When it comes to snacks for kids, it is so easy to get overwhelmed. Supermarket shelves are overflowing with options. Our lives are getting busier and busier. And kids seem to prefer snacks to any other meal we put on the table!
I wrote this post to solve some of your snacks dilemmas and share with you an easy formula to put a balanced and easy snack for your toddler or a school-age child.
I also included some portable options that can survive a couple of hours without refrigeration, perfect as the nursery or school snacks or something you can take with you to the park. I would always encourage you to use an ice pack when packing food to be eaten later, especially in the summer.
This mega list of snacks is for you if:
- You are stuck in a snack rut and keep serving the same 3 options all the time
- You would like your kids to try new food in a fun low-stress environment
- You are looking for balanced and nutritious “real food” snacks
- You wonder how to integrate sweets and treats into snacks without overdoing the sugar
- You need more substantial snack options for the after school “hanger”
If your child is a grazer, I encourage you to read about snack structure is so important for self-regulation and helping kids take better care of themselves. Snacks are meant to tide kids over between meals, not to replace them.
Before we dive into the actual list, here are a few basic recommendations on how, where and when to serve snacks.
How to serve snacks:
- Experiment serving snacks family-style piled up on a plate, especially if you have more than 1 child to feed. It is less clean up, more fun for kids to eat and the leftovers can be recycled as a pre-dinner appetizer or a side dish. I use this simple plastic dish with compartments I bought from Amazon.
- Try setting up a snack bar in a muffin tin, especially if you have lots of snack options and smaller kids to feed. This serving style may encourage kids to experiment with new foods.
- Use a small bento-style lunchbox or another container if you give your kids snacks right after school or pack them for the nursery or trip to the park. This way, they can see all the options and do not need to deal with containers or zip lock bags.
Where to serve snacks:
- Anywhere you can sit down so kids do not run around with food in the mouth. If you are at home at snack time, it is best to sit at the table to enjoy the food.
- If feeding snacks is a car, where you do not see the kids, be especially careful with choking hazards, like popcorn, baby carrots and hard candy, if your kids are under 5 y.o.
When to serve snacks:
- Smaller kids (under 5) have to eat every 2-3 hours. Older children can go for 3-4 hours without eating. So while preschoolers may need a morning snack to tide them over to lunch, older kids do just fine with one snack after school.
- Plan snacks at least 1.5 hours before meals, not to interfere with their appetite for bigger meals.
Read more about How often kids 0 to 5 need to eat.
How to use the mega-list to build balanced snacks:
Step 1. Choose foods from 2-3 snack groups (see suggestions below).
Step 2. Think outside the box and include options that do not scream “snack food”. Think regular, everyday foods like rinsed canned beans, with a splash of olive oil or a sandwich with smashed avocados. Chips, granola bars, and cookies can also be a part of a snack but they do not have to be the only foods your child associates the word “snack” with.
Step 3. Try to always include a protein option, especially if your child needs a substantial snack.
5 snack groups to choose from:
- Boiled egg
- Omelette strips
- Egg muffins
- Smoked salmon
- Canned fish or seafood (tuna, salmon, sardines, clams, etc)
- Slices of ham rolled up
- Slices of cooked chicken with ketchup or another dip
- Mozzarella cheese sticks
- Mozzarella mini balls
- Cubes of cheddar cheese
- Thin slices of manchego cheese (my kids’ favorite)
- Cubes of feta cheese
- Hummus – portable when in individual packets
- Baked beans
- Roasted chickpeas
- Canned beans, rinsed and seasoned with a little olive oil and lemon juice
- Black bean dip
- Ripple milk alternative – portable
- Nut butter or nut-free WOW butter for dipping or spreading on bread – portable when in individual packets
- Any nuts (cut in small pieces for kids under 5)
- Edamame – portable
- Slices of bread – portable
- Breadsticks – portable
- Crackers – portable
- Corn chips – portable
- Pretzels – portable
- Bagels – portable
- Popcorn – portable
- Rice cake – portable
- Cheerios – portable
- Watermelon cubes
- Cherries – portable
- Banana – portable
- Clementine – portable
- Slices of oranges
- Figs wedges
- Melon cubes
- Plums – portable
- Kiwi slices
- Mango cubes
- Grapes (cut in half alongside)
- Papaya cubes–
- Persimmon slices
- Smoothies – freshly made or in packets – can be portable
- Juice – freshly made or in packets – can be portable
- Blueberries – fresh are portable
- Apples – portable
- Pears – portable
- Raisins– portable
- Dry prunes– portable
- Dry apricots– portable
- Dates– portable
- Dry figs– portable
- Dry mango– portable
- Dry cherries– portable
- Cherry tomato– portable
- Avocado cubes or mashed
- Gazpacho – cold tomato soup, freshly made or in packets
- Cucumbers – portable
- Frozen corn, cooked
- Frozen green peas, cooked
- Seaweed snacks – portable
- Celery sticks– portable
- Carrot sticks– portable
- Belgian Endive
- Bell pepper wedges– portable
- Jicama sticks
- Raw mushrooms, sliced
- Radishes– portable
- Sugar snap peas– portable
5. Treats and other foods
- Granola bars – portable
- Potato chips – portable
- Nutella or other chocolate spread – portable
- Cookies – portable
- Candy – portable
- Chocolate – can be portable, unless it is very hot
- Sweetened yogurt tubes
- Granola bites– portable
- Fruit snacks– portable
- Muffins, banana bread – portable
Easy snack combos:
Here are a few examples of how you can combine different foods from the 5 snack groups to create snacks that are nutritious, easy and fun to eat:
- Trail mix (dry fruit, pretzels, chocolate, and nuts)
- Hummus+carrots+bread sticks
- Yogurt parfait (yoghurt+fruit+granola)
- Banana cut in half alongside and smeared with nut butter
- Toast topped with smashed avocado
- Muffins + milk
- Rice cake sandwich with Nutella and sliced strawberries
- Bagel with smoked salmon and smashed avocado + fruit
- Cubes of cheddar cheese, grapes, and a cookie
- Cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls and a piece of candy
- Black bean dip, corn chips, and strawberries
A bonus tip: Use this snack guide to create easy lunches for your child.
Tell me: what are your child’s favorite snack combos?
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