Packing a homemade lunch with nutritious snacks is the key to keeping your kids healthy and energized throughout the day. Preparing snacks and lunches ahead of time helps develop healthy eating habits and can save families time and money. To avoid the same old paper-sack snacks, we have compiled a list of 10 healthy and creative kid-friendly snacks that will get your kiddos eager to eat during snack time!
1. Apple Cookies
Apple “Cookies” is a delicious and protein-packed spin on the classic PB & J sandwich. Simply slice apples widthwise and spread peanut butter onto slices. For extra protein and nutrients, top slices with unsweetened coconut, chopped nuts or even some dark chocolate shavings for an extra antioxidant boost.
TIP: If your child has a peanut allergy, swap the peanut butter for almond butter or sunflower butter!
2. DIY Lunchables
Store-bought lunchables have been a long time favorite by kids of all ages. Unfortunately, many of the store-bought options have processed meats, cheeses and crackers that are harmful to your child’s health. Creating your own DIY lunchables at home will allow you to customize the snack based on your child’s preferences and provides your child with a variety of nutritious options.
Lunchable possibilities may include:
- build your own sandwich box;
- mini veggie pizzas;
- fruit and nuts;
- tacos with different toppings such as olives, shredded cheese, salsa, and meat.
3. Fruit and Cheese Skewers
Fruit and cheese skewers are a colorful and healthy snack alternative with endless opportunities throughout the year. By purchasing fruit that is in season and pairing it with cheese, this diverse snack will never disappoint. Another perk to these skewers is how simple they are to enjoy! With minimal mess, your kids will be ready to snack and play within minutes.
TIP: Use reusable plastic skewers. Not only are they kid-friendly, but also your child can bring them home to use in another snack!
4. Yogurt Parfait
Creating delicious and nutritious snacks for your kiddos doesn’t have to hard or wasteful! Try making a yogurt parfait with Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, fruit and a little drizzle of honey in a reusable Mason jar. One major appeal of this snack is that is it very low-maintenance, and you can guarantee minimal mess. With soccer practice, homework, cooking dinners and bedtime stories, meal prepping for an entire family can be challenging. This Mason jar snack is perfect for busy families on the go without compromising health and nutrition.
5. Sweet Potato Chips & Dip
Modern chips and crackers are packed with processed flours and ingredients that will not only diminish your child’s energy, but over time may be harmful to your child’s gut health. A wonderful grain-free option is to substitute store-bought chips by making sweet potato chips and pairing them with your child’s favorite dip!
Some dip options include:
- black bean dip;
- roasted eggplant;
- guacamole; or
- cheese spread
6. Ants on a Log
Who says food has to be boring? Ants on a log are a fun and creative snack that will tap into your child’s imagination. This snack consists of peanut butter spread on celery sticks topped with raisins, which resembles little ants on a log. This is one time you can actually encourage your kids to play with their food!
7. Hard boiled Eggs and Fruit
Hard-boiled eggs require minimal food prep and are perfect for a balanced, satisfying snack. One hard-boiled egg is low in calories, packed with 6 grams of protein, and high in vitamins such as vitamin D. Pairing an egg or two with healthy carbs from fruit, such as a banana, provides a well-balanced snack and minimal clean up for your kid. This is a perfect snack for your child especially if they have a hard time bringing home their snack containers. Everything from this meal can be thrown into the school’s compost. Therefore, it is healthy for your child and good for the environment!
8. Taco Bowl
Make snack time fun by celebrating “Taco Tuesday” with a tasty taco bowl! Take a large leaf of lettuce and pile on ground turkey, carne aside or sautéed veggies. Layer in black beans, salsa, guacamole and top with a little shredded cheese. Your child can create mini tacos from the lettuce wraps or eat with a fork tostada-style.
TIP: If you plan on adding salsa, invest in divided food storage containers to keep the food from getting soggy. If your child loves guacamole and/or sliced avocados, squeeze a little lemon juice on the guacamole for it to keep it fresh.
Mini wraps are a perfect snack between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner. A rolled up sandwich is a fun alternative to the same old PB&J, and one added bonus: no wasting the crust here! You could use a veggie wrap or whole grain wrap and fill it with all your child’s favorite ingredients. Another fun option is to create this wrap and slice it into mini bites, creating a fun finger food snack. If you prefer a flourless option, try using large lettuce leaves like Romaine or Butter lettuce.
A few wrap ideas include:
- BLTA – bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado;
- ham, cheese, and apple;
- banana, peanut butter and jelly;
- Thanksgiving – turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing; or
- taco – lettuce, cheese, black beans, tomatoes, and avocado.
10. No Bake Energy Bites
Similar to a store-bought power bar, no bake energy bites are portable snacks your child will love! With the sweetness of honey and the crunchiness of nuts, there will be no snack swapping once your child tastes these bites.
Start with 1 cup of rolled oats, mix in 4 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ cup unsweetened coconut, peanut butter, flaxseed and/or chocolate chips in a bowl. Mix well and refrigerate for 20 minutes and then form into 1-inch balls.
If you are trying to stay away from grains and oats, substitute the oats with 1 cup of nuts such as chopped cashews, almonds and/or pecans.
For some families, school snacks can really be a challenge. Kids can become uninterested in the same old foods. Creating fun and creative dishes may seem like a headache at first, but once your child routinely enjoys their snacks, all of the prep will be worth it in the end. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance, kids love to be helpers! In order to promote a positive well-being, try to get your child involved in the food prep process, or teach them about how important it is to eat their snacks.
Contributed by Dr. Kymm Ballard: Dr. Kymm Ballard is the Executive Director for SPARK, a division of School Specialty, Inc. She is the former Physical Education, Athletics and Sports Medicine Consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Her professional experiences include service for more than a decade as a physical education teacher, several years as an administrator and the co-developer of North Carolina’s first high school demonstration school. Kymm’s direct service to children influences her work at the national level today. She wrote, advocated for and promoted the Healthy Active Children Policy of the NC State Board of Education and the state’s Standards for Physical Education.