This post is unsponsored. I was not compensated nor asked to include any of the following products, however I did receive samples of some of the following products for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own.
My 45 Favorite Snack Options for Kids
(Plus 15 of My Favorite Homemade Ones!)
Even in feeding my own kids three meals and two snacks a day, I still feel stuck for healthy, practical ideas at times. Add that to the confusion of walking down any given snack aisles (even as a dietitian mom), and I get why other parents are overwhelmed when trying to find healthy, kid-friendly snack options.
Last year, I shared a post on “The Best Pre-Packaged Snack Foods,” which included information on different types of snack foods (i.e. fun foods, sometimes foods, and everyday foods) as well as ideas on how such snack foods can have a healthy place in your child’s diet. This post also included a free printable shopping list (see below) of My 20 Favorite Pre-Packaged Snack Foods from Target, which many of you downloaded and said that you enjoyed (which you can also download for free here).
That’s why in this post, I thought I would not only revisit the conversation of snack foods and update some of my recommendations in each “category” (see below: bars + bites, starchy snacks, fruit snacks, and protein-packed snacks). My goal in this post is to further eliminate all guesswork and curate a list of my favorite snacks within each category. I get several inquiries about where to buy these snacks as well (when I share them on Instagram or Facebook), so I have shared links for the best places to buy each of these products as well to make it even easier for you to restock your own pantry (now that the school year is in full swing)!
Although I want to make seeing the following snack food suggestions as straight-forward as possible, I already am anticipating some of the feedback I might get from families who find these either impractical, inferior, not cost-effective nor environmentally-friendly, or who are ultimately unclear on how these snacks fit into an overall healthy lifestyle.
I have tried to address those possible concerns here:
First, pre-packaged snacks are often more expensive.
I don’t recommend these to blow anyone’s food budget but rather because I know many families out there are in need of convenient, readily-available snack options that require no prep. That said, I respect not all of these options may be a good fit for every family’s budget and have tried to provide ideas at a variety of price points. Some of the snacks suggested in this post are in fact more expensive than mainstream alternatives on the market. Typically, this is due to higher-quality ingredients yielding a more natural, nutrient-dense product than competing, lesser expensive varieties. For my family, I prefer to invest in higher-quality packaged snacks and saving them for when we need them (on the go, when traveling, and on the occasional school day when we are in a rush or don’t have other homemade options ready). This lessens how often we eat them, stretching our food dollar further without compromising quality. Many of the following options also may be purchased either on sale or in bulk (for a discount) or in larger sized packages and then divided up into their own smaller, snack-sized containers to help save. Otherwise, some of these pre-packaged might have recipes so you can recreate similar homemade snacks (instead of always reaching for pre-packaged).
Second, pre-packaged snacks aren’t always nutritionally superior to ones you could make yourself.
If you have the time and energy to recreate items in the categories below, I encourage you to do so as you might be able to pack even more nutrition into them. However, for the purposes of this post, I aimed to include options that I personally and professionally consider nutrient-rich options in the given category (when compared to the alternative, pre-packaged items on the market). I have included some of the nutrition and ingredients list information I look for in each of the respective category.
Third, pre-packaged snacks create more waste.
I admit that at times, I weigh the convenience of pre-packaged snacks over considering how environmentally friendly the packaging is of such products. That’s why, as mentioned above, I tend to serve homemade snacks or portioning pre-made snacks into a reusable snack bag when able. You can find some of my favorite reusable snack bags here.
Fourth, consider a few of the following tips if sending any of the following packaged snacks to school.
Make sure you know the dietary restrictions of your child’s school and avoid sending any restricted allergens. Many of the options below include nuts, so use your discretion for if and when such snacks are safe and appropriate. If you need peanut-free ideas, read this post for 12 peanut-free pre-made and portable snack ideas.
Tear a small opening in packaging so it makes it easier for your child to open it come lunch or snack time. This gives them more time to eat, rather than using that time to wait on their teacher (who likely has to open the packages for several kid’s!).
If your child’s school requires you to send snacks labeled, consider using one of the reusable bags (shared above) with a reusable name label on it. This lessens the work of having to write on it each day (especially since Sharpies don’t always write easily on all snack options).
Fifth, know how to offer snacks.
No matter WHAT you offer, if you don’t have a foundation for WHEN food is offered, all of your efforts can still get derailed. That’s why it is important to both choose appropriate snack food options, as shared in my post on The Best Pre-Packaged Snack Foods, and to be mindful about how to feed your child at snack time. Spacing snacks 2-3 hours from meal times and enforcing a “kitchen is closed” at all other times can help to promote your child to eat more of the nutrient-dense items when offered and eliminate mindless grazing on potentially less- healthful snack foods. Wondering how to feed your child at snack time? Read more here >>
My 45 Favorite Snack Options for Kids [Packaged + Prep-Free]
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links to my Amazon shop. These do not cost you anything extra to use; they will only provide Veggies & Virtue a small commission for any purchases made through this link. Thank you for supporting this small business!
