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30 Best Healthy Snacks for Kids They Can Bring to School – Good Housekeeping

12 minutes, 35 seconds Read

Here’s a secret nutrition experts want you to know: For many kids, snacks aren’t just an afterthought, they are the main event: “Adults can get all their nutrients in their three main meals, but kids have smaller tummies and may not get everything they need in breakfast, lunch and dinner,” says Marina Chaparro, RDN, a pediatric dietitian, founder Nutrichicos, and creator of the Feeding Toddlers with Confidence online course. This may especially be true if they’re picky eaters, or spend their school lunch period trading Pokémon cards instead of eating that turkey sandwich you packed. “Your kids may have a much bigger appetite when they get home after school or after their activities,” Chaparro adds.

So even though it’s very tempting to stock up on all those pre-packaged snack bags of cookies and chips, preparing a few fresh and healthy snacks for your kids to fuel up on can pay off big time.

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. “Whenever you can, think of whole foods that can help deliver the key nutrients they need during this growth phase called childhood,” 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.

And though these snacks may take a few extra minutes of prep time, you can use that to your advantage, says Chaparro. “We sometimes underestimate how much kids really want to be involved in the process, both shopping for the snacks and preparing them,” she says. Ask your child to help pick out which fruits look the best at the market or to help make a frozen yogurt pop and you’ve got the start of some great healthy eating habits.

Next time your little one’s tummy starts to rumble, offer them one of these healthy snacks for kids.

Edamame

Once a treat you could only order in sushi restaurants, edamame are now available in just about every grocery store across the country — and they’re a big hit with little kids. “They are so much fun for kids to eat,” says Chaparro. “If you get serve in the pod, your kids can play with it, open it, and see what’s inside, like a little experiment.” She adds that the soy beans, which you can serve frozen, heated in the microwave, or even crunchy style, are packed with fiber and protein, which will leave them more satiated as they run off to the afternoon’s activities.

Freeze-dried fruit

As crunchy as a cookie but made of nothing more than wholesome, vitamin-packed fruit, this popular new type of snack is available at many grocery stores. Chaparro is a big fan of strawberry and mango, “This is a different way of serving fruit that is mess-free, packs really well, and doesn’t have to be stored at a colder temperature,” she explains. Sweet and crunchy, the fruit has plenty of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber and makes an especially easy grab-and-go snack for eating in the car.

Home-made muffins

What kid doesn’t love standing on a stool at the kitchen counter helping Mom or Dad mix up some tasty muffin batter? The trick with these is to add healthy, wholesome ingredients, such as grated zucchini or carrots, and mix in what Chaparro calls “nutrient boosters,” such as flaxseeds, chia seeds or hemp seeds. If your kid likes cute, easy-to-eat snacks, make them mini-style. Go for the full-size ones if you want them to double as an easy, on-the-go breakfast, Chaparro suggests.

Mango Slices with Lime

A popular snack across Latin America (and on street corners in New York City!), mango slices sprinkled with lime juice, salt and — if your kids have adventurous taste buds — a little bit of spicy tajin, is a refreshing taste of summer any time of year.

Yogurt Popsicles

Take this classic kid snack — sweetness on a stick! — and add an extra boost of calcium and protein by starting with a creamy yogurt base rather than fruit juice. “I like to use a full-fat, plain yogurt and then add in any fruit, a little bit of agave, and maybe even sprinkle a little chia,” says Chaparro. Ask your kids which fruit and fillings they want, and let them help mix the yogurt and pour it into the popsicle molds. Nothing tastes more delicious than a snack you made yourself!

Olives

Some people don’t develop a taste for these little Mediterranean tidbits until they are adults at a cocktail party, but plenty of kids love popping the salty treats in their mouth at snacktime. They’re a great source of healthy fats, and easy to serve along with crackers and cheese.

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.

Crunchy Chickpeas

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.

Trail Mix

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.

trail mix in black bowl

robynmac//Getty Images

Tomatoes and Cheese

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.

Sweet Potato Fries

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.

Veggie-Based Chips

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).

Oatmeal

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.

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.

crackers and cheese

EasyBuy4u//Getty Images

Popcorn

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.

Smoothie

“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.

Cottage Cheese

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!

Toast

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!

toast with heart shaped jam closeup from above

Cavan Images//Getty Images

Eggs

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.

Jicama Fries

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 oil and salt—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.

Pistachios

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.

Seaweed Snacks

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.

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.

Pomegrante Seeds

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.

pomegranate seeds bowl on wood background from directly above

Dimitris66//Getty Images

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.

Headshot of Alyssa Jung

Alyssa is a senior editor for the Hearst Health Newsroom, where she has written research-backed health content for Prevention, Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day since 2017. She has more than 13 years of reporting and editing experience and previously worked as research chief at Reader’s Digest, where she was responsible for the website’s health vertical as well as editing health content for the print magazine. She has also written for Chowhound, HealthiNation.com, Huffington Post and more.

Headshot of Valerie Agyeman, R.D.

Valerie Agyeman (she/her) is a women’s health dietitian and the host of the Flourish Heights podcast, where she produces science-driven content covering overlooked nutrition, wellness and women’s health topics. She has over 10 years of nutrition communications, corporate wellness and clinical nutrition experience. Valerie is a trusted expert and regularly appears on networks including ABC’s Good Morning Washington, and she is a contributing expert to publications like Women’s Health, The Thirty and Shape.

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