Fruit is a great snack, but it can take some creativity to get kids excited about it. To amp up the fun factor, use food-grade wooden skewers to arrange fruit in the colors of the rainbow: strawberries, oranges, bananas, honeydew melon, blueberries, and grapes. Arrange the skewers in a semi-circle on the plate and it’s an instant rainbow. Not only is this more attractive than a single type of fruit, but by incorporating several different colors of produce into a single snack, you maximize the range of nutrients and other potentially beneficial plant compounds.
This old-school snack still delights little ones, and it couldn’t be easier to make. Cut up several celery stalks, slather them with peanut butter or another nut butter, and add a few raisins on top. Celery is low in calories but high in potassium and vitamin C; raisins are also a good source of potassium; and nut butter is full of protein and healthful unsaturated fats. (Since many schools don’t allow nuts due to the prevalence of nut allergies, this snack is best saved for after school or on weekends.)
Kids love to dip, and this snack is a healthier option than calorie-laden chips and dip. Cut up slices of whole grain pita bread (look for brands made with 100 percent whole grain or that list whole grains first on the ingredient label) and let kids dip the slices into hummus. This flavorful Middle Eastern dip is made from chickpeas, a nutritious legume high in protein and fiber as well as folate, iron, and zinc. Mini carrots also make great dipping sticks. Hummus is readily available at stores, or make your own lower-fat version with this recipe.
Choose ingredients like raw almonds or cashews, pumpkin and flax seeds, dried fruit, whole grain cereal, coconut flakes, and a little something sweet like chocolate chips or yogurt-covered raisins. Whoever gobbles it up will be treated to a mix of fiber, vitamin E, omega-3 fats, beta carotene, potassium, and iron. Prepare a batch in bulk and portion it into individual containers or sandwich bags to add to your kids’ lunchboxes.
This potentially healthier alternative to a milkshake (depending on what you put in it) can be either sweet or savory. For the former, combine sliced or frozen fruits, milk (dairy or nut-based) or yogurt, and cinnamon or nutmeg to punch up the flavor without sugar or calories. If needed, add a small amount of sweetener such as honey or maple syrup to taste. For a savory smoothie, start with milk or yogurt and add avocado or green beans, tomatoes, and basil or tarragon. Kids won’t even notice they’re drinking their veggies.
This classic snack is the perfect blend of salty and savory, and there are easy ways to do it healthfully. Cheese is high in calcium and protein and contains vitamins A and B12. Hard cheeses like cheddar and Swiss are higher in calories and fat than soft cheeses like mozzarella and goat cheese, which pair just as well with crackers. Choose low-sodium, whole grain crackers, which are higher in fiber and will keep kids feeling full for longer than refined grain versions. For a little sweetness, send grapes too (use a separate container so the crackers don't get soggy).