Whether you pack a snack for your child to eat during the school day, at an after-school program or need similarly portable snacks that can be eaten in the car while driving to and from activities, a good snack should be:
Healthy. (As my daughters would say, “Duh”!)
Easy to put together. (Much better to spend your time with your family rather than preparing involved snack recipes)
Appealing to children. (Nothing worse than a healthy snack that goes uneaten!)
Indestructible. (Okay, not truly indestructible, but able to withstand being tossed around in a backpack for hours)
Putting together not just one, but an entire school-year’s worth of snacks that fit the bill can be quite difficult, as any parent knows who has tried to do this. The grocery store aisles are filled with snacks that are easy, appealing and indestructible but rarely healthy. Things like “fruit” snacks, 100-calorie packs of cookies and crackers, chips, pudding, etc. are loaded with preservatives, salt, sugar and are mostly simple carbohydrates. So let’s elaborate on the first requirement: Healthy.
What makes a snack healthy?
A healthy snack should contain complex carbohydrates and protein. A complex carbohydrate is unrefined grain (whole wheat, oats, brown rice, etc.) or fruit/veggie and protein can come from many sources: meat, dairy, beans, soy, eggs. Most processed foods contain refined flour and sugar, which are short on nutrients and tend to give us that sugar high – lots of quick energy followed by a crash and quickly feeling hungry again. A good snack provides consistent energy over a longer period of time. By combining complex carbs and protein, blood sugar levels tend to be more consistent, which means you don’t get the sugar highs and lows. This also causes one to feel fuller for longer – a win/win!
And a word about the indestructible requirement. Invest in some good, smaller plastic reusable containers. The hard plastic will prevent things from becoming crushed, squished, bruised or smashed. Of course, they are also better for the environment since they are reusable. Also invest in some of those reusable freezer blocks that you can put in with your snack to keep it cold, if need be.
So what are some easy snack ideas that fit all 4 of the requirements above?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Piece of fresh fruit and a string cheese
Some whole grain crackers spread with peanut butter
Trail mix made of dried fruit, nuts and whole grain cereal or pretzels (buy the separate ingredients so kids can make their own!)
Yogurt and whole grain pretzels
Raw veggies and hummus
Whole grain granola bars. There is much discrepancy in the nutritional value of different brands/varieties of granola bars – some are more like candy bars than a healthy snack. Kashi makes many healthy and tasty varieties.
Apple slices and peanut/almond/sunflower butter
Edamame. You can buy edamame that is pre-cooked and frozen.
Popcorn and milk (try a reusable drink bottle)