Bars + Bites (Non-Perishable + Packaged)
I am a big fan of bars and energy bites as a way to pack a lot of nutrition into a small, convenient package. With so many bars over-saturating the market, however, it can quickly become overwhelming to know which ones to buy. Since bars and bites can vary a lot in their taste, texture, and overall nutritional as well, I have also included a bit of information below on each bar/bite includes that will hopefully help guide you in your buying decisions a bit about which to buy and why.
Here are a few nutritional considerations for how I came to select the following bars:
Sugar: Many “healthy” bars on the market have considerable amounts of added sugar. Considering many children already get more added sugar than they need in their diet, parents should consider the source and amount of sugar in the bars and bites they buy. Looking for bars with only naturally occurring sugar in the ingredients list (from sources like dates) is ideal. Otherwise, select bars with limited sources and amounts of added sugar. If an ingredients list states several sources of added sugar and/or exceeds around 6 grams of sugar per serving (equivalent to 25% of the max amount of added sugar a toddler should have in a day), try to avoid and select another bar or bite instead. Wondering how much sugar your child needs? Read more here >>
Fat: Bars and bites are an excellent way to get healthy fats into children without the choking hazard of whole nuts. This fat source in bars also provides satiation, so kids won’t become hungry as quickly after eating. Since children need more fat than hey do protein in their diets, prioritize a bar that offers healthy fat over “protein bars” that might be more intended for adults. Wondering how much fat your child needs? Read more here >>
Protein: Protein that comes naturally-occurring from sources like nuts and seeds make a great option in snack bars or bites that you want to sustain your child for longer than say, a carbohydrate-rich bar would. Otherwise, there is rarely a need to choose bars or bites for young children though that have added sources of protein (i.e. in the form of protein isolates). That’s because when distributed across three meals and two or three snacks a day, most children are already getting their protein needs met without such added sources. Wondering how much protein your child needs? Read more here >>
Top 10 Bars + Bites (in no particular order):
RXBARs have permanent residence in my own life these days. As one of the few bars that legitimately keep me feeling full between meals or when my own mom lunch gets bumped hours behind when I feed my kids, I can’t even count how many times these have protected me from getting hangry. When RXBAR came out with the kids option of bars, I was immediately sold. The ingredients list is unmatched in the industry for being full of the fuel I want my kids to eat and yet can’t conveniently get into them on the go in the way RXBAR Kids has captured to in this smaller sized bar. With kid-friendly flavors, RXBAR Kids are now one of the top bars we tuck into the diaper bag or in the car as an emergency snack as I know they will tie us over longer than many more carbohydrate-rich bars. From our own experience, RXBAR keep us feeling full the longest, which makes them great when you need a more substantial snack bar (or to avoid if you need a light snack close to a meal). The texture of RXBAR Kids is a bit more tough to chew through than other bars and can get stuck to teeth, so I know it took some getting used to for both myself and my girls. With some re-exposure though, we have started to enjoy these bars as one of our favorites. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. I find the RXBAR website and Sprouts tend to have the best deals on these bars.
LARABARs have long been a favorite of mine, even before the “bar market” exploded into what it is today. They were early adopters of the simple ingredients list and keeping bars a wholesome source of nutrition. I particularly appreciate that all LARABARs use dates in their base as the source of sweetener, as this makes them tasty to kids without needing to add any additional sugar. While the nutrition facts reads higher in sugar than some other bars, this again is from real food (dates) rather than added sugar, and thus less of a consideration or concern in my book. For parents with small children, I often encourage LARABARs as a safe way to include nuts in a child’s diet. Compared to offering kids bars with large nut pieces or a handful of nuts when active or out and about, I feel more comfortable recommending snacks like LARABARs that offer the nutrition of nuts without the same choking hazard. While I love all of the LARABARs, their LARABAR minis are another great option for small children as one to toss in a lunchbox, have as a light snack, or offer alongside something else. The smaller size helps lessen the situations when your child might only eat half of a bar and then potentially waste the rest. I am unsure if they are phasing out the minis (as they aren’t shown on the LARABAR website), but they have been and will continue to be a favorite here as available. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. On the LARABAR website (as of this posting), the mini bars do not exist. I continue to see them in stores like Kroger and Target though, as well as on Amazon.
If your kids are used to granola bars that more closely resemble a candy bar, this can be a great way to food chain to a healthier alternative. With 5 grams of sugar, this is less than most competitors while also being made with much more natural and nutrient-dense ingredients. There are also some tasty nut-free flavor options that make this a fun “competitive" food” for school (should your kid be like mine and want “what everyone else has”)! Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon.
