If you have children around the house, among the challenges you likely face, now that they’re back in school, is what to feed them for a snack when they come home.

As any parent or caregiver knows, children are invariably starving after a busy school day, regardless of how well they may have eaten their lunch. And if they’re like most American kids, their snack of choice is likely to be something that is sugary, sweet and/or fattening.

How do you get your child to opt for fresh fruit and cheese over milk-dunked Oreos? And what is the optimum after-school snack?

For answers, I asked local dietitian and consultant Steve Roch for tips on healthful snacking.

“Snacking is very important,” Roch said. “It’s better for your digestion and metabolism to eat several smaller meals a day.”

That’s particularly true of children, who have smaller stomachs and greater nutritional needs.

But kids aren’t going to eat healthful snacks unless they see their parents also making wise food choices.

“It’s important to pattern good behavior,” Roch said. “Why should children eat a healthful snack when they see Mom or Dad snacking on junk food?”

Roch also said it’s important to start off with small steps, and keep expectations initially low.

“If they reject a food more than once, don’t give up,” he said. “Keep trying and try preparing it different ways.”

Finally, it’s just as important to hydrate your kids as it is to feed them, particularly if they have an afternoon or evening of sports activities ahead.

Roch cautions against letting them load up on sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade, which contain a lot of sugar and are not as nutritious as many parents mistakenly assume.

“If they’ll be playing sports for 60 minutes or more, then one bottle of sports drink is acceptable,” he said. “But no more.”

As for so-called energy drinks, those should be strictly off-limits for kids, he said.

“Water is still the optimum drink of choice,” he said.

Some of Roch’s recommendations for healthful snacks are listed above.

For more information, contact Steve Roch at steve@best

rdwellness.com; or, visit the American Dietetic Association Kids website at http://www.eatright.org/kids.