time, proteins in nuts work to help you stay focused and retain more information for a longer time.

GORP, or “good ole’ raisins and peanuts” as the hippie hikers like to call it, is an easy, portable, and versatile snack that fills you up and won’t go bad if you keep it in your backpack for a few days. Be aware, though, that chocolate and chocolatey treats may melt, depending on storage conditions. For a handy snack like this, it also may help to keep some hand sanitizer or wet naps on hand before you start snacking on finger food on-the-go.

Things you can add to GORP

  • Popcorn
  • Salted nuts
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Candied nuts
  • Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • Corn nuts
  • Raisins or craisins
  • Chocolate covered dried fruit like Raisinets
  • Dried tropical fruits like coconut, papaya, pineapple, and banana chips
  • M & Ms
  • Chocolate or carob chips
  • Seaweed flakes
  • Salt, cinnamon, and a dash of sugar

For every mix, be sure to have more healthy than unhealthy options and use the sugary and salty treats as flavor accents.

Good old raisins and peanuts!Good old raisins and peanuts!

What about a coffee break?

Caffeine is a quick fix that can stimulate your brain and help you focus on the task at hand. There are a few downsides, though. Too much can make you feel jittery, and consuming too much caffeine later in the day could cause insomnia. If you normally fuel your brain with caffeine throughout the day, you risk desensitizing yourself to it, minimizing the beneficial effects over time while still building an addiction to it.

Get your chocolate fix instead

Dark Chocolate gives similar antioxidant benefits to nuts and also contains caffeine. Each serving of dark chocolate has about 1/8 the caffeine in a cup of coffee, or 1/4 the caffeine in a cup of black tea. That’s just enough to give you some zing in your step without the jitters. It has less sugar and fat than milk chocolate. An ounce or two a day is a guilt-free brain booster!

A LITTLE sugar boost can be okay, too

We’re not telling you to grab a spoonful of sugar when you’re feeling foggy. That would only lead to a quick burst of power followed by a dull fizzle. We’re talking about natural sugars found in fresh fruit, sugar-free fruit drinks and whole grain carbohydrates like pastas and pumpernickel bread. These foods have just enough natural sugars to let your body release the energy slowly and efficiently, resulting in even energy levels and a boost to your memory and mental abilities.

Tell us what you think!

What do you like to add to popcorn? Have you tried avocado toast? Tell us about your favorite after-school snack in the comments below.