Figuring out healthy snacks that kids will actually eat can sometimes seem like one of the toughest challenges. It should be simple, right? It's just a snack for goodness sake!
But somehow it's not always that easy. They get bored, we get bored, we get in a rut that can be hard to get out of.
To try to help you out, I've pulled together a list of my favorite snack ideas for kids (and for the whole family).
I try to stay mostly healthy, but let's be honest, we're not all perfect and sometimes we just need to get something in them! We eat our fair share of goldfish crackers and chips around here too - it's not all veggies!
It's a lot easier to stay with the healthy options if you've somewhat planned ahead and you've got what you need. Sometimes even when I am doing my meal planning and shopping lists I will try to jot down a few ideas for snacks for the week.
My first goal for snacking - especially after school - is to refuel their brains and bodies just enough to help them recover from their long school day, have enough energy to get through their homework or after school activity, but still be hungry again by dinner time. I don't know about all kids, but when my kids get home from school they are HUNGRY!
My second goal for snacks is that it needs to be quick and easy. I make enough meals, I don't need to be spending a bunch of time prepping snacks. I want stuff that's quick for me to get out and put on a plate. Prepping ahead of time helps with this, like keeping veggies already cut, fruit washed, and snack containers filled and organized. It's even better if the snacks are stored in a way that the kids can help themselves - I try to keep snack sized cheese, yogurts, veggies, and fruit at a level where my kids can reach.
I think snacks also need to be quick and easy for kids to eat. They want to get on with the fun. So foods that are bite sized and not too messy are ideal.
I try to keep the same ideas in mind for snacks as I do for all other meals - a balance of protein, fruit, veggies, and carbs. Not all at the same time, but I just try to keep some balance in mind with the snacks I offer through the course of the week.
I do try hard to minimize the amount of pre-packaged snacks we have at home. Not because I have anything against them, there are plenty of healthy options, but mostly because that stuff gets expensive! My four kids can demolish a box of granola bars or applesauce pouches in minutes. I keep a good supply of those kinds of things available in our garage to throw in a snack bag for when we are out, but at home I aim as much as possible to not have packaged snacks. And, as you can see from some of the pictures, when I have the time I prefer to pack snacks to go as well. We've got lots of little containers and boxes that are great sizes for snacks on the go.
One of my favorite things to do for snack time, and sometimes even lunch when we are home, is to just put out a platter or cutting board with a variety of choices. It's easy for me, and I've found that my kids will actually eat better if they have a little control over the choices. For lunch I will tell them they have to choose a veggie and a protein, for snack time I will just let them have whatever they want off the plate.
Now, for my list of go-to snacks:
We love all kinds of fruit, but here are some of our favorites:
- Oranges or Mandarins - ask the produce guy for whatever is easiest to peel
- Grapes (try freezing them too - a great treat for hot summer days!)
- Berries, my kids go nuts for any kind of berries.
- Avocados - my girls like to fill the center with soy sauce and scoop them with a spoon, or we love avocado spread on toast or bagels.
Fresh (raw) Veggies:
For some reason my kids are much more willing to eat raw veggies than cooked. Fine by me. It's easier. I try to keep a variety in the fridge so I can serve a selection that will include something for everyone.
- Sweet peppers - especially red and orange
- Sugar snap peas
Dried fruits & veggies:
These are great because they keep longer, and more and more stores are offering a wider variety of dried things.
- Dried cranberries
- Dried strawberries
- Dried blueberries
- Any freeze dried fruits - these are crunchy, instead of chewy like normal dried fruits. You can get all kinds - apples, bananas, strawberries, mango, etc. I usually get them at Trader Joe's, but I've seen a wide variety at Whole Foods, and sometimes at Costco.
- Apple sauce, or any other kind of fruit sauce.
- Seaweed snacks
- Dried veggie chips
- Snack sized cheeses. For snacking it works best to either have pre-packaged cheeses like Babybel or string cheese, or just take a few minutes once a week to cut a big block of cheese into cubes or sticks. Small cubes are great for smaller fingers.
- Yogurt tubes - from the fridge, or frozen. If I freeze them my kids think they are getting some kind of special treat
- Milk. Yes, sometimes just milk. A cup of milk has 8 grams of protein. It's a great way to quickly get a kid fueled up with some protein and natural sugars. I don't even mind a little chocolate milk for those occasions when they really need a quick boost of energy - I usually try to keep a handful of chocolate milk boxes in my car, in case someone is especially hangry at school pickup.
- Ham, turkey, salami, chicken - sliced or cubed
- Boiled egg
- Nut butters - great on celery or crackers, or I have one that will just eat a spoonful.
- Cubes of baked tofu
- Mini hot dogs, or a regular dog cut into bites.
- Tuna salad with crackers. I like to mix in shredded cheese when I make tuna for the kids.
Homemade baked goods are perhaps the ultimate in after school snacking. They will create fond memories that last forever.
- Muffins: you can pack a lot of goodness into homemade muffins. I make extra and keep them in the freezer. Mini muffins are great for snacking.
- Quick breads - banana bread, zucchini bread, pumpkin bread.
- Whole grain bread & rolls. A little butter or jam on a nice multi-grain roll or slice of bread is a great snack! I have a recipe here for a super quick biscuit that my kids just love. A slice of a really good quality multi-grain bread has 4-5 grams of protein.
- Cookies. In moderation of course, but you can actually cut back the sugar quite a bit in a lot of cookie recipes, or swap it for honey, and you have something much healthier.
- Pizza rolls (here's how I do them), or any other kind of savory baked item.
Other Grains & Carbs:
- Lots of different kinds of regular crackers - you know, Ritz, Triscuits, etc.
- Of course we also do the usual kid favorites - cheese crackers, animal crackers.
- Granola bars, cereal bars, breakfast bars
- Rice cakes
- Mini bagels
- Graham crackers
- Rice crackers
- Sesame crackers
- Tortilla chips
- Packaged lower sugar cookies - little mini graham cookies, animal crackers, etc.
- Dry cereal - a bowl of dry Cheerios, Chex, or other low sugar cereal
Dip & Spreads:
Some kids love dipping, so dips can be a great snack with veggies, crackers, or bread.
- Ranch dip
- Bean dip - I like to just do refried beans heated with some shredded cheese. You can add a little salsa if your kids like a little spice.
- Peanut butter, or other nut butter
- Spreadable cheeses
- Guacamole - sometimes I buy the little single serving containers, or it can be just as easy as mashing up an avocado with a fork and adding a bit of salt and lemon juice.
- Smoothies & milkshakes. Really the possibilities are endless. These are great for busy on-the-go type of days. Sometimes I will make a really loaded smoothie and take them in the car for pickup, if we are running around to activities.
- Quesadillas - cut in strips for easy munching
- Simple sandwiches. If you have a few kids, you can make one simple sandwich, like a toasted cheese or a PB&J, and cut it in quarters. A quarter of a sandwich with a few sliced apples is a nice little snack.
- Leftovers - a small bowl of dinner leftovers is about as easy at it gets. Not a full meal sized serving, but just enough to tide them over. A little bit of leftover pasta, a cup of soup, a bowl of rice...
You don't have serve the "typical" snack foods just because it's snack time. Anything they like to eat, and you are ok with them eating, makes for a fine snack. Just serve it in a snack sized portion, rather than a full meal portion.