KIND Healthy Grains Bars
While a little bigger than the KIND Kids bar, this one still only has 5 grams of sugar per bar. It is a tasty granola-bar option for bigger appetites, bigger kids (or adults, as my husband and I eat these too!), or when a bit more snack is merited. There are several flavor options as well, again with nut-free options that add some variety to snacks for school or after school sports. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon.
Health Warrior Chia Bar
This chia bar packs several real food ingredients into a small bar, making it perfect for little tummies who need good nutrition in smaller sizes. With only 3 grams of sugar and several flavors to try, this is a great way to go for a granola-bar alternative. My kids love the new chocolate chip flavor! Similar to the texture of a LARABAR, this too is a softer option of bars for kids who might not be able to bite into other bars or need small pieces torn off to eat. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. Use discount code veggiesvirtue20 for 20% off of first purchase when shopping on healthwarrior.com.
Health Warrior Pumpkin Seed Bar
These pumpkin bars are organic and made up of simple ingredients (just pumpkin seeds, honey, and spices) and yet taste like a treat! With nut free flavor options, we have found them helpful as a convenient pre-packaged bar option that we can send to school. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. Use discount code veggiesvirtue20 for 20% off of first purchase when shopping on healthwarrior.com.
Made in Nature Figgy Pops
Tied with maybe muffins, I live by energy balls as quick and easy options I can eat with one hand while still getting a decent amount of nutrition packed in. Since I am not always able to make them at home though nor do I always have the right ingredients on hand, I have become particularly fond of these Figgy Pops for a pre-made energy bite option. With several flavors and even nut free options, these Made in Nature Figgy Pops are a new mainstay for #momlife and fueling active little kids with healthy AND convenient snack options. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon.
MySuperSnack Granola Bites
These include what you love about an oatmeal cookie in a convenient snack-sized shape. With more fat and fiber than most bars on the market, these aren’t the highly refined granola bar option void of the fiber or fat that keep us full. Instead, these granola bites are a tasty way to convert “cookies” into a healthier snack option that is still sweet and satisfying. Shop for in stores or on Amazon.
These granola bites option are more like a crunchy take on oatmeal cookies than the above granola bite while again packing much more nutrition in than a cookie-esque snack option. Again packing in less added sugar than other granola-based snacks, these granola bites were created by a fellow dietitian mom to satisfy the needs of a nutrient-dense snack while also catering to cravings of a sweet tooth. With a variety of flavors, my girls are really fond of taking a larger back of these Nourish Snacks to share or an individual bag of the nut-free options to school. Shop for in stores or on Amazon. You can select the 1-ounce single serve or 4-ounce snack-to-share size bag when buying on Amazon.
Matt N’ Mikes SuperKid Bar
The newest bar in the bunch, these bars by Matt n’ Mike have been ones we have really enjoyed. I am fond of the ingredients list being made up of simple, real foods while still being sweet enough and in a size that my kids enjoy. As a smaller business than some of the other bars listed above, these might not be as easily available at the grocery store but they are readily available online. Shop for in stores or online.
Starchy Snacks (Non-Perishable + Packaged)
Often seen as “filler foods,” chips, crackers, and cookies are usually not essentials from a nutritional standpoint. However, they are often impossible to avoid in our diets, especially with kids. So although our goal is to always load up our kids with the most nutrient-dense options (especially when they are young and their stomachs are particularly small), the reality is we also may find ourselves wanting to offer some sweet or savory snacks on occasion.
It is important to not make any foods so forbidden that it becomes something our kids covet. Instead, our kids need to know how all foods fit, including items like chips, crackers, and cookies or other “fun foods” (read more on Fun Foods + Snacks here). Our job as parents is to look for options that allow us to offer better-for-you ingredients in such food options most of the time. I am not the type to instill fear in families for the occasional neon orange puff nor a creme-filled cookie eaten at birthday parties, classroom events, or special outings. I don’t usually recommend families have these on hand as everyday options however, as they can become particularly tempting to eat more often and crowd out other more nutrient-rich options when they’re in the house. When families are looking to find healthier options to have at home and on hand, the following are some that I have found to be both kid-friendly and dietitian-approved.
