This post is sponsored by CLIF Kid.
If you’re looking for nutritious snack ideas for kids, you’re in the right place. We’ve rounded up our favorite snacks that are easy to pack for school lunch boxes or on the go! Plus, get our step-by-step guide on how to choose a nutritious snack for kids and tips on how to get your kids to eat healthier snacks!
“Mama, I’m hungry!” With two growing boys, I feel like I’m dishing out meals and snacks around the clock. I get one meal cleaned up and they’re on to the next. I remember this is something my mom always said too.
And if their appetite today is foreshadowing of what’s to come, they may quite literally eat us out of house and home in the pre-teen/teenage years. Anyone else relate?
How to choose a Nutritious Snack for Kids: Step-by-Step Guide
- First, Fruits and Veggies: Any Form. You can’t go wrong when serving up fruits and veggies. All forms count- fresh, frozen, canned, dried, and juiced as they are all great sources of vitamins and minerals. Aim to add a fruit or veggie to each snacking occasion.
- Keep an Eye on Added Sugars. Does your kiddo have a sweet tooth? I have one that always goes for the sweet snacks. The AAP recommends keeping added sugar to a minimum with less than 25g/day (or 6 teaspoons) for kids two and older and almost zero added sugar for littles under two years old. Ahh, easier said than done right?
- Consider Sodium Sources. Sodium is found in many savory snacks like bread, cheese, deli meats, chips, crackers, frozen foods, and fast food making them super palatable and craveable. But keep tabs on salt sources as salt in kids’ diets can add up to an unhealthy level. The recommended intake from the Institute of Medicine is less than 1,500mg sodium per day for young kiddos (1-3 years) and less than 1,900mg for kids ages 4-8 years. Keep in mind one teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300mg sodium!
- Choose snacks with purpose. Not all snacks are created equal. While most of the time filling up on fruits and veggies is the way to go, snacks with some sugar and salt have their place in kids’ diets.
Let me say it louder for the people in the back. When kids are active, burning energy and sweating, they need sugar and potentially salt. Sweat rates among kids vary, so ensure your kiddo is getting enough fluid first and consider electrolytes for heavy sweaters. Electrolytes are easy to get from food— a saltier snack and some produce provides potassium and sodium— the two big electrolytes lost in sweat.
These foods are also a fun and normal part of healthy eating. Aim to strike a balance and choose snacks with purpose– on a hot and sunny day when your kids are playing outside, give them something salty to help replenish electrolytes.
And when they are running and playing, they need energy so serve up a snack with wholesome carbohydrates. We love CLIF Kid Zbar® because it is carefully crafted to provide energy that kids need for playtime fuel. These energy bars deliver great taste and 10-12g of whole grains from organic oats, plus no high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors.
How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Nutritious Snacks?
- Organize your pantry. Keeping more nutritious snacks front and center at kids’ eye level is key, especially if you have an open pantry policy where kids can help themselves between meals. If they see the chips and cookies, they will want those, so keep the “less nutritious” foods out of sight and on a higher shelf out of kids reach. I use a mixture of clear and white bins in my pantry. Clear bins for the preferred snacks at their eye level and white bins with lids for chips, candy, dessert, etc. kept at the top of the pantry or in different kitchen cabinet.
- Create a kids’ section in your fridge or mini cooler. Bins bins bins! Use clear containers to organize yogurt squeezes, cheese sticks, cut up fruit and premade sandwiches.
- Prep grab-and-go snacks in advance. If you want kids to eat healthier, it needs to be convenient. Make homemade muffins, hard boiled eggs, and trail mix ahead of time, cut up fruit and veggies, and have sandwiches pre-made and ready to go. Store items in mini baggies for easy grab-and-go snack packs.
- Teach them to be purposeful with snacking. Snacking with intention is a life skill. Educate your kiddos about healthy snack habits by following a few snacking guidelines.
- Boost fruit and veggie intake by pairing produce with each snack.
- Use snack time to stay hydrated and encourage kids to drink more water.
- Talk to them about how different foods impact their body. For example, when active, whole grains (like those found in CLIF Kid Zbar) can provide them with energy to fuel their body and imagination during play. Whereas, hunger-busting protein and good fats (like those found in CLIF Zbar® Filled or Zbar® Protein) can satisfy rumbling tummies in between meals when on the go.
- Educate kiddos on building a balanced snack. Teach them the simple snack formula: complex carbohydrates plus healthy fats and/or protein for staying power and lasting energy.
- Make it fun. If you want to encourage new foods at snack time, make a parfait or healthy banana split “bar” where kids can add their own toppings. Involve them in making muffins or a smoothie. Set up an activity/craft at snack time that gets them to play with their food. Or something as simple as reading to your kids during snack time can help them enjoy their food even more.
- Lead by example. Kids often follow their parents’ lead when it comes to eating. When you’re planning your afternoon snack, instead of grabbing a bag of chips or candy, choose a piece of fruit or carrot sticks and hummus. Small shifts in parent snacking routines teaches kids healthier food behaviors which they will be more likely to emulate.
Our Master List of Nutritious Snacks for Kids
Best Dairy Snacks for Kids
- Yogurt Tubes
- Cheese sticks
- Yogurt Dip + Fresh Fruit
Best Snacks with Fruit for Kids
- Fresh Fruit + Nut Butter or Yogurt Dip (Strawberries, Bananas, Grapes, Clementines, Mango, Blueberries)
- Canned Fruit Cups
- Dried Fruit: raisins, dates, dried cranberries, peeled mango, dehydrated strawberries and apples
- Fruit Smoothie or Popsicles
- Applesauce Squeeze
- Frozen Banana Bites
Favorite Veggies for Kids Snacks
- Veggies + Hummus (Broccoli, Carrots, Tomatoes, Celery, Snap peas, Cucumber Sticks, Bell Pepper Sticks)
- Avocado Toast
- Veggies + Guacamole
- Crudité + Yogurt French Onion Dip
Good Protein Snacks for Kids
- Trail Mix
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- ½ Sandwich (Quesadillas, PB&J, Turkey & Cheese, Mini Pizzas)
- Smoothie with Cottage Cheese, Kefir or Yogurt
- CLIF Kid Zbar Protein
Whole Grains for Kids Snacks
- Homemade Muffins
- Fortified Cereals
- CLIF Kid Zbar and Zbar Filled
- Crackers or Pita Chips + Hummus
Easy Snack Recipes for Kids to Make
Getting kids in the kitchen is a great way to expose them to new foods and teach them life skills. Prepping trail mix, muffins, and banana crunch pops are fun activities to do together and encourage healthy eating. Create little adventures in the kitchen with these fun, kid-friendly snack recipes.
More resources for healthy eating for kids (and mamas too!)
100+ Favorite Dinner Ideas for Kids (Picky Eaters Included): https://www.loveandzest.com/dinner-ideas-kids-picky-eater/
And for even more snack ideas, check out our Snacks Archive.
Hi I’m Kristina LaRue, RD (registered dietitian nutritionist), Peloton addict and mama to two active and hungry boys. On Love & Zest, you’ll find healthy-ish recipes that fuel the whole family. I’m all about veggie-filled breakfast, meal prep recipes, healthier sweets, and easy weeknight dinners made in the Instant Pot or sheet pan.
Did you make one of my recipes?? Leave a review in the comments and tag @loveandzest #loveandzest on Instagram!
If you’re a modern mama– I’d love for you to join my Facebook group A Modern Motherhood Collective!