Parents, you know it’s true — snack time is any time, when it comes to kids. And you probably also know this other kid truth, which is that just because they liked something yesterday, doesn’t mean that snack will still be acceptable today. Kids are funny like that, so we’re here to save you a few sighs and “what would you like this, time?” by giving you a menu of healthy nutritionist-approved snacks for your kids to choose from.
“Remember that food phases are totally normal, and food is only nutritious if your kids actually eat it,” says Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., an NYC-based registered dietitian, consultant, author of Dressing on the Side (and Other Diet Myths Debunked: 11 Science-Based Ways to Eat More, Stress Less, and Feel Great About Your Body) and host of the podcast On the Side with Jackie London, R.D. “Whenever you can, think of whole foods that can help deliver the key nutrients they need during this growth phase called childhood.”
Whole foods (or packaged foods made from them) (a.k.a. not products with an ingredient list of words that look like a science experiment) can help ensure your kids’ snack time supports their overall daily nutrition. Just like adults, kids need plenty of protein, carbs and fat for energy, as well as minerals and the alphabet of vitamins for good immunity and cellular growth and function, London adds.
Next time your little one’s tummy starts to rumble, offer them one of these healthy snacks for kids.
Just call them pizza snacks, and your child will probably be on board! Pair grape or cherry tomatoes (or large tomatoes cut into slices or chunks, if that’s how they like to eat them) with part-skim string cheese. “Poppable tomatoes and string cheese are both classic kid faves — cheese packs 5 to 8 grams of protein, which helps keep kids fueled and energized better high-carb snacks that cause blood sugar spikes and then a crash,” London says, and tomatoes deliver important vitamins and antioxidants.
Frozen Fruit Sticks
“Skewer up to three pieces of fresh fruit on a popsicle stick or toothpick, then stick ‘em (and store ‘em) in the freezer. Once frozen, serve with coconut chips or cashews,” says London. “It’s like enjoying a fruit pop!” Frozen fruit works too, just let it thaw a tad before skewering. They’ll get a variety of vitamins and minerals alongside a bit of fat, protein and fiber.
Crisp up some chickpeas in the oven or an air fryer, then sprinkle with your favorite savory or sweet spices. “Roasted pulses like chickpeas are easy to make, tasty, and have protein and fiber to stave off afternoon cravings,” London says. No time to make your own (or just not interested!)? Try Biena for some crunchy yummy.
If your kid isn’t allergic to nuts and seeds, they make an ideal healthy snack for kids. They deliver fiber, protein and fat — the energy trifecta! Add some dried fruit (look for products with no added sugar) to the mix for added fun and a hint of natural sweetness.
Whether they prefer to spoon it, sip it or suck down a pouch, yogurt is a great healthy snack for kids, however you can get them to eat it. It provides protein, calcium, and a bit of fat. Ideally, look for unsweetened 2% fat options and add your own DIY sweetness with fresh fruit, jelly, or a few chocolate chips, London suggests. “Adding your own sweetness is better than the pre-sweetened versions!”
Slice up a sweet potato and throw the sticks in the air fryer or on a sheet pan in the oven to make homemade sweet potato fries. Kids love fries, and these ones are filled with antioxidants like beta-carotene (which gives sweet potatoes their color), vitamins, and fiber.
Celery and Nut Butter
This classic combo can be dipped or smeared (remember when Mom added raisins to create “ants on a log?”), but both options are a good way to get some satiating fiber, fat, and protein. “In a pinch, I’m obsessed with Dandy Celery and Peanut Butter snack packs,” London says.
You can air fry pretty much any vegetable to create your own veggie snack that has the fiber and nutrients most packaged ones lack (try frozen corn or peas, too!). But if you’re in a pinch, here are London’s go-to brands that deliver on convenience, flavor, and nutrition: Jackson’s sweet potato kettle chips, Harvest Snaps (made from snap peas), Hippeas (made from chickpeas), PeaTos (made from pulses) or Love Corn (crunchy flavored corn niblets).
Whole grain goodness, plus protein and fiber make this breakfast staple an equally smart snack for kids. Skip the single serve oatmeal packs (they’re often filled with excess sodium or sugar) and keep a few batches of overnight oats in the fridge for a grab-and-go snack.
If your kid happily accepts a piece of fresh fruit, props to you! But if they’re still in the “I’ll only eat it if I don’t know it’s there” phase, there are plenty of solid packaged options that are made with the whole fruit, so they’ll still get the fiber and vitamins (instead of just blood glucose-spiking sugar). London loves RIND, Pressed by KIND fruit bars, Crispy Green (or any store-brand freeze-dried fruit with no added sugar from Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.).
Cheese and Crackers
This beloved snack is the kids’ version of adult charcuterie boards, and the pairing happens to make an ideal healthy snack. Look for whole grain crackers or ones made from nuts and seeds to be sure they’re getting some fiber and nutrients instead of just refined white flour, and consider making your life easier by keeping portable or snack size cheese products like Tillamook, string cheese, Babybel or Belgioso on hand.
Surprise! This movie night treat also makes a fabulous healthy snack for kids because it’s loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Your best bet is to make it yourself (this allows you control over how much salt or butter you use), or you can choose a brand such as SkinnyPop, Pipcorn, Smartfood or Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP. “When you’re looking for a cheese-flavored popcorn, make sure real cheese is listed on the ingredients list,” London says.
