Snacks

My 45 Favorite Snack Options for Kids [packaged + prep-free]

This post is unsponsored. I was not compensated nor asked to include any of the following products, however I did receive samples of some of the following products for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own.


My 45 Favorite Snack Options for Kids

(Plus 15 of My Favorite Homemade Ones!)

Even in feeding my own kids three meals and two snacks a day, I still feel stuck for healthy, practical ideas at times. Add that to the confusion of walking down any given snack aisles (even as a dietitian mom), and I get why other parents are overwhelmed when trying to find healthy, kid-friendly snack options.

Last year, I shared a post on “The Best Pre-Packaged Snack Foods,” which included information on different types of snack foods (i.e. fun foods, sometimes foods, and everyday foods) as well as ideas on how such snack foods can have a healthy place in your child’s diet. This post also included a free printable shopping list (see below) of My 20 Favorite Pre-Packaged Snack Foods from Target, which many of you downloaded and said that you enjoyed (which you can also download for free here).

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That’s why in this post, I thought I would not only revisit the conversation of snack foods and update some of my recommendations in each “category” (see below: bars + bites, starchy snacks, fruit snacks, and protein-packed snacks). My goal in this post is to further eliminate all guesswork and curate a list of my favorite snacks within each category. I get several inquiries about where to buy these snacks as well (when I share them on Instagram or Facebook), so I have shared links for the best places to buy each of these products as well to make it even easier for you to restock your own pantry (now that the school year is in full swing)!

 
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Although I want to make seeing the following snack food suggestions as straight-forward as possible, I already am anticipating some of the feedback I might get from families who find these either impractical, inferior, not cost-effective nor environmentally-friendly, or who are ultimately unclear on how these snacks fit into an overall healthy lifestyle.

I have tried to address those possible concerns here:

First, pre-packaged snacks are often more expensive.

I don’t recommend these to blow anyone’s food budget but rather because I know many families out there are in need of convenient, readily-available snack options that require no prep. That said, I respect not all of these options may be a good fit for every family’s budget and have tried to provide ideas at a variety of price points. Some of the snacks suggested in this post are in fact more expensive than mainstream alternatives on the market. Typically, this is due to higher-quality ingredients yielding a more natural, nutrient-dense product than competing, lesser expensive varieties. For my family, I prefer to invest in higher-quality packaged snacks and saving them for when we need them (on the go, when traveling, and on the occasional school day when we are in a rush or don’t have other homemade options ready). This lessens how often we eat them, stretching our food dollar further without compromising quality. Many of the following options also may be purchased either on sale or in bulk (for a discount) or in larger sized packages and then divided up into their own smaller, snack-sized containers to help save. Otherwise, some of these pre-packaged might have recipes so you can recreate similar homemade snacks (instead of always reaching for pre-packaged).

Second, pre-packaged snacks aren’t always nutritionally superior to ones you could make yourself.

If you have the time and energy to recreate items in the categories below, I encourage you to do so as you might be able to pack even more nutrition into them. However, for the purposes of this post, I aimed to include options that I personally and professionally consider nutrient-rich options in the given category (when compared to the alternative, pre-packaged items on the market). I have included some of the nutrition and ingredients list information I look for in each of the respective category.

Third, pre-packaged snacks create more waste.

I admit that at times, I weigh the convenience of pre-packaged snacks over considering how environmentally friendly the packaging is of such products. That’s why, as mentioned above, I tend to serve homemade snacks or portioning pre-made snacks into a reusable snack bag when able. You can find some of my favorite reusable snack bags here.

Fourth, consider a few of the following tips if sending any of the following packaged snacks to school.

  • Make sure you know the dietary restrictions of your child’s school and avoid sending any restricted allergens. Many of the options below include nuts, so use your discretion for if and when such snacks are safe and appropriate. If you need peanut-free ideas, read this post for 12 peanut-free pre-made and portable snack ideas.

  • Tear a small opening in packaging so it makes it easier for your child to open it come lunch or snack time. This gives them more time to eat, rather than using that time to wait on their teacher (who likely has to open the packages for several kid’s!).

  • If your child’s school requires you to send snacks labeled, consider using one of the reusable bags (shared above) with a reusable name label on it. This lessens the work of having to write on it each day (especially since Sharpies don’t always write easily on all snack options).

Fifth, know how to offer snacks.

No matter WHAT you offer, if you don’t have a foundation for WHEN food is offered, all of your efforts can still get derailed. That’s why it is important to both choose appropriate snack food options, as shared in my post on The Best Pre-Packaged Snack Foods, and to be mindful about how to feed your child at snack time. Spacing snacks 2-3 hours from meal times and enforcing a “kitchen is closed” at all other times can help to promote your child to eat more of the nutrient-dense items when offered and eliminate mindless grazing on potentially less- healthful snack foods. Wondering how to feed your child at snack time? Read more here >>



My 45 Favorite Snack Options for Kids [Packaged + Prep-Free]

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links to my Amazon shop. These do not cost you anything extra to use; they will only provide Veggies & Virtue a small commission for any purchases made through this link. Thank you for supporting this small business!

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Bars + Bites (Non-Perishable + Packaged)

I am a big fan of bars and energy bites as a way to pack a lot of nutrition into a small, convenient package. With so many bars over-saturating the market, however, it can quickly become overwhelming to know which ones to buy. Since bars and bites can vary a lot in their taste, texture, and overall nutritional as well, I have also included a bit of information below on each bar/bite includes that will hopefully help guide you in your buying decisions a bit about which to buy and why.

