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If you’ve got kids like mine, then they’re the type of kids who are hungry ALL.THE.TIME. For example, a few weeks ago we went to the Miramar Food Truck Park , in Miramar, PR, which BTW, we really loved. My 4 year old son feasted on lo mein, veggie dumplings, cornbread and passion fruit lemonade, on top of a bunch of other nibbles here and there. Like 20 minutes later he says to me, “Mami, I’m hungry”. What?!?! They’ve definitely inherited my husband’s appetite ? And yes, all this rambling is related to healthy snacks for kids, I promise! And if you don’t have little ones, stay ’til the end anyway, since these snacks are also adult friendly.
Why are snacks important for kids?
Young children, especially if they’re school aged, are going through a period of physical growth that requires sufficient calories and nutrients. Energy is also needed in order to stay alert and concentrated during the learning process. This is where the importance of snacks come into play.
Since children have smaller stomachs than adults, they tend to fill up faster, so they usually eat smaller amounts of food (well, except for mine, but that’s another story!). Therefore, kids tend to experience hunger more frequently. Snacks during the day act as “mini meals”, providing kids with those necessary calories and nutrients in amounts that are easily tolerated.
Snacks are also a great opportunity to include food groups such as fruits and vegetables in a fun way. These food groups are of particular importance for kids, but this population doesn’t seem to favor them very much. If we were to present them in snack form as geometric shapes, faces, or just paired up with other foods they like, acceptance of these groups would surely increase. Food creativity is a must with little ones!
How often should my kid snack?
Generally speaking, it is recommended that kids and teens eat every 3-4 hours. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the following:
- Small children need three meals and at least two snacks daily.
- Older children need three meals and at least one snack daily. If they’re very physically active or going through a growth spurt, then they may need two daily snacks.
The Academy also recommends offering snacks a few hours after a main meal, and from 1-2 hours before the next meal. This way, it’s less likely that your child will refuse a main meal due to being “too full” from snacking. That’s also why it’s recommended that no snacks be offered immediately before meals. This is something I constantly struggle with, since my little piranhas get home from school ravenous! So while I cook, I offer them an ultra light snack, such as a small mandarin orange, a few Ritz crackers or a glass of milk, until dinner is ready.
Click on the pic for this FREE resource on snacks kids can make themselves! ?
What types of snacks can I offer my kid?
This is a question I get asked frequently. And not just with respect to kids. Lots of adults also have difficulties choosing snacks that are not only satisfying, but healthy as well.
Well, I can start out by talking about what is NOT a healthy snack. And this mainly includes foods that have almost no nutritional value and are full of added sugars, sodium, processed fats and other additives. For example, try to avoid choosing the following foods as snacks:
- Salty chips and snacks, like Doritos, Cheetos, Lays, Ruffles, Pringles
- Sandwich cookies
- Snack cakes, like Twinkies, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs
- Juice drinks and other sugary beverages
- Sugary cereals and cereal bars
“Ok, so what can I actually give them?”, you may be asking. Well, here you have an awesome list of 25 different options of healthy snacks for kids. They not only provide necessary nutrients, but they’re light on processed foods and easy to make too. They’re also inexpensive, accessible, and above all, delicious! And way healthier than whatever is in snack machines these days. Although this post is about healthy snacks for kids, the following examples are also suitable for adults as well.
25 examples of healthy snacks for kids
So, as promised, here is the list of the different options you have for snack time. You can customize them to your child’s individual tastes (or yours if they’re for you). For example, if you’re not a fan of pears in one of the options, you can substitute apples or peaches. If you don’t tolerate/drink cow’s milk, you can use any plant based one, like soy or almond. If you need a homemade hummus recipe for your snacks, here I have a really good one. Oh, and how cute are these snack containers that fit into any backpack? Ok, ok….I’ll wrap it up! Here are the 25 different options for a healthy snack:
- Whole grain crackers | Peanut butter
- Unsweetened applesauce
- Yogurt (low sugar) | Granola topping
- Hummus | Baby Carrots
- 1/2 Ham and Cheese Sandwich
- Unsweetened dry cereal | Low fat milk
- Fruit and vegetable Smoothie
- Granola bar (low sugar)
- Cottage cheese | Halved peach
- Apple slices | Nut butter
- Tuna salad | Whole wheat crackers
- Avocado toast
- Carrot sticks | Low fat dressing
- Pear slices | Cheese cubes
- Homemade Trail mix: nuts, dried fruit, unsweetened dry cereal
- Guacamole | Tortilla chips (no salt added)
- Ritz crackers | Mozzarella cheese sticks
- Fruit salad | Yogurt topping
- Cheese and Spinach Mini Quesadilla
- Canned fruit (in 100% juice or water packed)
- Unsalted Nuts
- Mini English Muffin Pizza with diced Choice Veggies
- Fresh Mandarin Oranges
- Graham Crackers | Low fat milk
- Frozen Banana slices
Additional Recommendations for Healthy Snacking
- Remember that snacks are mini meals. They help curb hunger between meals and provide necessary energy, but they should not interfere with main meals.
- Avoid allowing your child snack (or eat) while watching TV or while engaged with a smartphone or tablet (this goes for adults as well). Eating while distracted can contribute to excessive calorie intake and unhealthy weight gain.
- Including your child in meal preparation increases the probability that they’ll eat it. This is also a great opportunity for kids to learn simple ways to prepare food, a skill I personally believe is beneficial for all.
- Have prepared snacks ready for when you’re on the go (pre-portioned and stored in Ziplock bags). It’s also useful to have fresh fruit on hand, like apples, bananas, pears, for a quick, fiber and nutrient rich snack.
Would you like more ideas like the ones in this post? Subscribe to Fad Free Nutrition Blog and get a FREE PDF list of ✨50 ✨ examples of healthy snacks for kids. You can print it out and have it nearby for when you need some snack inspiration. You can also check mark ✔ the snacks you’ve already prepared that week in order to offer more variety. Neat!
If you have any additional ideas for healthy snacks for kids, or any questions related to this topic, don’t forget to write me up in the comments below.
Hi! I’m Melissa, Registered Dietitian and mother of two dragons. When I’m not talking nutrition you can find me rolling around the floor with my kids, sewing, crafting, cooking or missing the 90s (seriously, music just isn’t the same). Read More…