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updated: 8/22/2011 10:33 AM

Your health: Keep those snacks healthy

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  • Stock your pantry with healthy, quick after-school snacks.

    Stock your pantry with healthy, quick after-school snacks.

  • Going to bed at the same time every night can help you feel more rested.

    Going to bed at the same time every night can help you feel more rested.

Daily Herald Report

After-school snacks

Kids are back in school, and when they get home from school, they're ravenous and ready to eat.

Here's a week's worth of quick and healthful snack ideas, courtesy of Marisa Moore, registered dietitian and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Serve any of these with low-fat milk or sparkling water with a citrus wedge.

1. Apple slices and warm peanut (or almond) butter: The apple provides fiber and a bit of vitamin C; the nut butter's a filling protein and adds healthful fat to the mix. Make the nut butter dippable by warming it in the microwave for a few seconds.

2. Popcorn: Full of fiber, low in calories, nice and filling and fun to eat. Cooked on the stove top in olive oil, it's also a source of healthful fat. Go easy on the butter and salt.

3. Smoothie: Blend low-fat vanilla or plain yogurt (or tofu) with whatever fresh or frozen fruits you have on hand. Serve with a few whole-grain crackers.

4. Vegetables and hummus: Red-pepper strips, sliced cucumbers, carrot sticks, celery or baby tomatoes dipped in hummus.

5. Banana and pistachios: Bananas provide heart-healthy potassium. Pistachios offer fiber and healthful fats.

Sleep tight

Whether or not science ultimately proves that lack of sleep contributes to being overweight, most of us could benefit from catching more Z's. According to The Washington Post, sleep disorders specialist Michael Breus suggests these simple steps to sounder sleep:

• Keep your sleep schedule consistent. "If your body knows when to go to bed every single night, it does it, and does it well."

• Exercise daily. "Exercise helps to reduce anxiety," a main cause of sleep loss. But stop four hours before lights out.

• Keep a worry journal. Breus says writing down your worries can reduce anxiety's grip.

• Limit pre-bedtime activity. "The time right before bed should be spent doing three things: the stuff you need to do to get ready for the next day, such as getting the kids' backpacks ready, personal hygiene and relaxing time."

• Don't consume caffeine after 2 p.m. Caffeine can keep you awake eight to 10 hours after you ingest it.

• Stop imbibing three hours before lights out. "Alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but it keeps you out of that deeply restorative stage of sleep."

• First thing in the morning, get 15 minutes of sunlight. "That's the easiest way to reset your circadian rhythm," the internal system that regulates your sleep.