Here are a few nutritional considerations for how I came to select the following bars:

  • Sugar: Many “healthy” bars on the market have considerable amounts of added sugar. Considering many children already get more added sugar than they need in their diet, parents should consider the source and amount of sugar in the bars and bites they buy. Looking for bars with only naturally occurring sugar in the ingredients list (from sources like dates) is ideal. Otherwise, select bars with limited sources and amounts of added sugar. If an ingredients list states several sources of added sugar and/or exceeds around 6 grams of sugar per serving (equivalent to 25% of the max amount of added sugar a toddler should have in a day), try to avoid and select another bar or bite instead. Wondering how much sugar your child needs? Read more here >>

  • Fat: Bars and bites are an excellent way to get healthy fats into children without the choking hazard of whole nuts. This fat source in bars also provides satiation, so kids won’t become hungry as quickly after eating. Since children need more fat than hey do protein in their diets, prioritize a bar that offers healthy fat over “protein bars” that might be more intended for adults. Wondering how much fat your child needs? Read more here >>

  • Protein: Protein that comes naturally-occurring from sources like nuts and seeds make a great option in snack bars or bites that you want to sustain your child for longer than say, a carbohydrate-rich bar would. Otherwise, there is rarely a need to choose bars or bites for young children though that have added sources of protein (i.e. in the form of protein isolates). That’s because when distributed across three meals and two or three snacks a day, most children are already getting their protein needs met without such added sources. Wondering how much protein your child needs? Read more here >>

Top 10 Bars + Bites (in no particular order):

  1. RXBAR Kids

    RXBARs have permanent residence in my own life these days. As one of the few bars that legitimately keep me feeling full between meals or when my own mom lunch gets bumped hours behind when I feed my kids, I can’t even count how many times these have protected me from getting hangry. When RXBAR came out with the kids option of bars, I was immediately sold. The ingredients list is unmatched in the industry for being full of the fuel I want my kids to eat and yet can’t conveniently get into them on the go in the way RXBAR Kids has captured to in this smaller sized bar. With kid-friendly flavors, RXBAR Kids are now one of the top bars we tuck into the diaper bag or in the car as an emergency snack as I know they will tie us over longer than many more carbohydrate-rich bars. From our own experience, RXBAR keep us feeling full the longest, which makes them great when you need a more substantial snack bar (or to avoid if you need a light snack close to a meal). The texture of RXBAR Kids is a bit more tough to chew through than other bars and can get stuck to teeth, so I know it took some getting used to for both myself and my girls. With some re-exposure though, we have started to enjoy these bars as one of our favorites. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. I find the RXBAR website and Sprouts tend to have the best deals on these bars.

  2. LARABAR minis

    LARABARs have long been a favorite of mine, even before the “bar market” exploded into what it is today. They were early adopters of the simple ingredients list and keeping bars a wholesome source of nutrition. I particularly appreciate that all LARABARs use dates in their base as the source of sweetener, as this makes them tasty to kids without needing to add any additional sugar. While the nutrition facts reads higher in sugar than some other bars, this again is from real food (dates) rather than added sugar, and thus less of a consideration or concern in my book. For parents with small children, I often encourage LARABARs as a safe way to include nuts in a child’s diet. Compared to offering kids bars with large nut pieces or a handful of nuts when active or out and about, I feel more comfortable recommending snacks like LARABARs that offer the nutrition of nuts without the same choking hazard. While I love all of the LARABARs, their LARABAR minis are another great option for small children as one to toss in a lunchbox, have as a light snack, or offer alongside something else. The smaller size helps lessen the situations when your child might only eat half of a bar and then potentially waste the rest. I am unsure if they are phasing out the minis (as they aren’t shown on the LARABAR website), but they have been and will continue to be a favorite here as available. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. On the LARABAR website (as of this posting), the mini bars do not exist. I continue to see them in stores like Kroger and Target though, as well as on Amazon.

  3. KIND Kids

    If your kids are used to granola bars that more closely resemble a candy bar, this can be a great way to food chain to a healthier alternative. With 5 grams of sugar, this is less than most competitors while also being made with much more natural and nutrient-dense ingredients. There are also some tasty nut-free flavor options that make this a fun “competitive" food” for school (should your kid be like mine and want “what everyone else has”)! Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon.

  4. KIND Healthy Grains Bars

    While a little bigger than the KIND Kids bar, this one still only has 5 grams of sugar per bar. It is a tasty granola-bar option for bigger appetites, bigger kids (or adults, as my husband and I eat these too!), or when a bit more snack is merited. There are several flavor options as well, again with nut-free options that add some variety to snacks for school or after school sports. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon.

  5. Health Warrior Chia Bar

    This chia bar packs several real food ingredients into a small bar, making it perfect for little tummies who need good nutrition in smaller sizes. With only 3 grams of sugar and several flavors to try, this is a great way to go for a granola-bar alternative. My kids love the new chocolate chip flavor! Similar to the texture of a LARABAR, this too is a softer option of bars for kids who might not be able to bite into other bars or need small pieces torn off to eat. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. Use discount code veggiesvirtue20 for 20% off of first purchase when shopping on healthwarrior.com.

  6. Health Warrior Pumpkin Seed Bar

    These pumpkin bars are organic and made up of simple ingredients (just pumpkin seeds, honey, and spices) and yet taste like a treat! With nut free flavor options, we have found them helpful as a convenient pre-packaged bar option that we can send to school. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. Use discount code veggiesvirtue20 for 20% off of first purchase when shopping on healthwarrior.com.

  7. Made in Nature Figgy Pops

    Tied with maybe muffins, I live by energy balls as quick and easy options I can eat with one hand while still getting a decent amount of nutrition packed in. Since I am not always able to make them at home though nor do I always have the right ingredients on hand, I have become particularly fond of these Figgy Pops for a pre-made energy bite option. With several flavors and even nut free options, these Made in Nature Figgy Pops are a new mainstay for #momlife and fueling active little kids with healthy AND convenient snack options. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon.

  8. MySuperSnack Granola Bites

    These include what you love about an oatmeal cookie in a convenient snack-sized shape. With more fat and fiber than most bars on the market, these aren’t the highly refined granola bar option void of the fiber or fat that keep us full. Instead, these granola bites are a tasty way to convert “cookies” into a healthier snack option that is still sweet and satisfying. Shop for in stores or on Amazon.

