Far from spoiling your child’s appetite, snacking done right can be essential to a balanced diet.
With an arsenal of nutritious snacks ready to be dished out at just the right moment, you can help manage your kids’ rumbling tummies and hangry attitudes while keeping their energy levels steady.
We’re here to show you how with some of our favorite snack ideas for kids.
Mastering Snack Time and Intention
Kids of all ages have different dietary needs — and snacking serves a different purpose during different developmental milestones.
Therefore, it’s essential to keep snacking habits age-appropriate. Tailor your family’s snack system to each child’s nutritional needs and make sure you get the timing right.
Younger children don’t have the control and self-awareness to develop their own healthy eating habits, so you’ll need to guide them in the right direction. For instance, little ones still learning how to articulate their feelings may say they’re “hungry” when really they’re just restless.
On the flip-side, tweens and teens can seem so independent that their eating habits might be a mystery even to their parents. But older kids still need enough fuel to power them through all of their classes, assignments, extracurriculars, and social activities.
Here are three things to keep in mind for smart snacking:
1. Portion Control
Based on portion size recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, a seven-year-old will need about double the amount of food as a three-year-old. Focus on getting snack portion sizes right for your kids.
To make this a little easier, the USDA ChooseMyPlate program recommends keeping serving-sized food storage tubs and baggies> in the pantry so you and your kids know what’s enough.
Delivering snacks at the right moment is really important. If snacks are given out as treats for good behavior, kids may associate eating with a reward system. And, with too much grazing, food-lovers may overdo it while fussy eaters won’t be motivated to try new flavors during mealtimes.
In general, it’s best for kids to snack at regular, predictable intervals throughout the day. They should munch in between meals, rather than right before them. MayoClinic recommends avoiding snacks for two hours before a meal.
MayoClinic also suggests giving kids a few snack items to choose from so they can learn to make positive, independent choices. Try storing adult-approved bites in a kid-height cabinet or a designated drawer in the fridge. You can also make colorful produce available in a fruit bowl on the counter.
Making Snack Foods Kid-Friendly
The ideal kid snack is nutritious, filling, and tasty. It should also be fun to eat — otherwise, your little ones might not be interested. It should be portable, but it can’t be too messy. Minimal prep work will also make your grown-up life a little easier.
That’s a pretty tall order for a pretty small snack!
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that a snack should be as intentional as a mini-meal so it doesn’t become mindless munching. The more attention you can put into crafting a balanced, healthful snack, the better.
Store-bought snack packs designed with kids in mind can be perfect if they’re packed with the right ingredients and nutrients. You can mix up your own personalized snack packs with fresh ingredients, too.
Choose nutrient-dense snacks that provide the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients that kids need most. Focus on foods high in protein, healthy carbs, and healthy fats to keep your kids full, focused, and energized. Steer clear of sugary, salty, highly processed food products; save the sweet treats for special occasions.
Legumes and tree nuts, dried fruits, hard-boiled eggs, and low-fat dairy products work well alongside fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Save some time by slicing and dicing and packaging up these bites ahead of time so you’re ready for the week ahead.
Try to create snacks with high visual appeal, too. A mix of colorful diced fruits or a slice of whole-grain toast cut to shape with a cookie-cutter will be more interesting than their plain counterparts.
You’ll also want to provide a mix of tastes and textures. Create a crunchy-and-creamy combo with carrots and hummus or a graham cracker dipped in low-fat yogurt. Try sweet-and-salty solutions like trail mix or a banana with nut butter, too. Find out what your kids crave so you can pack a snack that hits the spot.
14 Satisfying Snack Ideas for Kids
You’ll want to establish a snack routine and keep an eye on the portions. Give your kiddos a choice to keep them engaged, too.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the (lunch) box when creating snacks for your little ones. Here are 14 easy snack ideas for kids to get you through the next two weeks!
- Bag up a sliced apple and place a dollop of organic nut butter into a reusable food container for a satisfying snack.
- Create a homemade trail mix with unsalted peanuts, tree nuts, raisins, and dark chocolate chips to give on-the-go kiddos plant protein and a dash of sweetness.
- Slice up some bell peppers and celery sticks to serve with a low-fat Greek yogurt dip.
- Pack up a hard-boiled egg and low-fat string cheese for your child to enjoy on the way to soccer practice.
- Assemble a little plate of whole-grain pita chips and hummus with a few cherry tomatoes for after school.
- Bake a batch of whole-grain muffins using unsweetened applesauce instead of oil or butter for a lunchtime treat.
- Pop some frozen blueberries into a scoop of low-fat yogurt, or mix them together into a fruit smoothie.
- Make a batch of energy bites with nut butter, seeds and a drizzle of chocolate.
- Deliver a sweet dose of fiber, protein, and calcium by serving sliced pears with ricotta cheese.
- Prepare some overnight oats for a breakfast-whenever snack.
- Pack a no-sugar-added fruit cup into your kid’s backpack along with a pouch of plain, air-popped popcorn.
- Toss some kale chips, drizzled in olive oil with a pinch of garlic powder into the oven for an afternoon snack complete with healthy fats and micronutrients.
- Bring some fresh fruit skewers along on your next family outing.
- Satisfy your kid’s sweet tooth and deliver a burst of whole-food protein with a Perfect Kids snack bar.
About that last one… Perfect Kids are pretty special.
Your perfect kiddos will love the delicious cookie-dough texture of our Peanut Butter Cookie and Chocolate Chip snack bars. They won’t even notice that their new favorite snack food actually contains eight superfoods — cauliflower, beet, broccoli, carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, and kale!
We also added gluten-free oats to Perfect Kids for an extra dose of fiber — a slow-burning carb that will keep your kids’ energy levels up. Healthy fats from flaxseed oil and peanuts will help your kids feel satiated between mealtimes and stay on track when it’s time to break out the homework.
Finally, each one is sweetened with organic honey and perfectly portioned at one-third the size of a Perfect Bar. Store them in the fridge and your kids can enjoy them on-the-go for up to a week.
Check out our store locator to find out where you can pick up a box of Perfect Kids — we’ve bundled five in each box for a whole school week of smart snacking.