Since my son is just a year old, we don't have this problem yet, but I've been seeing many moms on social media freaking out about the amount of snacks their kids are consuming and how expensive their grocery bills are now that kids are home for the summer. If you're in this boat, you may be wondering about snacks you can feel good about your kid wanting all the time, because trust, they are going to want to eat all. the. time. But obviously some snacks are better than others when it comes to the ingredients. I spoke with two dietitians about some snacks that were tasty — but healthy — that kids would want to eat on the regular, and of which that parents could feel good about (even if their bank account doesn't).
What constitutes a "healthy" snack? Outpatient GI dietitian at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Kelsey Smith tells Romper, "I love that you include 'healthy' in quotes because it can mean a lot of different things to people. My typical guidance is that snacks should try to incorporate whole foods from two to three food groups when possible. For instance, a starch/grain plus protein combo could be peanut butter on whole grain crackers. Or a fruit plus dairy combo could be low-sugar yogurt with sliced berries on top or apples to dip."
Renae D'Andrea, a registered dietitian, mom, author, and the brains behind the Insta @newwaysnutrition adds, "I recommend looking for snacks that are low in sugar and salt, and have some fiber or protein in them to help sustain [your kid]. The last thing we want is a kid filling up on snacks and then getting hungry 30 minutes later... and that can definitely happen when snacks are carb heavy with low fiber and no protein or fat in them."
As far as how many snacks kids should be eating daily, D'Andrea says, "I don’t recommend starting snacks before your child turns 1 year old. After that, two to three snacks per day is the recommendation. Where your child falls in that range depends on their schedule, how active they are, and their general metabolism and needs."
And any of these seven healthy snacks would be a great option for any of the two to three allotted snacks per day for your child.
1. Whole Milk Yogurt
My son Jack eats some plain yogurt with blueberries mixed in there with me every morning before we go on our morning walk. And it looks like I can feel good about this bonding ritual.
"Yogurt — preferably plain and flavored at home or a low-sugar, store-bought variety — are full of protein, fat, and probiotics. It's a great nutrient dense choice that most kids love," says D'Andrea.
Smith suggests using plain yogurt and adding ripe berries to the mix. "These are naturally smooth and/or soft foods that early eaters can enjoy. The yogurt is a good source of fat for brain function, protein, and calcium for strong bones. The berries provide fiber, fluid and antioxidants," she says.
2. Dips With Veggies Or Whole Wheat Pita
My son is obsessed with dipping his toast into peanut butter and pita bread into hummus — and it looks like he's not alone.
"Kids love to dip," Smith says. "It's a great way to incorporate more vegetables. Plus, the hummus and bean dips provide additional protein and fiber."
Smith adds that mashed avocado and pita is another solid choice that provides healthy fats and fiber.
3. Simple Mills Crackers & Cheese
The healthy answer to your favorite cheese crackers is a box of Farmhouse Cheddar Simple Mills crackers. "These crackers are made from a nut or seed blend as their base, so they have a bit more fiber and protein than you see in most crackers. Combine that with an easy fun veggie like a snap pea, and it’s even better," D'Andrea says.
4. Trail Mix/Nuts & Seeds (When Age Appropriate)
When I was a kid, there was always trail mix in the house. I was obsessed, as was my granola hippy dad. And it looks like it was a good choice, too.
D'Andrea says, "This is for the older crowd, as nuts are a choking hazard under 4, but it’s a great option that can be store-bought or kids can create their own version. Adding nuts, seeds, and dried fruits can be a great base, and it’s easy to change it up every time. Adding a handful of chocolate chips can give that special touch to it without a ton of sugar, too."
Plus, Smith adds, "It's portable, requires no refrigeration, and boasts a great source of fat, protein, and vitamins and minerals."
5. Homemade Muffins
What kid doesn't love baked goods and likes to eat muffins and cakes all the time? You can make them healthy at home so you can feel good about your kid potentially turning into a muffin.
"My go-tos are homemade muffins, as they can be full of healthy protein, fats, and fiber without all the added sugar or salt," says D'Andrea. "They’re filling and delicious, and kids can think they’re a treat when really they’re packed full of nutrients."
6. Lara Or RX Bars
For those of us who may not have time to make homemade muffins, this quick and easy snack is delicious and fairly healthy, and your kid will be wanting them all the time.
"Lara bars are another good snack that are a great fast option. They have nuts and dates as their primary ingredients — no added sugars or salt in most of their baseline — and the protein from the nuts can help to keep kids full," D'Andrea says.
Smith adds, " I don't love a lot of prepackaged snacks, but RX Bars is one I can get behind. It has real food ingredients, no added sugar and a boost of protein."
7. Yasso Greek Yogurt Bars
I was obsessed with these when I was pregnant. When my son came out, I was a little surprised he wasn't a Yasso Greek Yogurt Bar. I wanted ice cream all the time and I felt like this was a bit of a healthier option to satisfy my sweet tooth during pregnancy. I mean, they are 100 calories a bar and have live and active cultures, no high-intensity sweeteners, and are made with real greek yogurt. Oh, and there are 5 grams of protein, y'all. Your kids will be eating "ice cream" and pleased as punch about it.