  9. Nourish Snacks

    These granola bites option are more like a crunchy take on oatmeal cookies than the above granola bite while again packing much more nutrition in than a cookie-esque snack option. Again packing in less added sugar than other granola-based snacks, these granola bites were created by a fellow dietitian mom to satisfy the needs of a nutrient-dense snack while also catering to cravings of a sweet tooth. With a variety of flavors, my girls are really fond of taking a larger back of these Nourish Snacks to share or an individual bag of the nut-free options to school. Shop for in stores or on Amazon. You can select the 1-ounce single serve or 4-ounce snack-to-share size bag when buying on Amazon.

  10. Matt N’ Mikes SuperKid Bar

    The newest bar in the bunch, these bars by Matt n’ Mike have been ones we have really enjoyed. I am fond of the ingredients list being made up of simple, real foods while still being sweet enough and in a size that my kids enjoy. As a smaller business than some of the other bars listed above, these might not be as easily available at the grocery store but they are readily available online. Shop for in stores or online.

 
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Starchy Snacks (Non-Perishable + Packaged)

Often seen as “filler foods,” chips, crackers, and cookies are usually not essentials from a nutritional standpoint. However, they are often impossible to avoid in our diets, especially with kids. So although our goal is to always load up our kids with the most nutrient-dense options (especially when they are young and their stomachs are particularly small), the reality is we also may find ourselves wanting to offer some sweet or savory snacks on occasion.

It is important to not make any foods so forbidden that it becomes something our kids covet. Instead, our kids need to know how all foods fit, including items like chips, crackers, and cookies or other “fun foods” (read more on Fun Foods + Snacks here). Our job as parents is to look for options that allow us to offer better-for-you ingredients in such food options most of the time. I am not the type to instill fear in families for the occasional neon orange puff nor a creme-filled cookie eaten at birthday parties, classroom events, or special outings. I don’t usually recommend families have these on hand as everyday options however, as they can become particularly tempting to eat more often and crowd out other more nutrient-rich options when they’re in the house. When families are looking to find healthier options to have at home and on hand, the following are some that I have found to be both kid-friendly and dietitian-approved.

Here are a few nutritional considerations for how I came to select the following snack chips, crackers, and cookies:

  • Whole Grains: When possible, I always opt for starchy snack foods that contain some whole grains. This will be shown with a label from the Whole Grain Council on the front of packaging, a marketing claim of “X amount of whole grains per serving,” or by viewing the ingredients list to make sure that the first ingredient in a whole grain. Although having a whole grain snack doesn’t necessarily equate to it having more fiber, often times such snacks will still be nutritionally superior by offering more protein, vitamins, and minerals than snack foods made with refined grains. Wondering how much fat your child needs? Read more here >>

  • Ingredients list: Bars and bites are an excellent way to get healthy fats into children without the choking hazard of whole nuts. This fat source in bars also provides satiation, so kids won’t become hungry as quickly after eating. Since children need more fat than hey do protein in their diets, prioritize a bar that offers healthy fat over “protein bars” that might be more intended for adults. Wondering how much fat your child needs? Read more here >>

  • Bonus Ingredients: After seeing a need to make such starchy snack foods more healthy, many food manufacturers are starting to create more nutrient-dense varieties by adding in otherwise nontraditional ingredients to these options. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even legumes are now more commonplace in crunchy, starchy snacks. When possible, parents should opt for starchy snacks that include bonus ingredients (and thus nutritional benefits!).

Top 15 Starchy Snacks (in no particular order):

    1. Nourish Mini Popcorn Chips: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

    2. MySuperCookies Snack Packs: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

    3. Bitsy’s Smart Crackers: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    4. Bitsy’s Smart Cookies: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    5. Peeled Peas Please: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    6. Rhythm Superfood Chips: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    7. Boom Chicka Pop Sea Salt Popcorn: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    8. Annie’s Whole Grain Bunny Crackers: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    9. Triscuits Whole Grain Crackers: Shop for in stores

    10. Puffworks: Shop for on Amazon

    11. Hippeas Organic Cheese Puffs: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

    12. Simple Mills Almond Crackers: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    13. Moon Cheese: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    14. Crunch-A-Mame: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

    15. Dry Cereal (like Kashi Heart to Heart or Barbara’s Puffins)

 
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Fruit Snacks (Non-Perishable + Packaged)

I am all for getting our fruits and vegetables in, but sometimes fresh options just aren’t realistic. That’s why I often rely on the following non-perishable and packaged options. With only real fruit in the ingredients, no added sugar, ingredients, or food dyes are necessary to make these “fruit snacks” a sweet snack for kids.

Here are a few nutritional considerations for how I came to select the following fruit snacks:

  • Sugar source: Opt for “fruit snacks” that contain only fruit in the ingredients list. Ideally, limit those with added fruit concentrates as these increase the sugar content without offering the same fiber and overall nutritional benefits of whole fruit. Although some parents may be concerned that the sugar content (as shown on the nutrition facts label) appears “high” even in fruit snacks made only with fruit, rest assured this is all naturally occurring sugar from fruit (and not added sugars) and can be used to offer valuable nutrition. Serve as a stand alone snack for a quick energy source (due to the higher amount of sugar/simple carbohydrates), or pair it with something that has a bit of fat, fiber, or protein to give it a bit more staying power.

  • Fiber: Fruit-based snacks tend to be a compact source of carbohydrates for their fruit-based equivalent. Often times, the fiber from the fruit is lost in the processing, so when possible, choose fruit-based snacks that have retained some fiber.

  • Ingredients List: Keep it simple. There should be very few foods on the ingredients list outside of fruit, potentially ascorbic acid (a source of vitamin C that acts as a preservative), and maybe added items like chia seeds (as in the case of the Pressed bars below).

