Childhood is when bodies are built and taste preferences are made, so it’s important that kids eat healthy–including snacks. That’s why we’ve decided to figure out what makes a great healthy snack. We found that the best snacks include whole food ingredients and are free from overly processed and artificial ones.
They’re also low on added sugars and cater to any allergies or dietary restrictions. Keeping these things in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite healthy snacks for kids, with FreeYumm taking first place. We also created a buying guide with the help of nutritionist Kara Swanson to help you evaluate your choices. Read on for more!
Kara Swanson is a certified nutritionist and the founder of Life Well Lived. She is married to her best friend and the proud mother of three. Her passion is to make nutrition simple+easy+delicious!
mybest US' editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in the US in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
The expert oversees the Buying Guide only, and does not determine the products and services featured.
Table of Contents
The largest factor in what makes a snack healthy or not is its ingredients list, so definitely make sure to take a closer look at it before purchasing any one snack.
On the other hand, excess processed grains, oils, sugars, and preservatives can have the opposite effect, making kids feel lethargic.
As a good rule of thumb, look for snacks with ingredients you’d be able to easily find in your own pantry or local grocery store.
Ingredients are key when it comes to choosing snacks for our kids. There are so many snack options vying for our attention that it can be really easy to be persuaded to eat something unhealthy because of a misleading label. Get smart about ingredients and look for snacks that are made with whole grains, fruits, nuts, and ingredients you can pronounce.
Thankfully, most kids’ snacks will have a separate “added sugars” section in the nutrition facts, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for that.
This is tricky because - let's be honest - sugar is in almost everything these days. But it's really important we pay attention to the sugars being added to snacks. Save a sugar-filled snack for a special treat and ditch the added sugars as much as possible for everyday eats.
Kids actually tend not to get the recommended levels of fruits and vegetables per day, so snack time is the perfect time to sneak in some nutritious servings for your little ones!
In general, moderately active kids ages two to three should have one cup each of veggies and fruit per day. Kids aged four to eight should have 1.5 cups of fruits and 1.5 to two cups of veggies per day, while kids aged nine to 13 should have anywhere from 1.5 to two cups of fruits and two to three cups of veggies per day.
As a nutritionist, I see how kids are not getting the recommended fruits and vegetables they need every day.
It's vital that we teach our kids healthy habits now so that they can stick to them for the rest of their lives. There are so many great snack options where they actually sneak in vegetables and your kids won't even know it!
Fat may seem like an issue with many foods, as they have been linked with heart disease, but it can actually be good for you.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the healthiest, but saturated fats are still fine, as long as you don't intake them at levels that are more than 10% of your calorie count per day. They take a while to digest too, so they help keep you satisfied for longer.
Protein has a bevy of benefits when consumed. It helps reduce hunger, increase muscle mass, increases how much fat is burned, and boost your metabolism, amongst other great effects. Like fat, protein also helps you stay full for longer, so they're a great addition to prevent cravings and to satiate hunger in children.
We live in a fat heavy society where unhealthy fats are a main ingredient. But not all fat is bad for you. Stick to healthy fats that are found in nuts, nut butters, and avocados. And don't get too hung up on protein, it's the least common deficiency and many actually consume too much.
On the other hand, if these snacks will only be for home or you’re trying to cut down on waste, feel free to look for larger containers.
If you're running out the door, having a special bin in the pantry for single-serving snacks is a lifesaver. If you want to save some money, portion the snacks out in baggies so you have them on hand when you need them.
My daughter goes to preschool and because she needs to have a gluten-free snack she brings her own, so I have a special bin of single-serving snacks she can bring with her every day.
Snacks can be fun and healthy at the same time! They can come in adorable shapes, such as bunnies or stars, or come with extras, such as collectible cards. Besides being tasty and nutritious, and if your child is a picky eater, snacks that have additional content can keep your children happy and wanting more.
If you do end up with a snack that's in regular old rectangle shapes, you can also add your own touches to the lunchbox overall to make it more fun for the kids—such as cutting out shaped sandwiches with cookie cutters or arranging the food to look like a cartoon character. This element of fun will encourage your kids to eat what's there.
Kids love eating snacks in fun shapes and I also found that they love variety too. This is a great way to sneak in some fresh veggies and fruit. I love adding a few carrots or some apple slices to their snack bowls and most of the time they don't even notice!
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Allergen Free Granola Bars｜15 bars, 3 packs
An Allergy Friendly, Soft-Baked Snack
Banana Chips｜6 count
A Healthy Alternative to Chips for Kids
Orchard Valley Harvest
Fruits and Nuts Provide Vitamins and Minerals
Bada Bean Bada Boom Broad Bean Snack｜6 count
High in Protein to Satisfy Your Little Ones
Applesauce on the Go
The Perfect Balance of Sweet and Nutritious
Real Fruit Yoyos｜30 count
All Ages Can Enjoy These Fruit Snacks
Off The Eaten Path
Veggie Crisps｜16 count
Snack on These in the Afternoon for Sustained Energy
Homegrown Bunny Snacks Variety Pack｜12 count
Classic Snacks Turned Healthy
Happy Tot Organics
Fiber & Protein Soft-Baked Oat Bars｜5 count
Perfect for Toddlers and Younger Children
Organic Fruit & Veggie Stix｜5 count
Fruit and Veggie Chews With Collectible Characters
They're also baked gently to ensure they're filled with vitamins, minerals, and fiber straight from the originally picked fruit! Reviewers write that even picky eaters love these four-ingredient fruit leathers but that they make a great healthy snack for both kids and adults.
If you're worried about your kids not getting enough servings of any one certain food group, you can always pack their lunches with other extras to supplement their healthy snacks.
For instance, snacks don't always have dairy included. Feel free to add in milk, yogurt, or cheeses into their lunch boxes to give them their daily recommended serving. You can find more information on serving sizes for kids here.
Also, when packing their lunches in general, make sure to balance out each part of their meal. Think of the rainbow when prepping, and make sure to add a lot of variety, so your kids can get used to eating nutrition-packed foods.
Make sure your children are eating a balanced diet that is heavy on fruits and vegetables. Explore different veggies and fruits.
It's fun to get your kids involved too! Have them pick out a new fruit or veggie to try when you're at the grocery store. My girls love doing this and we've even discovered some new favorites! Plus, they feel more in control because they got to pick it out.
Now that you know how to choose a healthy snack for your kid, expert Kara Swanson has a bit of advice on how to keep them on the right track. Always make sure to portion out foods and try to keep snacks limited to fresh and nutritious offerings!
I try to find a really good balance when it comes to snacks. They get one "pantry" snack a day which is something like pretzels, veggie chips, or popcorn.
Then if they are still hungry or want another snack, they have to have fresh fruit, applesauce, veggies, dried fruit, or nuts. This ensures they still get to have a "fun" snack which they love but also eat some nutrient-dense foods too!
No. 1: FreeYumm｜Allergen Free Granola Bars｜15 bars, 3 packs
No. 2: Banana Joe｜Banana Chips｜6 count
No. 3: Orchard Valley Harvest｜Antioxidant Mix
No. 4: Enlightened｜Bada Bean Bada Boom Broad Bean Snack｜6 count
No. 5: GoGo squeeZ｜Applesauce on the Go
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