Top 10 Healthy Snacks for Kids

Recent data from market research firm NPD confirms what we all know – American kids are heavy snackers. Children aged 6 to 12 consume 4.1 snacks per day. Teens consume slightly less, just 3.8.  Younger children munch mostly on foods provided by their parents. The older and more independent they become, the lower the parental influence.

For parents, this means that we have 4 opportunities every single day to healthify our kids’ diet. The challenges are not simple. First we need to overcome our children’s inherent preference for junk food, built up from infancy due to their exposure to heavy marketing. Next, we need to provide something that:

  • tastes good
  • adds nutritional value
  • is easy to prepare
  • is easy to serve
  • does not cost too much
  • last but not least…kids will actually eat.

Here is a list of some of some of our favorites:

1. Nuts and Seeds – go for the unsalted kind, just throw ‘em in a ziplock bag and they’re ready to eat. Make sure your child is old enough to thoroughly chew before swallowing. If you want to invest a little effort, you can roast the nuts in the oven for 30 minutes at around 250 degrees (Farenheit).

2. Dried Fruit – apricots, mango, raisin, cranberry, apple, pear, … – choose the unsweetened varieties – fruit is sweet enough on its own.

3. Homemade Trail Mix – this is so easy. Buy whatever nuts, seeds, and dried fruit your kids like in bulk. Mix in a bowl. Scoop into individual Ziploc bags and you have a week’s worth of snacks handy.

4. Bars – This is an extension of the dried fruit/nut concept – basically trail mix that has been shaped into a single bar. We are particularly fond of bars with minimal ingredients, KIND and LARABAR especially. By the way, it is easy to prepare your own bars too.

5. Homemade popcorn variations – Try them with grated cheese on top, or with raisins and dried cranberries, or sprinkled with spices such as paprika. You can prepare a big batch and prepack in plastic or paper bags.

image: Cooking on the Side

6. Ants on a Log – This is a classic. Celery sticks filled with peanut butter, almond butter or cream cheese, dotted with raisins, or dark chocolate chips.

image: Healthy Laps

7. Fresh fruit – grapes, banana, sliced apple (with a few drops of lemon juice to stop the browning). It’s amazing how much kids will eat if you make it easier for them. For example, make sure the grapes and are separated into small bunches. Just leave them on the kitchen counter and the kids will find and devour them.

8. Fresh veggies - sliced cucumber, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with a tiny amount of salt to bring out the flavor. Again, just place on a plate in front of your kids as they are watching TV, and magically the veggies will disappear!

9. Hummus - whether in as pita, dipped with carrot or cracker, hummus (garbanzo bean spread from the Middle East) is becoming more popular in the US.

10. Homemade cookies – OK, not necessarily healthy, but hey, if you took the time to bake them from scratch with your children…

Want to add your suggestion to the list?

  • Stella

    Lots of peanut options. Any suggestions on 10 healthy ‘non-peanut’ snacks?

    • Tommy

      No option needs to have peanuts as outlined above. I don’t see your lots of peanut options. Just because it says nuts doesn’t mean peanuts.

    • Karen

      Use your imagination — what about trail mix with dried fruit, popcorn, and pumpkin seeds? Or Ants on a Log with cream cheese or sunbutter in place of peanut butter?
      The best options are the fresh fruit and fresh veggies, anyway.

  • InfiniteOnion

    Bean Dips!

    I recommend Black Bean Moles, red or pinto currie dips, white bean variations on hummus, etc.

    Even if you go with one of the cheese laden versions it’s still a wonderful vehicle for the consumption of those vegetables mentioned above (Cucumber works wonders).

  • Natalie

    Here’s a great nut free option (I usually make a few with walnuts too!). Not sure where this originated but I got it from someone’s Facebook page. Both my kids love them and when my picky toddler won’t eat his breakfast I give him one of these before leaving the house in order to avoid freak outs!

  • JLGuernsey

    OK, sounds great, but what’s with the honey accompanying the apples? As you yourself said, fruit is sweet enough.

    • Fooducate

      It’s a nice picture.

  • Amy Keating, RD

    If your child is in elementary school and brings a mid morning snack, don’t miss this opportunity to pack something healthy like fresh veggies. You have a captive audience at mid morning snack time – - they are hungry and that snack bag is their only option! I always got extra veggies into my kids using this snack time.

  • Alyssa B

    When I was a kid, my mom always offered cut up fruits and veggies and my sister and I usually ate them. Those are my favorite snacks.

    Another idea is to make a mini pizza on a piece of whole wheat bread or a tortilla. Just spread some minimally processed pasta sauce over it, sprinkle on some cheese and then toast it in the toaster oven (or use the broil setting in the regular oven).

  • Katie

    Great list, Fooducate. I just did a 10 Healthy Snacks with simple recipes that might be handy, too.

  • frustrated kiwi

    Seriously! The worst list ive ever seen. Everybody knows to feed there kids fruit and veges. There isn’t 10 healthy snacks when 1 & 2 = #3 and #7 is the fresh version of #2.
    Did you put the list together on your bus ride to work?

    • Fooducate

      Thanks for your “helpful” comment. Would you like to make some actual suggestions, or is your work done here today?

      • frustrated kiwi

        If your gonna put homemade cookies in your list, atleast give some ideas. When I take my kids out snacks are always difficult. Its hard to find healthy options. Everything at the grocery store is packed with sugar! I make as much as I can so I control what is going into their little bellies. Sandwiches in fun shapes work.

  • Sally

    What a great article! A much needed resources for us parents everywhere. I love your idea of ants on a log and can’t wait for my little one to try it! I think it can be so hard to find snacks for children that are healthy and don’t taste like grass. Teaching kids to love fruit, vegetables and fresh foods is so important! Your article reminds me of a “buy one give one” company I recently found out about in Whole Foods called Nouri bar. They make date based (instead of granola) bars that are gluten-free and delicious for kids. A lot of kids nowadays have different allergies so finding easy snacks like these, and cut fruit are a great option.