Top 10 Fruit Snacks (in no particular order):

  1. Made in Nature dried fruit: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  2. Fruit Bliss snack packs: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  3. Kind Pressed bars: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  4. Peeled dried fruit: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  5. Bare apple chips: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  6. That’s It bars: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  7. Organic boxes of raisins: Shop for in stores (or put the organic ones in a large bag from Costco into smaller containers)

  8. Chukar Cherries: Shop for online or on Amazon

  9. Freeze-dried fruits: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

  10. Organic Applesauce pouches: Shop for in stores (also at Costco)

 
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Protein-Packed Snacks (Both Perishable and Non-Perishable + Packaged)

One of the best ways to ensure your kids keep asking for more snacks is to offer ones that are full of quick energy and refined carbohydrates (even if natural carbs from fruit) without anything to go with it. If, however, you need to offer a snack with a bit more staying power (more on that here), be sure to add in a protein source so your child stays full longer. Some of the best ways to do this without any extra effort is with the following quick sources of protein.

Here are a few considerations for how I came to select the following protein snacks:

  • Protein: Whether you opt for an option that it plant- or animal-based, any of the following protein options can make a nutritious addition to any snack. If you are only able to grab a bag of carrot or a whole apple otherwise, the following options can round out those snacks to make them both more satisfying and filling.

  • Perishability: Of all the snacks shared, this list is the only one that might include a perishable option. Offer variety on the days you have an ice pack with those that you need a shelf-stable option. An asterisk below denotes the protein options that are non-perishable.

  • Ingredients List: Keep it simple. These should be minimally processed with few added ingredients outside of the obvious protein itself.

Top 10 Protein-Packed Snacks (in no particular order):

  1. Babybel: Shop for in stores (We buy ours at Costco)

  2. Organic Cheese Sticks: Shop for in stores

  3. Good Culture Cottage Cheese cups: Shop for in stores

  4. Horizon Milk Boxes*: Shop for in stores (I find them on sale at Costco often)

  5. Hummus cups: Shop for in stores (We buy ours at Costco)

  6. Hard Boiled Eggs: Shop for in stores (including Costco)

  7. Vermont Uncured Pepperoni*: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  8. Biena Chickpea Snacks*: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  9. RX Nut butters*: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  10. Siggis Yogurt tubes, drinks, or triple cream cups: Shop for in stores


15 Favorite Go-To Homemade Snack Recipes

This list could be just as endless as the aisles of pre-packaged snack foods. I am often asked for recipes to the following though, so I have included our go-to homemade snack recipes as well. You can easily pack up any of these in place of one of the items above and take them with you. This is an ever-changing list in our household, but for now, here are our top ten favorites!

  1. Healthy Carrot Muffins (and others shared on Muffin Club here)

  2. Blueberry Lemon Energy Bites

  3. Chocolate Chip Oat Energy Bites

  4. Peppermint Energy Bites (like these or these)

  5. Green Smoothies (like this one) in a reusable pouch (like this one)

  6. Immune-Boosting Smoothies (like this one) in a reusable pouch (like this one)

  7. Homemade Apple Sauce (like this one but we leave the peels on!) in a reusable pouch (like this one)

  8. Homemade Granola (to add on top of a Siggis yogurt cup!)

  9. Homemade Granola Bar

  10. Avocado Banana Cookies

  11. Baked Oatmeal Bars

  12. Homemade Fruit Leather

  13. Homemade Gummies

  14. Chunky Monkey Bars

  15. Microwave Popcorn


While I am sure these lists will need to be updated and changed over time, I hope that for now they provide a helpful starting place to help you shop for healthier snacks for your family!

Cold-Fighting Clementine Smoothie

This post is sponsored by Darling Clementines®. All ideas and opinions are my own.

From the hustle of early morning wake-ups to feeding famished kids after school, it can take families some time to get into the groove with Back to School. Come October, many parents start to focus on the next big thing though: flu season.

However even amidst our efforts to get flu shots and fight infection at home, I know many families are also looking for ways to use food as immune-boosting medicine as well.

That’s why I love this smoothie featuring Darling Clementines®.

 
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Clementines are a familiar Fall favorite. You can toss them in backpacks as an option that doesn’t bruise nor brown in a lunchbox and they’re easy enough for little ones to peel on their own. Did you know that Darling Clementines® are available year-round though, thanks to the variety of growers harvesting them every month of the year? That means that when other summer fruits move out of season and become grossly expensive by now, Darling Clementines® continue to be an easy, economical fresh fruit option for our families all year.

In this smoothie, Darling Clementines® offer a vibrant orange color that makes it perfect for Fall and all the festivities in October. They also offer the vitamin C and flavor to make for a cold-fighting smoothie your kids will love slurping down.

 
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You can offer this smoothie as an easy grab-and-go option on the way out the door in the morning or have it ready as part of nutrient packed afternoon snack. Whenever you choose to enjoy it, this immune-boosting clementine smoothie is one your family will want to have in its immune defense arsenal this Fall!


Festive and Cold-Fighting Clementine Smoothie

 
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Here’s what you need:

Ingredients

2 Darling Clementines

½ cup Frozen pineapple

1 Frozen banana

2 TBSP Ground flax seeds

4-6 ounces Unsweetened coconut water

½ cup Ice

Instructions

Add all of the ingredients to a high-powered blender. Blend until smooth, adding additional coconut water and/or ice until desired consistency is achieved. Enjoy!

 
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Squeeze the Day

In case this smoothie wasn’t sweet enough for you, be sure to enter Darling Clementines Squeeze the Day Promotion Sweepstakes. Fill out the simple entry form (it takes less than 30 seconds to do here) and be entered to win a $500 gift card for YOU, plus a donation to a partnering charity. This costs you nothing to enter, but could afford you $500 to spend how you choose (maybe on a lifetime supply of clementines?!).

