With school on the horizon for your kids, you’re likely in the middle of creating routines so the transition back to school is less chaotic.
Besides backpacks, pencils and notebooks, you’ll also send your young student to school with snacks to keep him or her focused throughout the day. And while it’s easy to cruise down the snack food aisle at the grocery store and pick up individually wrapped packs of cheese and crackers or pudding cups, those options are processed and won’t give your kids the same brain boost that healthier options will.
“With just a little effort on Sunday evening or in the morning before school, you can give your kids a healthy snack that’s low in sugar and fat, and not processed,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Julie Fisher, RDN, LDN, CDE, at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital.
Here are healthy snacks that will keep your kids satisfied at school.
- String cheese: String cheese or other cheese sticks are easily portable, pack a lot of protein and—let’s face it—are fun to eat. String cheese gives your kids about 6 grams of protein, which will satisfy them and help them focus on learning.
- Hummus and veggies: Rather than other dips like ranch dressing or French onion dip, hummus is low in calories and fat, and typically contains just chickpeas, tahini, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Pair it with sliced peppers, snow peas or carrots to get a serving of veggies in.
- Dried fruit or fruit leather: Banana chips, raisins, dried cranberries and apricots are just a few commonly dried fruits that are tasty mid-morning snacks. Similarly, fruit leather can also serve as an energy booster, but make sure you’re vigilant about added sugar.
“When you’re buying fruit leather or dried fruit, make sure there’s little or no added sugar. Dried fruits already contain natural sugars,” said Fisher. “If you’re feeling ambitious and you have the time, you can make sure your kids are getting healthy dried fruits by making your own.”
- Yogurt and fresh fruit: If your kids have access to a refrigerator for their snacks, send them to school with yogurt and fresh fruit. The ever-popular Greek yogurt contains more protein than other yogurts; choose a low-fat brand with just 1- or 2-percent fat. Cut up strawberries, bananas, peaches or blueberries — avoid the fruit-on-the-bottom kind because it’s loaded with sugar.
- Whole grain cereal: Breakfast cereals are a fast and easy way to send your little one off to school with a healthy snack. Choose whole grain options that contain plenty of fiber, vitamin B and protein and look out for added sugar.
- Brown rice cakes: Crunchy and satisfying, rice cakes are another easy snack to pack for your children. Look for brown rice, which contain whole grains and are healthier than their white rice counterparts. Depending on school policies, you may also be able to serve a rice cake with some peanut butter for added flavor.
- Pita and bean dip: Add a serving of whole grains in your children’s diets with a whole wheat pita snack.
“Whole wheat pita is a great way to get one of the three to five servings of whole grains recommended for kids,” said Fisher. Add bean spread or hummus to the pita for some extra flavor.
- Applesauce: Applesauce is convenient because it comes in small, portable containers. Look for natural applesauce with no added sugar. The unsweetened version is much healthier for your kids.
- Sweet potato chips: Sweet potato chips are an easy snack to bake ahead of time for your kids. Thinly slice sweet potatoes, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then bake for 22 minutes at 400 degrees. These salty-sweet snacks contain calcium, potassium and vitamins A and C, and they’re much healthier than the fried version you’d buy in the store.
- Light popcorn: Low-fat or light popcorn—not the movie theater version doused in butter—makes a great, healthy snack for kids. You can find the microwave version in stores or air pop your own at home. Sprinkle it with a little bit of salt, or get creative with other kid-friendly spices.