When your child gets home from school, we know you want to give them something healthy. We also know you want something quick and easy! Here are some healthful, schedule-friendly snack ideas to help get you started.
What should a snack include?
This may be one of the first questions you ask. Snack time can be a great opportunity to make sure you’re your kids are getting their recommended daily amounts of foods. Having fruits, vegetables, low-fat protein options, and whole grains on hand can be a great way to stay prepared for hungry afternoon appetites. These are all important foods for growing kids to eat.
Note: If you are curious about appropriate serving sizes for your child, check out the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Read Chapter 3 of the linked document to learn about what a healthy dietary pattern looks like for your child. Recommendations are available for each age group to help you make sure that your kids are getting the nutrients they need!
We’ve pulled together some options for snack time that don’t require any preparation, some that can be quickly prepared, and some that require creativity as an ingredient but are well worth it!
No preparation needed options
These snack foods are perfect for busy afternoons. They are just a reach away and easy for kids to serve to themselves.
- Reduced-fat or low-moisture string cheese
- A good old-fashioned string cheese stick is a quick and easy snack. Kids love peeling string cheese themselves. Try to get the reduced fat or low moisture string cheese for a lower saturated fat option.
- Yogurt can provide calcium, protein, and probiotics (friendly gut bacteria) for your child. Do read the nutrition facts label on the back though, as some yogurts can be a sneaky source of sugar
- Choose a low-fat or nonfat yogurt to limit the saturated fat.
- Greek yogurt is another good option. Greek yogurt is higher in protein because much of its excess water has been removed. That is also why it often costs more than regular yogurt. Choose whichever works with your budget.
- Look for yogurt with less than 23 grams of total sugar per 6-ounce container.  Yogurt is made of milk, and milk naturally has sugar in it. Many companies also add sugar to the yogurt during production. Pro tip: Choose plain yogurt and add a handful of fresh fruit if your kids need something sweeter.
- Whole grain cheese crackers
- There are plenty of cheese crackers that kids love. Many of these cheese crackers now have a whole grain option. Choose the whole grain version and make sure to check the serving size on the nutrition facts label.
- Fresh fruits
- You can’t go wrong with a piece of fresh fruit. Whether it’s berries or bananas, fruit provides your child with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Fruit is also hydrating, as it can have a high water content depending on the fruit. Try adding fresh fruits like berries and citrus fruits to water to make it a colorful and delicious treat for your youngsters (and for you)!
Quick preparation options
While these snacks require a little more effort, they can still be quick to prepare and just as nutritious. You can also prepare them ahead of time, so they are ready for your kids when they get home.
- Unsalted, unbuttered microwave popcorn
- This delicious crunchy snack is actually a whole grain and can go towards the goal of making half your grains whole! But before you reach for the movie theater-style popcorn, it is important to know that it can be loaded with unhealthy fats and sodium. Choose the unsalted or unbuttered option at the store.
- You can also make a healthy version of popcorn at home on the stovetop or in the microwave using olive or canola oil. Add a little bit of seasoning of your choice for flavoring.
- Apple slices with cinnamon dip
- Our simple cinnamon dip is only three ingredients and pairs perfectly with sliced apples. All you need is plain nonfat yogurt, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
- Fresh veggies
- Veggies like cherry tomatoes and baby carrots just need to be rinsed before they are ready to be eaten.
- You may need to slice, peel, or chop vegetables before they can be served, but this does not make veggies any less important than fruit! Try cutting up fresh pepper and cucumber sticks and storing them in an airtight container in the fridge for easy access on busy afternoons.
- Yogurt Crunch Parfait
- This yogurt crunch parfait is quick to throw together and looks and tastes delicious! Full of calcium for strong bones and fresh fruit for a treat, this parfait is fun AND healthful.
- Peanut butter and banana wraps
- This snack is perfect for teaching skills in the kitchen. Grab a whole grain tortilla and spread peanut butter on it. Peel a banana and place it on the edge of the wrap. Then, simply roll the tortilla around the banana. Slice the wrap into bite-size pieces and let the kids (and adults) enjoy!
- Trail mix
- Combine whole-grain cereals, nuts, and dried fruits to make a homemade trail mix that has something for everyone. If you are making this ahead of time, pre-portioning the mix into small bags or cups will make snack time a breeze.
- “Bugs on a Log”
- A tried-and-true classic. Kids can easily put this snack together on their own if they are given the ingredients. With fresh celery sticks, peanut butter, and raisins, your children will get servings of veggies, protein, and fruit!
For more ideas for snack time and items to keep on hand, check out our Smart Snacking blog.
Written by Taylor Newman, Ph.D., RDN, LD, and Darci Bell, RDN, LD | Reviewed by Leslie Davis, MS, RD, LD, CDCES, and the Nutrition Education Team
Posted: August 16, 2021