Enter here, or be sure to check out Darling Clementines for more on this festive and cold-fighting fruit!

Every Bite Matters: Quick and Efficient Snack Ideas for Kids

This post is sponsored by Healthy Height. All opinions are my own.

Summer is here, which seems unanimously to come with kids’ endless requests for a snack.

Somewhere in the flexibility of being home more and the need for boredom-busters that often have kids ending up in and around the kitchen though, kids constant questioning “can I have a snack” is one that parents can start answering with a more proactive approach.

Instead of feeling pressured to either provide a snack upon being asked or to tame the hangry temperament until the next meal, this post will help parents to make the most out of each bite offered with quick and efficient fuel ideas.

 

Every Bite Matters: Quick and Efficient Snack Ideas for Kids

As with when I have shared about how to build a healthy snack, one thing that continues to be an area of emphasis is to offer a balance of nutrients.

One of the reasons kids often ask for endless snacks is because they aren’t being satiated enough with a given snack. While starchy foods more traditionally seen as “snack foods for kids” are often enjoyed in large amounts by little ones, they lack the nutrition to effectively fuel a child for their high energy and spurts of activity in between meals. Additionally, for children who may need snack options that pack in more nutrition to help promote growth as well, snacks become an especially opportune time for each bite to be optimized. Rather than filling up the precious real estate of a child’s stomach with “filler foods,” parents can also use the following principles as criteria for what to include in their child’s snack offering.

That’s one of the reasons why I always encourage parents to “boost each bite.” What I mean by that is to find small, subtle changes that add major nutrition to your child’s otherwise normal snack. Although you can always add a scoop of ice cream to their smoothie/shake or offer processed, high-fat food for merely more calories, it probably goes without saying that these aren’t my ideal “boosts.” Instead, I love encouraging parents to try out other products on the market that help to deliver more nutrition with each bite, sip, or slurp. As you will see in the examples below, I like to suggest the idea of using a kid-friendly protein powder, like Healthy Height. I know that nutritionally it adds the boost children need in their diets. Equally important, I trust this product is backed by pediatricians who saw the need for a healthier shake supplement and have since created this as a safe, more-natural alternative for families (with less sugar than its competitors).

This way, whether you have a child who seems like they can never stay satisfied (and always wants snacks) or a child who seems like they can never eat enough to gain weight and grow properly (and often “eats like a bird”), you as the parent can confidently approach snack time knowing you have wholesome, nutrient-dense options for optimizing each bite. The following balance of nutrients in the snack options you offer will create a framework for snack time success:

Aim to Include a Combination of Protein, Fat, and/or Fiber for Extra Fuel

While having snacks that include any one of these components can be sufficient for some or when a small snack is merited, including options that include protein, fat, and/or fiber will help to both fill and fuel your child for longer.

 
 

Protein

As the most asked about macronutrient by parents, protein is a hot topic of concern. Many parents are concerned their children don’t eat enough protein (click here to see how much young kids need!), especially in the form of proteins often offered at meals like meat, poultry, seafood, beans, or eggs. That’s why finding creative ways to get protein in at snacks can help to both lessen the concern on how much children eat at mealtimes while also providing them with valuable fuel that helps them to feel full longer.

Here are some easy and efficient ways to add protein for extra fuel:

  • Offer Healthy Height instead of a standard juice box for a protein-rich option

  • Add hummus to fresh veggies sticks and/or crackers

  • Add nuts or seeds (as appropriate for child’s age) to homemade trail mix with dry cereal and dried fruit

  • Hard boil eggs for a quick addition to any snack plate

  • Make energy bites with added nuts and seeds instead of standard grain-based granola bars

 

Fat

With more calories per gram than either carbohydrates or protein, fat offers a nutrient-dense way to make a snack more satisfying. That means, bite for bite, your child eats the most calories from fat (compared to from carbohydrates or protein). Fat also helps us to feel full longer, so simple swaps of low-fat options for higher-fat ones or additions of healthy fat options can help curb kid’s hunger even if they only eat a few bites.

Here are some easy and efficient ways to add fat for extra fuel:

  • Mix Healthy Height with whole milk instead of water

  • Add nut butter spreads, smashed avocado, or melted cheese to toast (instead of using jam or other alternatives)

  • Pair fruit or crackers with nut butter as a dip

  • Offer whole milk yogurt in place of lower fat “kids yogurts”

  • Include hemp, chia, or ground flax seeds with items (in muffins, mixed in yogurt or applesauce, sprinkled on top of toast)

 

Fiber

This is a great reason why adding fruits or vegetables to a snack helps to not only round out what is offered nutritionally, but also provide an element that promotes added fullness. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always an easy idea to add to a snack, as is dried fruit if parents want an option that holds up better in the heat and provides more compact calories (energy!) than fresh alternatives.

Here are some easy and efficient ways to add fat for extra fuel:

  • Make a fiber-rich green smoothie with frozen fruit, a few handfuls of greens, and a scoop of Healthy Height

  • Offer a fresh fruit salad instead of fruit snacks

  • Opt for whole grains in snack foods, cereals, and crackers

  • Cut up fresh veggie sticks and offer alongside “veggie straws” or other low-fiber snack foods

  • Use whole grain flours like whole wheat or oat flour (instead of white flour) when making muffins or other baked goods that work for easy, on the go snack options

 

In Summary

Any parent knows there is a need for both quick AND efficient snacks when fueling small stomachs. So instead of reaching for snacks with empty calories on the regular, consider the above advice and ideas. Use these to help brainstorm ways that you could help your child to make the most out of every bite by adding in more protein, fat, and/or fiber at snack time. Also, if your child’s pediatrician has suggested you try Pediasure, Carnation Instant Breakfast, or any other oral supplement to try and promote more nutrient-rich options in the diet, I encourage you to check out Healthy Height.

