Growing kids often get hungry between meals.
However, many packaged snacks for kids are extremely unhealthy. These snacks are often full of refined flour, added sugars and artificial ingredients.
Snack time is a great opportunity to sneak some extra nutrients into your child's diet.
Instead of highly processed snack foods, fill your child's tummy with whole foods that will provide energy and nutrition.
Here is a list of kid-friendly snacks that are both healthy and delicious.
Most yogurts marketed to kids are high in sugar. Instead, choose plain, full-fat yogurt and sweeten it with fresh fruit or a drizzle of honey.
However, make sure not to give honey to infants under 12 months old, as they may develop a serious disease called botulism (4).
You might consider popcorn to be a junk food, but it's actually a nutritious, whole grain food.
As long as you don't drown it in unhealthy toppings, popcorn can be a healthy snack for kids. Air-pop your own popcorn, drizzle it with a little butter and sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on top.
However, use caution when offering popcorn to younger children, as it can be a choking hazard.
Celery with peanut butter and raisins, which is sometimes called "ants on a log," is a fun way to get your child to eat a vegetable.
Cut a stalk of celery into three or four pieces, then spread peanut butter inside the celery. Arrange a few raisins on top of the peanut butter.
These three foods combined provide a good balance of carbs, protein and fat.
Doctors used to recommend withholding nuts from children due to the risk of an allergic reaction, but more recent evidence suggests that introducing nuts at an early age lowers the risk of this (7, 8, 9).
Nevertheless, nuts can be a choking hazard, so make sure your child is able to handle the texture before giving nuts as a snack.
As long as your child is not allergic to nuts, trail mix is a healthy snack for kids to eat on-the-go.
Most commercial trail mixes contain chocolate candies, which are high in sugar, but you can easily make your own trail mix at home.
For a healthier version, mix nuts, dried fruit and a whole grain cereal.
Spread each slice with ricotta cheese to add a yummy source of protein and calcium to your child's snack.
Cottage cheese is a fresh and creamy cheese that's soft enough for even infants to consume.
You can serve cottage cheese by itself, top it with fresh or dried fruit or use it as a creamy spread on whole wheat toast.
Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast for kids, but it also makes a great snack.
Skip the flavored packets of oatmeal, which are high in sugar, and make your oatmeal with whole rolled oats. Add a dash (1/8 of a teaspoon) of cinnamon and some diced apples for sweetness.
If you make the oatmeal with milk instead of water, it will add some additional protein and calcium.
Cheese is mostly made up of protein and fat, and it's a good source of calcium.
Studies have shown eating cheese and other dairy products is associated with better overall diet quality. Full-fat dairy foods significantly contribute to a child's nutritional requirements for calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin D (14, 15, 16, 17).
Some parents think it's hard to get their kids to eat vegetables. But if you make it fun for them, they are more likely to try the veggies.
Spread some hummus in a whole wheat pita pocket and slice up raw veggies, such as carrots, cucumbers, lettuce and bell peppers. Let your child pick a few veggies and fill the pita.
Veggies are loaded with important vitamins and minerals, and many kids do not eat enough of them (22).
A fruit smoothie is a good way to pack a lot of nutrients into a small snack.
You can also add veggies to a smoothie. With the sweetness of the fruit, children might not even realize they're in there.
Use whole, fresh ingredients in your smoothie and avoid fruit juice, which is high in sugar.
There are countless combinations you can try, but here is one smoothie recipe to get you started:
- 2 cups of fresh spinach
- 2 cups of frozen berries
- 1 cup of plain yogurt
- 1 cup of whole milk or almond milk
- 1 tablespoon of honey
Directions: Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Makes four servings.
Keep hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator for a quick high-protein snack for your kids.
Eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that are beneficial for eye health (25).
Homemade banana cookies are a healthy snack for kids, and they taste like a treat.
These cookies get their sweetness from mashed bananas, rather than refined sugar. Refined sugars are associated with health problems in children, such as increased risk factors for heart disease, childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes (28, 29, 30).
Banana Oat Cookies
- 3 ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/3 cup of coconut oil
- 2 cups of rolled oats
- 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips or dried fruit
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Place spoonfuls of the cookie mixture onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15–20 minutes at 350°F (about 175°C).
Raisins are dried grapes. They contain nearly all of the nutrients that are found in fresh grapes, but in a smaller package.
Raisin snack packs are an easy grab-and-go snack that's much healthier than most convenience foods.
A turkey and avocado roll-up is an easy-to-eat, healthy snack.
To make a turkey and avocado roll-up, first peel and slice an avocado. Gently toss the slices in lime juice to prevent browning. Wrap one piece of turkey around each avocado slice.
Homemade, baked sweet potato fries are a nutritious alternative to french fries.
