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Healthy snacks for kids on the go can seem impossible to find sometimes. If you head to the grocery store, you’re likely to find a whole aisle dedicated to snacks just for kids. Brightly colored ones, ones with characters on them, and ones designed to get your kids to nag at you until you give in and buy them. But which of these snacks are actually good, nutritious options for your kids? Are any of them?
Healthy snacks for kids guidelines
Before we get into specific examples of snacks for kids, let’s talk about some guidelines that can be really helpful to have around snacks.
Keep snacks for after your child is 1
Before 1, kids really don’t need snacks. We want them working their way up to 3 meals a day, with breast milk or formula making up the rest of their diet. By getting into the habit of giving snacks early, we often are encouraging using food to keep our kids entertained. It’s easy for them, and for us. But it doesn’t tend to do them any favors in the long run as these snacks tend to be pretty low in nutritional quality and crowd out other important foods they need.
Have scheduled snack times once they are 1
Even when you are out and about, it is important to have a scheduled time that snacks are offered. You can be flexible around this time, but it is important to have a general pattern. Allowing your kids to just have a snack whenever they think about it can set up a preoccupation with foods, encourage kids to use food to ease their boredom or anxiety, and cause them to eat more snacks than they might otherwise. This can lead to less other foods being eaten, too!
Have your kids sit to eat!
Not only does this help with encouraging your children to be mindful about food and eating, it can go a long way towards preventing choking. Eating while moving exponentially increases a child’s risk for choking, especially when they are under 5. Do not let your child walk or run while eating. Instead, strongly encourage sitting.
Aim for more than one food group
It can be hard to plan snacks sometimes, but aim for all of your child’s snacks to be balanced with more than one food group. Many packaged or quick snacks consist of simply carbohydrates, and don’t help your child to last from one meal to the next. Aim for serving a carbohydrate with a fat or protein source to help snacks have staying power.
Healthy snack examples for kids on the go
Now let’s get into some examples of how you might give these balanced snacks. I’ve broken the examples down into packaged and homemade snacks to help.
Healthy packaged snacks for kids
While I’m a big fan of grabbing things that you have in your refrigerator or freezer to take with you as snacks for kids, sometimes we just need something packaged! I recommend avoiding pouches whenever possible, so let’s talk about some other options.
Fruit and nut bars
My go to packaged snacks to keep in my bag for kids are Larabars like these. Any other bars that are just fruits and nuts with no added sugars or other extras like protein will work, too. These bars are suitable for kids one and older, and as kids younger than that really shouldn’t be eating snacks anyways, it works well. They generally have fat, protein, and fiber in them, and are a decently balanced snack in and of themselves.
If you are at all skeptical about your child being able to handle a bar like this, try starting out by breaking off little bites of it for them, and encouraging them to chew and swallow between each bite. As they get the hang of it, you will be able to give them bigger and bigger pieces until they are able to eat from the whole bar.
Cheese and eggs
While not as convenient as bars, prepackaged eggs and cheese portions can be thrown in your bag on your way out the door, too. Aim for sliced cheese instead of cheese sticks for younger kids, as these can be choking hazards. Hard boiled eggs can be bought in packets at the store or quickly boiled at home, and are a great protein boost for kids that are fairly easy to eat.
Homemade snacks for kids on the go
There are generally very few snacks that can be bought pre-packaged at the store that I consider a go-to snack. There are just too many compromises with most of them. But homemade snacks can make things much easier!
Now when I say homemade, I’m referring to two things. One, my freezer stash of things like healthy baby cookies and muffins. Things that I can pull out of my freezer and throw in my bag on the way out the door. There’s no compromising with these, and they are just as easy as packaged snacks in most cases (as long as you remember to make them in the first place!) You can find a handful of muffin and cookie recipes for your freezer stash in the On-the-Go Snacks e-booklet.
When I say homemade, I am also referring to things that you pull out of your fridge or pantry and throw in a snack box, but aren’t necessarily bought and ready to go.
Easy homemade snacks for kids
Let’s talk about some examples of quick snacks. Things like cucumber slices and homemade or store bought hummus will work, as will a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Leftovers from the previous days are a great option here, or frozen veggies or fruit given with cheese.
The only thing that you really need to keep in mind is aiming for those 2 or more food groups. Make sure you’re giving kids some fat or protein to keep them full! A piece of fruit is great, but when you add some cheese or hummus or some other protein or fat source, that is when it will turn into a balanced snack. And balanced snacks keep kids full longer!
An easy resource for healthy snacks for kids on the go
In an effort to help make snacks easier, I put together an e-booklet full of nutritious snack ideas for your kids. I’ve got lots of ideas and combinations in there to help you think of balanced and convenient snacks- both packaged from the store and made or thrown together at home. And there are even recipes to help you stock your freezer for the ultimate easy and nutritious snack option.
All of the ideas in the On-the-Go Snacks e-booklet are intended to be used for kids on the go, meaning they tend to be on the cleaner side of food options. But they are also great ideas to serve at home for snacks, no need to be out of the house! Grab your copy today to make snacking easier and ensure you’re getting your kids nutritious snacks, whether on-the-go or in the house.