Muffin Club for Moms

Random fact for the day about me: I am not spontaneous. So consider this highly out of character that I am changing up my content calendar so last minute to include this very important announcement:

I am hosting an impromptu Muffin Club for Moms and I have a feeling at least a few of you may want in [click here to join - it's free!].

Since a book club still seems like a distant dream, one thing I can commit to in the real day to day right now is baking once a week, every Monday, to both keep myself accountable and healthy snacks on hand in our home. As I gear up for postpartum, this is part of the meal prep I am also committing myself too in hopes for a slightly smoother transition come my third child's arrival in August.

The good news is that whether you are expecting a little one soon (like me), early on in your pregnancy and wanting to find some tried-and-true muffins for future postpartum prep, or are a fellow busy mama who just wants to make life a liiiiiittle more streamlined, efficient, and low-stress, this Muffin Club is for you.

You likely saw me talk about this in my stories last week (if you follow me on Instagram). Considering how enthusiastic the response was when I threw out this idea, I opted to postpone the content I had planned to share on today's blog post to instead breakdown a bit more info on this upcoming Muffin Club for Moms and how you can get in on it (if you'd like to!).

 
muffin club.jpg
 

Here is What You Can Expect:

Each week, I will:

  1. Search, find, and organize muffin recipes that I personally approve of as a dietitian-mom. I won't necessarily have personally tried each of these in advance, but I will select from those that in good faith (and with due diligence to research reviews on) are going to taste awesome and offer worthwhile nutrition for you and your family.

  2. Send out ONE email with the recipe for the upcoming week. I will send this on Saturday mornings, only to those who have joined the Muffin Club. Join here >>

  3. Share on my Instagram a picture and/or story about the muffins we are making for the week using the hashtag #muffinclubformoms.

Each week, I ask that you will:

  1. Check the recipe for the upcoming week so you can make sure you have the ingredients on hand. You can find this recipe on the email I send out each Saturday morning titled, "New Recipe for Muffin Club: ________." To join this email list and get this recipe in advance to your inbox, make sure to sign up here.
  2. Whenever you decide to make the muffins (be it on Monday or not), please share a picture or a video on your social media. When you do, I would really appreciate it if you would tag me (@veggiesandvirtue) and include #muffinclubformoms. This will help me to gauge if the time to organize ideas and email out this info to everyone is worth the effort each week (since I am offering it for free). Better yet, the engagement will make a more fun "community" feel for our super official Muffin Club for Moms :)
  3. Enjoy the muffins! Email me in reply to my weekly recipe emails or send me a PM on Instagram with questions, feedback, etc. so I can hear how each week's muffins go over in your home!

FAQs for Muffin Club

I have already received several questions about making muffins in advance and the logistics of doing so to freeze and enjoy again later. To address some of these questions, I have provided the questions and my answers below.

What kind of muffins will be included?

As discussed in the initial Instagram post for this idea, the plan is for these are to be healthy, homemade muffins. Set your expectations for them to taste delicious AND nutritious as a nutrient-dense breakfast, snack, or anytime option! If you are wanting a muffin that is delicious but not so nutritious, I am probably not your gal nor is this going to bring you the type of snack you have in mind. The pre-made options you will find at most coffee shops and grocery stores are better suited for those decadent versus nutrient-dense options.

What type of ingredients will these muffins be made from?

Since I personally can't consume gluten, I usually bake gluten-free to ensure I can eat whatever I make (even if my girls opt not to). When possible, I use oats/oat flour, almond flour, or coconut flour as the base, or a gluten-free all purpose flour (as a substitute for a whole wheat flour or when specified). You are welcome to make your muffins with whatever flour is called for or is your preference (i.e. whole wheat instead of a gluten-free flour). I am by no means endorsing a gluten-free diet is appropriate for everyone; this is simply how I cook for my family so the recipes chosen will naturally reflect that.

As for other ingredients and allergens, please be sure to review the recipe in advance if you have questions about substitutions or concerns about omitting allergens. I'd be happy to help provide guidance on this for those who need nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free alternatives, if asked.

Otherwise, I am not looking to make anything fancy here folks! Most every recipe will be selected with the common home kitchen and pantry in mind, as I value recipes that use our everyday staples vs require exotic (or especially expensive) ingredients.

What is the best way to store muffins?

For the muffins that I plan we will eat the week of, I usually store them in a glass Pyrex with a snapware lid (as seen on my Amazon shop - affiliate link). I don't want to tie these glass storage containers up long term however, so for freezing I use a gallon-sized freezer Ziplock and/or a metal disposable container with heavy duty foil top (I find the best size options and price for disposable metal pans at Dollar Tree).

What is the best way to freeze muffins?

Ideally, I recommend that after the muffins have cooled and come to room temperature, to transfer them on a cooling rack (or in the original muffin tin) to a freezer for 30+ minutes to flash freeze individually. Once quick-frozen, transfer muffins to a sealed, freezer-safe container (see question above). This will help them to not stick together but prevents you from having to waste the time or product to wrap each muffin individually.

What is the best way to keep muffins tasting fresh?

Especially during hot summer months, I recommend you keep your fresh batch of muffins in the fridge (once they have cooled). Most will mold at room temperature if left out for more than 1-2 days, so I suggest storing them in the fridge and then pulling them out in advance to bring them to room temp on their own before eating or by quickly warming them up in the microwave (~10 seconds).

What is the best way to thaw frozen muffins?

When you go to thaw your muffins from the freezer, simply transfer the container of them to the fridge. Allow them to thaw on their own, or take one and put it on a paper towel to microwave (~15-30 seconds depending on how frozen they are). You should be able to transfer the whole container to the fridge to enjoy, or you can remove one muffin at a time from your freezer stash and thaw in the microwave. For muffins with more moisture, you may want to consider putting a paper towel inside of the container/Ziplock to absorb it as the muffins thaw.