Sweet Potato Fries
- 1 fresh sweet potato
- 1 tsp of olive oil
- Sea salt
Peel and slice the sweet potato. Toss the potato in olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt. Bake on a cookie sheet at 425°F (218°C) for 20 minutes.
Pickles are cucumbers that have been fermented in salt and water.
Pickles that contain vinegar do not contain probiotics, so look in the refrigerated section of the grocery store for pickles that contain live cultures.
Avoid sweet pickles, which contain added sugars.
Kale is considered to be a superfood because it's packed full of nutrients with hardly any calories. In fact, children can get all the vitamin A, C and K they need in a day in just one cup of kale (38).
Not surprisingly, most kids aren't jumping at the chance to eat kale. But kale chips are a tasty snack that might change your child's mind about kale.
- A small bunch of kale
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 tsp of garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
Tear the kale into pieces, then wash and thoroughly dry it. Toss the kale in the olive oil and seasonings. Spread it out on a cookie sheet and bake it at 350°F (about 175°C) for 10–12 minutes.
Most kids love dip, and providing them with a healthy dip is a great way to get kids to eat their veggies.
Hummus is one option. It's a thick, creamy spread made from chickpeas, which contain fiber, folate and plenty of antioxidants.
Hummus tastes yummy on carrot sticks or other raw vegetables.
Energy balls taste like cookie dough, but they're made with nutritious whole ingredients.
They're a healthier alternative to commercial granola bars, which are usually high in sugar and artificial ingredients.
- 1 cup of oats
- 1/3 cup of unfiltered honey
- 1/2 cup of almond butter
- 1/2 cup of ground flaxseed or whole chia seeds
- 1 tsp of vanilla
- 1/2 cup of dried fruit
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Roll the mixture into small balls and refrigerate. For a treat, replace the dried fruit with chopped dark chocolate chips.
Carotenoids are plant chemicals with multiple health benefits, including supporting eye health (25).
Bell peppers taste delicious dipped in guacamole, a creamy spread made from mashed avocados.
You can make your own sandwich crackers by spreading a little nut butter, such as almond butter, on whole grain crackers. This snack has a good balance of protein, carbs and fat.
However, choose crackers for your kids carefully. Many crackers are full of refined flour, hydrogenated oils and even sugar.
Instead, choose crackers made with 100% whole grains and seeds and avoid crackers with added sugar.
A piece of fruit is a convenient and healthy snack for kids.
Most fruits contain fiber and important nutrients like vitamins A and C and potassium (40).
Bananas, apples, pears, grapes, peaches and plums are examples of fruits that can be used for grab-and-go snacks.
Cut fruits like pineapple, cantaloupe and mango into bite-size pieces and store them in small containers for convenient snacks.
A quesadilla made with peanut butter and banana is a healthy and tasty snack.
Peanut butter is a great way to give your child a source of healthy fats and some protein.
And bananas are a good source of potassium and vitamin B6, in addition to containing a good amount of fiber (41).
This simple recipe combines peanut butter and bananas in a yummy snack.
- 1 whole wheat tortilla
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- 1/2 of a banana
- 1/8 tsp of cinnamon
Spread the peanut butter over the entire tortilla. Slice the banana and arrange the slices on half of the tortilla. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the bananas and fold the tortilla in half. Slice it into triangles before serving.
Olives are soft and easy for kids to eat. Make sure you purchase pitted olives for kids or remove the pit before serving them.
Different varieties of olives have their own unique flavor. If you have never offered olives to your child before, start with mild-flavored black olives.
Apple slices and peanut butter are a delicious combination.
Peanut butter has a thick consistency, which may be difficult for kids to use as a dip.
Mix a little bit of plain, full-fat yogurt into two tablespoons of peanut butter to make a smooth, creamy dip for apple slices.
Frozen fruit popsicles are a yummy treat for kids, and they're actually quite healthy.
Most store-bought popsicles are full of refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors.
But you can easily make your own at home, and your kids will likely enjoy helping.
Purée frozen fruit or berries and a small amount of fruit juice in a blender. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds or small plastic cups. Cover with foil and insert a popsicle stick into the popsicles through the foil. Freeze overnight.
Sandwiches don't have to be just for mealtime. A half of a sandwich can also make a healthy snack for kids.
To build a healthy sandwich, start with whole wheat bread, pick a source of protein and include a fruit or veggie, if possible.
Here are some examples of healthy sandwich combinations:
- Ham, cheddar cheese and thinly sliced apples
- Mozzarella cheese and tomato slices
- Peanut butter and banana slices
- Turkey, Swiss cheese and pickles
- Ricotta cheese mixed with finely chopped veggies
- Fried egg, avocado and tomato
- Cream cheese and cucumber slices
Many kids get hungry between meals.
A healthy snack can provide kids with energy and help them get the nutrients they need on a daily basis.
Offer your kids whole, unprocessed foods at snack time instead of pre-packaged snack foods.