Here are a few nutritional considerations for how I came to select the following snack chips, crackers, and cookies:
Whole Grains: When possible, I always opt for starchy snack foods that contain some whole grains. This will be shown with a label from the Whole Grain Council on the front of packaging, a marketing claim of “X amount of whole grains per serving,” or by viewing the ingredients list to make sure that the first ingredient in a whole grain. Although having a whole grain snack doesn’t necessarily equate to it having more fiber, often times such snacks will still be nutritionally superior by offering more protein, vitamins, and minerals than snack foods made with refined grains. Wondering how much fat your child needs? Read more here >>
Ingredients list: Bars and bites are an excellent way to get healthy fats into children without the choking hazard of whole nuts. This fat source in bars also provides satiation, so kids won’t become hungry as quickly after eating. Since children need more fat than hey do protein in their diets, prioritize a bar that offers healthy fat over “protein bars” that might be more intended for adults. Wondering how much fat your child needs? Read more here >>
Bonus Ingredients: After seeing a need to make such starchy snack foods more healthy, many food manufacturers are starting to create more nutrient-dense varieties by adding in otherwise nontraditional ingredients to these options. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even legumes are now more commonplace in crunchy, starchy snacks. When possible, parents should opt for starchy snacks that include bonus ingredients (and thus nutritional benefits!).
Top 15 Starchy Snacks (in no particular order):
Triscuits Whole Grain Crackers: Shop for in stores
Puffworks: Shop for on Amazon
Fruit Snacks (Non-Perishable + Packaged)
I am all for getting our fruits and vegetables in, but sometimes fresh options just aren’t realistic. That’s why I often rely on the following non-perishable and packaged options. With only real fruit in the ingredients, no added sugar, ingredients, or food dyes are necessary to make these “fruit snacks” a sweet snack for kids.
Here are a few nutritional considerations for how I came to select the following fruit snacks:
Sugar source: Opt for “fruit snacks” that contain only fruit in the ingredients list. Ideally, limit those with added fruit concentrates as these increase the sugar content without offering the same fiber and overall nutritional benefits of whole fruit. Although some parents may be concerned that the sugar content (as shown on the nutrition facts label) appears “high” even in fruit snacks made only with fruit, rest assured this is all naturally occurring sugar from fruit (and not added sugars) and can be used to offer valuable nutrition. Serve as a stand alone snack for a quick energy source (due to the higher amount of sugar/simple carbohydrates), or pair it with something that has a bit of fat, fiber, or protein to give it a bit more staying power.
Fiber: Fruit-based snacks tend to be a compact source of carbohydrates for their fruit-based equivalent. Often times, the fiber from the fruit is lost in the processing, so when possible, choose fruit-based snacks that have retained some fiber.
Ingredients List: Keep it simple. There should be very few foods on the ingredients list outside of fruit, potentially ascorbic acid (a source of vitamin C that acts as a preservative), and maybe added items like chia seeds (as in the case of the Pressed bars below).
Top 10 Fruit Snacks (in no particular order):
Organic boxes of raisins: Shop for in stores (or put the organic ones in a large bag from Costco into smaller containers)
Freeze-dried fruits: Shop for in stores or on Amazon
Organic Applesauce pouches: Shop for in stores (also at Costco)
Protein-Packed Snacks (Both Perishable and Non-Perishable + Packaged)
One of the best ways to ensure your kids keep asking for more snacks is to offer ones that are full of quick energy and refined carbohydrates (even if natural carbs from fruit) without anything to go with it. If, however, you need to offer a snack with a bit more staying power (more on that here), be sure to add in a protein source so your child stays full longer. Some of the best ways to do this without any extra effort is with the following quick sources of protein.
Here are a few considerations for how I came to select the following protein snacks:
Protein: Whether you opt for an option that it plant- or animal-based, any of the following protein options can make a nutritious addition to any snack. If you are only able to grab a bag of carrot or a whole apple otherwise, the following options can round out those snacks to make them both more satisfying and filling.
Perishability: Of all the snacks shared, this list is the only one that might include a perishable option. Offer variety on the days you have an ice pack with those that you need a shelf-stable option. An asterisk below denotes the protein options that are non-perishable.
Ingredients List: Keep it simple. These should be minimally processed with few added ingredients outside of the obvious protein itself.
Top 10 Protein-Packed Snacks (in no particular order):
Babybel: Shop for in stores (We buy ours at Costco)
Organic Cheese Sticks: Shop for in stores
Good Culture Cottage Cheese cups: Shop for in stores
Horizon Milk Boxes*: Shop for in stores (I find them on sale at Costco often)
Hummus cups: Shop for in stores (We buy ours at Costco)
Hard Boiled Eggs: Shop for in stores (including Costco)
Siggis Yogurt tubes, drinks, or triple cream cups: Shop for in stores
15 Favorite Go-To Homemade Snack Recipes
This list could be just as endless as the aisles of pre-packaged snack foods. I am often asked for recipes to the following though, so I have included our go-to homemade snack recipes as well. You can easily pack up any of these in place of one of the items above and take them with you. This is an ever-changing list in our household, but for now, here are our top ten favorites!
Homemade Granola (to add on top of a Siggis yogurt cup!)
While I am sure these lists will need to be updated and changed over time, I hope that for now they provide a helpful starting place to help you shop for healthier snacks for your family!