How long do the muffins last in the freezer for?

From my experience and the notes I have read on many muffins recipes, most muffins are fine to be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months (assuming they have been well-sealed). When you put each batch in, just be sure to label with the name and date and then rotate using First In, First Out method when it comes to eating those that have been frozen.


Past Recipes

Interested in the recipes I have already shared? You can still join Muffin Club and get eight week's of my favorite healthy muffin recipes here!


Turkey Veggies Cups

I have a lot of parents asking me how to handle feeding our kids around the holidays. Just as I shared with Amy over at Yummy Toddler Food this week and last, there are some key considerations that I think will help lessen your stress around what your kids are eating, or more so, being offered this time of year.

One of the best ways to ensure your kiddos are getting at least a few healthy bites in each day is to focus on fun, festive veggie-based appetizers. Rather than filling up on less nourishing snack foods, consider putting out a platter with these individual turkey veggie cups before the big holiday meal.

Created for a Friendsgiving playdate in the park I hosted over on the Sneakz blog (sponsored post), these are the perfect portion for small hands to hold, dip, and enjoy!

 
 
Sneakz Friendsgiving 5.JPG
 

Turkey Veggie Cups

Supplies:

  • Small, clear plastic cups (8-12 oz in size; one per person)
  • Googly eyes (2 per cup)
  • One piece of orange paper for the beak
  • One piece of red paper for the wattle
  • Tacky glue for quick sticking

Ingredients:

  • A small veggie platter or assortment of veggies
  • Veggie dip (like hummus or ranch dip, if included in the veggie platter)

Instructions:

  1. Rather than buy several different bags of veggies, save yourself the time and excess at the store by purchasing a small veggie platter. This will have several different types of veggies included that can then be divided among cups.
  2. Assemble turkey cups by fixing googly eyes and beak onto each. Place cup down to dry.
  3. While the beak and eyes dry, add veggie dip of choice to the bottom of each cup.
  4. Add one or two of each veggie to each plastic cup, setting them in the veggie dip.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

To see more ideas on how to use this recipe and others, hop on over to the Sneakz blog for the full Friendsgiving Picnic in the Park menu (sponsored)!

 
Friendsgiving Playdate in the Park
 

Want to make a large veggie platter instead?

Need to bring an appetizer to your Thanksgiving gathering? Consider making a larger veggie platter instead. The one featured on my Friendsgiving post with the Littles and Me (shown below) is fun option for a crowd!

 
turkey veggie platter friendsgiving.jpg
 
 

Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy holiday tomorrow and into the weekend ahead!

Turkey Trouble Snacktivity

I am always looking for fun seasonal books to add to our library, so I was thrilled to learn of "Turkey Trouble" when Beth and Ludavia suggested it for this month's Book Box.

 
 

This is a silly story that instantly got my littlest trying to gobble like a turkey and then act out all of the turkey's silly farm friends. The disguise element had my oldest's eager for more silly dress up ideas, something three year olds can just never seem to get enough of! That's why I am especially excited to have so many resources now for how to make Turkey Trouble even more fun and engaging, thanks to partnering with BethLudavia, and Mandisa for this month Book Box Snacktivity.

Together, we have come up with four ways to enjoy this book all month long. Each are simple to implement and age-appropriate for kids from your youngest to your oldest. Add to it the edible element below, and this is sure to be a book your family with eat right up this Thanksgiving season.

We hope you and your little turkeys will find joy, laughter, and a healthy dose of hands on learning through this month's activities!

 
Create Your Own Turkey Muffin Tin Snacktivity
 

Create Your Own Turkey Muffin Tin Snacktivity

Makes 2 turkeys

Ingredients:

1 pear, halved and cored
Four mini chocolate chips (two per turkey)
1 baby carrot
Colorful assortment of fruit

  • Banana slices
  • Grapes
  • Satsuma wedges
  • Pomegranate perils
  • Pineapple pieces
  • Cantaloupe cubes
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Others of choice
 
Create your own turkey muffin tin
 

Instructions:

  1. With pear half in hand, gently poke a small hole for each chocolate chip. Make a third small hole for the beak. 
  2. To make feet and beak, cut carrot lengthwise in four slices or until carrot is to desired thickness. Carefully cut a three pronged foot from the end of each carrot slice. Trim down to include a small leg as well. With remaining carrot pieces, carve one triangle beak per turkey being built.
  3. Place pear half flesh side down on plate. Insert “eyes” and “beak.” Place feet/legs at the base of pear. Provide child a plate large enough to create their own turkey on (suggest at least 8” diameter).
 
Thanksgiving snack idea for kids - build your own turkey
 

4. Fill muffin tin with an assortment of colorful fruit "feather" options. Allow child to practice patterns, play with different shapes and textures, and taste test each of the "feathers."

5. Once created, enjoy this snacktivity while reading "Turkey Trouble."

 
Turkey Trouble snacktivity for kids
 
 

For more fun ideas...

Want to do more creative and kid-friendly ideas with this month's book, "Turkey Trouble?" Be sure to check out the links and age-appropriate learning activities from each of the following mom bloggers! Each introduces you to new ways for your child to imagine, learn, explore, and engage with this fun seasonal story.

 

Visit Days with Grey for this easy, engaging, and educational outdoor activity!

Days with Grey Turkey Trouble Activity
The Mama Workshop Turkey Trouble Activity
 

Visit The Mama Workshop to see these cute ideas to dress up and disguise the turkey in this story!

 

Visit Happy Toddler Playtime for more ways to disguise the turkey using supplies you surely already have on hand!

Happy Toddler Playtime Turkey Trouble Activity
 

What is your family's favorite story for the Thanksgiving season?

Come share over on my Instagram or Veggies & Virtue on Facebook!

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt Bark

Since Fall in Texas still means it's consistently over 70 and even 80 degrees, this has been a Fall favorite with my family. It mixes the flavors from the season with the nutrient-dense foods my growing girls need, making it a perfect snack or after dinner treat!

