For quick snacks to take in the car with you, filling ones for throughout the school day, or even elaborate snacks to enjoy at home, you and your kids can work together to choose and make nutritious snacks. Whole pieces of fruit are time-tested favorites, but can get boring in just a few days. Try these variations to keep your kids interested and prevent them from asking for junk food snacks because they're bored with yet another apple or banana.
Kids need nutritious snacks. Aim for snacks that provide some key nutritional components, such as protein, fiber, calcium, and good fats, like those in avocados, nuts, and seeds. Snacks that contain a lot of empty calories, such as candy, cookies and pastries, and soft drinks, tend to blunt appetites for regular meals without providing the needed vitamins and minerals to support a growing child's development. While an occasional cookie or bag of potato chips is a good treat, getting in the habit of serving these as snacks can lead to obesity, not to mention picky eaters. Try some healthy snacks instead.
Delicious and Nutritious Kids' Snacks
The snacks below need not be limited to your kids' enjoyment! These tasty snacks are good options for kids, but prepare double portions and stick one in your work bag when preparing one for your child so you also have nutritious options throughout the day.
- Small squares of homemade banana, pumpkin or zucchini bread (try a healthier recipe by substituting one-third or one-half of the butter for applesauce) spread with low-fat cream cheese or all-fruit jam (made with apple juice concentrate)
- Smoothies made with any combination of the following: fruit juice, sorbet, nonfat milk or soy milk, fruit or frozen fruit and berries. If you don't use frozen fruit, add a few ice cubes to thicken the smoothie in the blender.
- Graham cracker sandwiches filled with peanut butter or with cream cheese whipped with a little honey, maple syrup, or concentrated fruit juice
- Homemade frozen pops with whole fruit and unsweetened fruit juice
- Whole grain, low-sugar cereal with or without milk. Offer low-fat yoghurt as an alternative to milk.
- Mini-muffins made with bran, oats, or whole grain
- Raisins mixed with other very small pieces of dried fruit
- Fruit salad
- Finger vegetables with dip. Use ranch dressing, guacamole, hummus or low-fat cream cheese for the dip.
- Mini sandwiches with peanut butter and preserves (use sugar free preserves, if possible), tuna salad, ham salad, cheese, or cream cheese. (Instead of preserves try banana slices or raisins with the peanut butter.)
- Individual pizzas made with English muffins
- Crackers topped with tuna, cream cheese, hummus, or peanut butter
- Celery stuffed with cheese spread or peanut butter
- For older kids where choking is not an issue: popcorn, trail mix, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds (pumpkin and sunflower seeds are popular with kids)
- Bread sticks to dip in hummus
- Low-salt tortilla chips with a salsa to dip them in
- Cheese cubes or string cheese
A few of these snacks are virtually impossible to pack in a lunch box for later consumption. However, many of them can be taken along for snacks at school or before or after a sports practice, game, or other extra-curricular activity. Purchasing small food containers will expand your snack repertoire exponentially; send dip or hummus for vegetables, or put together a basic fruit salad. Trail mix, nuts, and raisins are also much easier to manage when packed in small containers.
Enticing Young Children
For snacks for preschoolers, presentation can make a world of difference. Get your toddler interested in healthy snacks by creating recognizable images, such as happy faces. Keep a collection of small cookie cutters to make cheese and sandwiches into a variety of basic shapes, like cats and dogs, which you can label together for added fun and learning. Creative parents might enjoy making more complex figures; for example, create a sailboat by using a small sandwich triangle for the sail, a carrot stick as a mast, and apple slices or other fruit as the body of the boat.
Additional Kids' Recipes for Snacks
Kids' cookbooks and various online sites have many ideas and recipes for kids' snacks. Check out Knack Healthy Snacks for Kids or Nitty Gritty Healthy Snacks for Kids. Once you've experimented with a variety of snack types, you'll probably find yourself inventing new snacks that follow your child's preferences. Encourage your kids to invent snacks of their own too, which they are likely to enjoy regardless of how they actually taste. If they really are interested in learning about food combinations, try signing up for a kids' cooking class and see what kinds of delicious snacks they can whip up for the whole family after that.