Planning healthy children’s snacks seems like an easy thing to do, until you’re on your third child or your 6th month of school snacks, or have a picky eater, or… any number of things. You get worn down and buying pre-packaged snacks becomes more common and easier than planning and making healthy kid’s snacks every day. While pre-packaged snack foods aren’t a big deal when you really need the help on the fly, for the long-term they are not a healthy enough option to sustain your kids without adding a lot of empty calories with low nutrition and high sugars. So it’s always great to find a fresh, new list of school or summer snack ideas to motivate you to keep trying! And you don’t have to think small and get trapped into cute “ants on a log” kinds of snacks either if you don’t want to. Kids can handle good foods you would also eat at the office or at home for your own snack break.
- If your child or their classroom has no concerns about nut allergies, making your own trail mix with your kid at the helm is empowering, fun, and handy for getting them to consume good proteins and dried fruits. Check out what’s in snack mixes at the store and what your kiddo likes, then go to the bulk bins and collect all their favorites. All kinds of nuts and dried fruits like raisins and apricots are available. Mix them at home, put in a large container, and you’ll have a couple months worth of trail mix as a go-to for snack time. Maybe add a few M&Ms and their favorite pretzel sticks or pieces to make the mix even more desirable. Gluten free pretzels are becoming widely available if grains are a concern. Other options are endless with roasted edamame, air-popped popcorn, sunflower seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, and lots more.
- Try edamame and sugar snap peas! You can steam some edamame for dinner and if your child truly enjoys it, keep a bowl of steamed edamame in the fridge to snack on, just like any other yummy finger food. You can try different sprinkles of spices or nutritional yeast flakes (which tastes a lot like cheese) over top for even more joyful snacking without empty calories. Sugar snap peas are also a favorite for some kids and delicious cold. You can pack both of these options for school snacks since they keep well for a few hours in a container and are easily eaten with little fingers.
- Vegetable or fruit “chips” you can make and send to school or camp or on a car trip are a wonderfully healthy option to a snack kids love. Google is your friend here! Search online for tons of options in making your own cheddar crackers, apple chips (dehydrated apples), homemade graham crackers, zucchini chips, tortilla chips they can dip into something nutritional, beet chips, sweet potato chips, kale chips, and more. Consider buying a food dehydrator to make fruit chips, while the rest are baked in your oven on a cookie sheet.
- Hard boiled or deviled eggs are easy to make in advance and always have on hand in the fridge for snack attacks at home. Sprinkle with paprika or another yummy spice and enjoy anytime at a moment’s notice when hungry kids come running to the kitchen between meals. Another delicious option is to replace the yolks of deviled eggs with your choice of hummus you make at home or a healthy store-bought brand you can trust.
- Don’t downplay the avocado’s ability to fulfill the need for a healthy snack on its own. A lot of us use it in dips and meals and sandwiches, but forget it can be easily sliced open and enjoyed with a spoon right from the shell. It’s a healthy, necessary fat and has a wonderful nutty, buttery taste kids love. A delightful alternative is “avocado toast” where you spread very ripe avocado over toast or bagels like you would butter or cream cheese, but nice and thick! The trick is getting ones you can plan to use before they’re too ripe. Keeping perfectly ripe avocados in the refrigerator instead of the counter helps suspend their too-fast ripening nature.
- Healthier bread and homemade granola bar recipes by the dozens are also found across the Internet and in bookstores. Variations on pumpkin bread, healthier banana bread, muffins, granola bars, fruit leathers, and more can be found to bring in bits of nutrition while still pleasing the picky eater. Easy to have on hand and slice off a chunk or grab a muffin or bar to shove into a backpack makes busy parents as happy as the kids who get this yummy treat. They’re easily mixed up in advance and baked (if needed) after dinner is out of the oven and kept on the counter for a day or two, or longer in the refrigerator.
- Try out a huge variety of fruit smoothies on your kids too, and pack them in a Thermos to keep them cold. If you make them thick and provide a spoon, you can drop fruit or fruit chunks into the smoothie before putting the lid on or send along a baggie of healthy granola bits they can drop in before eating. There are some very simple recipes to the more advanced out there and they can be made the night before and tucked into your refrigerator or freezer for the next day. Yogurts, honey, juices, and fruits galore can be used in a smoothie your kids will love and their friends will want to try.
- Don’t forget to go old school. You can make up an assortment of fruits and veggies in small containers to keep in the refrigerator and grab on the fly anytime. Keep bananas and small apples on hand, clementines, baby carrots or sticks, berries, slices of cucumber, or whatever your child loves to crunch on when they’re hungry or bored. You don’t have to get too creative here, just supply an alternating assortment of yummy and fresh finger foods!