Be sure to check out my dietitian mom tip at the bottom of this recipe as well!

 
pumpkin froyo bark.jpg
 
 

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt Bark

Ingredients:

1 cup plain full-fat yogurt (I used Stonyfield)
1/4 cup plain pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons hemp hearts
1 Tablespoon Halloween sprinkles

Instructions:

  1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Pour yogurt onto parchment paper. Using a rubber spatula, evenly spread out until about 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
  3. Add pumpkin purée to yogurt. Gently mix in. Again spread out out mixture until even.
  4. With hand 12” or so above yogurt mixture, sprinkle hemp hearts evenly on the surface. Repeat with Halloween sprinkles.
  5. Put in the freezer for 1-2 hours or until firm. Remove pan from freezer, lift parchment paper, and gently break up frozen yogurt bark into large pieces. Serve immediately, storing extra pieces in air tight container with parchment paper in between layers. Enjoy! 

Note: These will thaw quickly, so best to return pieces to the freezer in between requests for seconds!


Dietitian Mom Tip

We rarely ever have foods containing food dyes in our home, sprinkles included. But for some certain seasonal items that I know will be short lived and likely live in the attic until next year, I do bend some of my standard "what I buy and why" standards. This not only helps me fit in other key foods like yogurt, pumpkin, and hemp seeds, but also makes a less exciting snack all the more fun amidst a holiday season that can be so all about the sugar. So just remember - YOU are the nutritional gatekeeper. The call is yours! But sometimes, I will give my dietitian blessing to loosen up a little bit and add a little fun for the sake of the big picture.

Room on the Broom Snacktivity

I'm not sure why I just can't help but see a book and imagine a snactivity to go along with it.

Get it: snack + activity = snactivity. So clever, I know. But I am totally claiming this and running with it.

Because while I know many of you loved the "Read with Recipes" I did over the summer in collaboration with Days with Grey and The Mama Workshop, I am building off of that basis to bring you this month's book and snacktivity:

Room on the Broom

 
 

I had actually never heard of this book until Beth and Ludavia suggested it for this month's collaboration. I ordered it and quickly saw why it will become a new seasonal favorite in our family as well.

Since I am not the educational expert on this book, I will leave all of that to BethLudavia, as well as Alison and Tara. Be sure to read all the way to the end of this post for links to their activities for this book! For now, here is the "how to" for this month's snacktivity! The recipe is a kid-friendly, fun way to strength story time and snack time with simple yet healthy staples.

Room on the Broom snacktivity
 

Room on the Broom Snacktivity

Serves 2

Room on the Broom snacktivity

Ingredients
1 large carrot, peeled
2 cheese sticks, wrapper removed
6 chives, uncut
6 long pretzel sticks (optional)*

*For a whole-grain, nut-free pretzel option, we found some extra-long pretzel sticks that come in small snack packs at Sam's club. One snack pack would make about 20 broomsticks!

Room on the Broom Snacktivity 4.jpg

Instructions
1. Carrot "Broomsticks"
With your peeled carrot and a parent's help, remove the top stem section and pointed end. Cut in half lengthwise, so the carrot's center is lying flat on the cutting board. Cut lengthwise again 4-5 times until you have several long strips of carrot. With these, lie each carrot strip on its side so that you can remove the rounded outer side. This should make the section of carrot a large, long rectangle. With the carrot, then create your "broomstick" handles by cutting these larger carrot rectangles into shorter ones with a square diameter. Once you have six carrot "broomsticks," set aside.

2. Cheese "Brooms"
With you cheese sticks and a parent's help, cut the cheese stick in three equal parts. Using a sharp paring knife, cut an "X" on one end of the cheese piece. On the other end, use paring knife to cut a tic-tac-toe board half way up the length of the cheese piece. This will leave you with an "X" on one end (to later enter the broomstick in) and nine small sections of cheese on one end (to later "fan out" like a broom). Repeat on the remaining pieces of cheese until you have made six cheese "brooms." Set aside.

3. Assembling the "broomsticks"
Using either your carrot broomsticks and/or in combination with long, pretzel sticks, gently insert the "broomstick" into the "X" on each cheese piece.

4. Final touches
Using a long, uncut chive, lie it flat and place the complete broomstick (broom + stick) onto the chive so that the chive is about just barely below where the broomstick meets the broom. Gently tie is, then use the paring knife or kitchen sheers to gently cut off any excess. Repeat with eat broomstick.

5. Make the broomsticks ready to fly
Gently fan out the base of each cheese piece where the cheese was sliced into nine sections. Then share and enjoy your snacktivity while reading the story, "Room on the Broom!"


Creative learning activities to make this snacktivity even better!

For more activities from this month's Room on the Broom collaboration, please be sure to check out each of the awesome ideas below!

the mama workshop room on the broom.jpg

Ludavia over at The Mama Workshop came up with these darling little paper plate witch hats, paper bows, and craft stick wands to do a scavenger hunt. Find out how to make your own by seeing her activity HERE.

days with grey room on the broom.jpg

Beth over at Days with Grey always does an amazing job breaking down any story so kids can learn to retell it using everyday craft items you probably already have on hand! Check out her cute popsicle stick activity HERE.

Tara over at Little Pine Partners has the most creative ways of using nature to teach core concepts to kids. I love the two activities she came up with using clothespins and story stones for Room on the Broom! Find them HERE.

alison room on the broom.jpg

Allison over at Yoga Pants & Pearls gives us this great sequencing activity (plus printable!) to put together our own little broomsticks. She also includes how you can use the broomstick for a painting project too on her post HERE.

 

Thanks for joining us this month!

To be in the know each month when we do a Read with Recipe Snacktivity, be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you get them straight to your inbox!

Happy Fall, and remember -- there's always Room on the Broom (plus room for snacks!).