“This allows you to stealthily sneak in nutrient-dense ingredients like spinach or chia seeds,” London says. Make them on-demand or blend up a batch of their favorite smoothie medley, pour into ice cube trays, stick a popsicle stick in each, then freeze them so you always have smoothie pops to save the day.
It’s time to make cottage cheese cool again. It’s creamy and satisfying and will give your little ones a healthy hit of protein, calcium, vitamins and a bit of fat. Need a reco? Good Culture tastes amazing, is made from only real ingredients, and contains live and active cultures.
Turkey Roll Up
It’s sandwich vibes in snack form, and we’re here for it. Wrap a slice of deli turkey (kudos if it’s a lower sodium variety) around your kids’ favorite veggies and a slice of cheese, then let them munch away! They’ll get a fun snack filled with protein, vitamins and minerals.
Fruit and Nut Butter
Banana and peanut butter, apple or pear slices and almond butter — you can’t go wrong with a savory-sweet duo. And it delivers the key components of a healthy snack for kids: protein, fiber, fat and a dose of vitamins and minerals, says London.
Hummus and Veggies
It’s never too early to cultivate their love for hummus, and it’s also a nutritious way to make vegetables fun. Alongside their favorite dippers (celery, carrots), try introducing other veggies like bell peppers, cucumber, even radishes or jicama!
Adults love their brunch toasts, and there’s no reason kids shouldn’t too. In fact, it can make for a great healthy snack. Toast up a slice of whole grain bread, then experiment with toppings: hummus and cucumber slices, cream cheese and tomato, nut butter and blueberries, there are so many good-for-you options!
No, we don’t expect you to scramble up cheesy eggs or execute an omelet whenever your child begs for a snack. But hard boiled eggs are an easy option, and you can make them more exciting by halving and sprinkling with a pinch of salt and pepper, everything bagel seasoning or any other spice that they’ll eat. You can even find hard boiled eggs from brands like Vital Farms.
You can find whole jicama at the grocery store or pre-sliced jicama sticks. This root vegetable is like a cross between a potato and an apple, and it has a neutral flavor, so your kid will never know they’re dunking a dose of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, B-vitamins into their favorite fry condiment.
Chips and Guac
Yep, you read that right! Your favorite app also makes for a cool healthy snack. “Wholly Guacamole makes single-serve packs, and look for a brand of chips with whole grains or a real vegetable on the ingredient list (plus and oil and salt, and the fewer ingredients the better), like Food Should Taste Good or Siete, made from cassava flour,” London says. Even better — see if your child will dip veggies and chips.
If your kid has decided they’ll only eat chicken, not to fear — rotisserie chicken is here! “I love using a rotisserie chicken in meals and snacks,” says London. “They’re cost efficient, convenient, nutritious, and delicious.” Wrap a few pieces of rotisserie (or leftover) chicken in a piece of lettuce or stuff into a pita with a drizzle of their favorite condiment, and voila! A protein-packed bite.
This tasty nut might not be popular among the kids — yet! Try the pre-shelled snack packs from Wonderful Pistachios, which come in fabulous flavors that the whole family will love. Pistachios boast antioxidants alongside the snack-friendly mix of protein, fiber, and fat.
Watch out for the sodium content (some brands are overflowing with it) and opt for dill versus sweet (to avoid added sugars), but the humble pickle makes for a solid healthy snack. Since they’re just cucumbers fermented in vinegar and spices, it’ll taste like a fun treat.
You’d be surprised how many kids will chow down on crispy seaweed snacks. “They’re crunchy and flavorful while also providing key vitamins and minerals that are important for kids’ growth and overall energy levels” London says. Try gimMe Organic roasted seaweed.
Chickpeas aren’t the only crunchy legume in town. Lentils can also provide stay-full fuel, thanks to their plant-based protein and fiber, and Seapoint Farms Mighty Lil’ Lentils come in yummy flavors.
Tuna + Crackers
If your kid is a tuna lover, pat yourself on the back, then offer it as a healthy snack. When it’s not made with globs of mayo, it makes for a low fat, protein-rich nibble. To cut back on saturated fat, try doing a mix of mayonnaise and low-fat Greek yogurt (or all Greek yogurt, if you can swing it!), and stir in minced veggies like celery, bell pepper, or even carrots for a dose of vitamins. Let them pile it on whole grain crackers or whole wheat pita triangles.
It’s not breaking news that a piece of fresh fruit is a great healthy snack, but what’s awesome is that you can now find packaging that “merges convenience with ideal snacking,” which is perfect for on-the-go, says London. POM Wonderful Pomegranate Fresh Arils are a cup pomegranate arils to save you the trouble of dismantling a pomegranate yourself, or make a quick fruit salad and store it in single serving food storage containers in the fridge.
Veggies and Dip
There’s nothing wrong with a little crudité, kid-style. It’s a great way to encourage vegetables and it’s easy to prep in a flash. And get this: You can also almost always find a veggie dip snack pack when you’re out and about, such as London’s personal favorite, Taylor Farms snack packs. “These are an all-in-one savior for getting fresh produce involved in any snack on the go, and there are options for any age range!” London says.
When in doubt, reach for the universal kid food (OK, adults too!) that they almost never say “no” to — waffles! Opt for a whole grain option with little to no added sugar, then spread with some nut butter and their favorite berries or sliced fruit.