Instead of packing the same-old kids snacks that are high in calories, fat and sugar, these 10 pack tons of nutrition.
Kids love their snacks. Especially when kids are young, they eat snacks at daycare, school, on the playground, on play dates and after sports. But when you consider what your kids are eating at snack time, most of it’s not really healthy:
- Baked rice and corn snacks
- Fake fruit snacks
- Fake veggie snack
- …and more.
Most kids snacks are filled with white flour, refined sugars, sodium, artificial ingredients, additives and preservatives. They lack the fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals kids need. Snacks like these raise kids’ blood sugar and don’t give them the nutrition they need to play, learn and grow.
Continue to let your kids eat this way year after year and they won’t have the same appetite for healthy, delicious, real food. Not to mention they’ll have an increased risk for high blood pressure, obesity and type-2 diabetes.
Serving fruits and vegetables for snacks is always a good choice but that’s not always realistic. Kids should have a variety of foods in their diets and have treats once in awhile too.
Here are 10 healthy snacks to feed your kids, sans the guilt.
Surprisingly, popcorn can be a nutritious food to feed your kids. Popcorn is low in calories—a cup of air-popped popcorn has only 30. It’s a whole grain, a good source of fiber, contains several essential vitamins like vitamins A, B6, E, and K and folate.
The hull of popcorn, where the nutrition lies, contains beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, 3 nutrients that are beneficial for eye health. With a glycemic load of 3, it’s also a better option than chips or crackers. Popcorn doesn’t have artificial additives, preservatives and is sugar-free.
Of course, add some butter, salt or parmesan cheese and you’ve diminished the health benefits so stick to plain or add a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Granola, protein, cereal and energy bars are touted as healthy, on-the-go snacks, but most are high in calories and sugar. Unless your kid is torching some serious calories on the field, bars are usually too much for a snack.
Read labels carefully and choose bars made with real ingredients like fruit, nuts, and whole grains and those that don’t contain anything artificial and consider splitting a bar in half. My favorites include That’s It, Pressed by Kind and RXBAR.
Nuts are a healthy and delicious snack for kids. Most are good sources of fiber and protein to keep your kid feeling satiated, as well as magnesium, iron, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts are high in calories and fat so watch portion sizes.
Like nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are a good source of fiber and protein as well as B vitamins, folate, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium and essential fatty acids.
5. Sweet potato fries
Sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids. They’re a good source of fiber, vitamins A, B6 and C and potassium and are low in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol.
Instead of frying them, wash and chop them up, toss with a bit of olive oil or coconut oil and bake until they’re cooked and crispy.
6. Cereal and granola
Kids love crunchy foods and cereal or granola can be a healthy substitute for packaged snacks. Be sure to read labels however, because many cereal (even those not marketed to kids) and granola brands have a high amount of fat, calories and sugar.
Look for cereals with a good amount of fiber (at least 3 grams), protein and less than 10 grams of sugar. Select those that have whole grains, avoid varieties that have ingredients you don’t recognize and be mindful of portion sizes.
7. Bean snacks
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend beans should be part of a healthy diet. A plant-based diet can help prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and weight gain and is beneficial for gut health. Beans are low glycemic and a great source of fiber and protein to fill up your kids, and vitamins and minerals including iron, potassium, B6 and folic acid.
Beans are delicious right out of the can or boiled, or add your favorite spices and roast them for a crunchy snack.
8. Ice cream
A small serving of ice cream without toppings isn’t the worst food you can feed your kid on occasion, but you can make your own dairy-free, no sugar added ice cream that you can feel better about. Add frozen fruit—bananas work well—to your blender or Vitamix and you have a healthy, delicious treat that’s just as good as ice cream.
Most cookies you’ll find on store shelves lack whole grains, fiber and protein and are made with white flour, sugar and preservatives your kids don’t need.
With the right ingredients, you can make lightened-up versions of your kid’s favorite cookies that are delicious and packed with nutrition. Look for cookie recipes that call for healthy ingredients like oat flour or rolled oats, nuts and seeds, dried fruit, beans, apple sauce or fruit puree and avocado, which can be a substitute for butter.
10. Frozen fruit bars
Most store-bought frozen fruit bars are filled with added sugar, artificial ingredients and are made with fruit juice concentrate.
Making your own fresh fruit popsicle with pureed or whole fruit is healthier and just as tasty. You can also add some coconut milk or yogurt for a creamy popsicle. I like these fruit and veggie popsicles from SuperHealthyKids.com.