Healthy, Kid-Friendly Snacks

by in Healthy Recipes, Healthy Tips, March 17, 2009

These days, snacks often mean cookies, candy, chips or even donuts — that is, nothing nutritious! If he could, my seven-year-old son would live on junk foods alone, but as the adult (and a nutritionist mom of three), it’s my job to make sure the right choices are available for my family. Check out these tips for creating healthy, kid-friendly snacks.

The Purpose of Snacks
Kids are growing and have very high calorie needs, which snacks can help meet by providing nourishment between meals. Typically a child should eat between two-to-three snacks daily. Choose nibblers that contain protein for growth, iron for blood and calcium for bones. Fiber, vitamins A and C are also important nutrients to get. This does not mean that the occasional “junk food” snack is forbidden — just be sure there’s a balance for good.

Snack Basics
Here are some basic healthier options for kids. You may need to modify snacks based on your child’s age — for example, slice grapes in quarters for toddlers so they don’t choke.

  • Sliced or whole fresh fruits: Apples, bananas, kiwi, mango, grapes, berries, melons, peaches, pineapple and plums. Applesauce, dried fruit and fruit leathers are also good choices (make sure they’re 100% fruit).
  • Sliced or whole fresh veggies: Carrot sticks, broccoli, cucumbers, radishes, baby corn, olives, bell peppers and string beans.
  • Dairy: Cheese slices, Babybel, string cheese, skim or 1% milk or yogurt (remember, cows don’t make purple yogurt! Try Stonyfield’s Yo Kids).
  • Protein: Edamame, deli meat (i.e. turkey or chicken breast), hard-boiled egg
  • Starches: Unsalted pretzels, mini bagels, pita wedges, graham crackers, dried cereal (make sure sugar isn’t listed as one of the first four ingredients) and granola bars.

“My kids won’t eat fruits and veggies!?!”
I’ve lost count on the number of times I’ve heard that statement. There are ways to convince kids to enjoy these foods without driving you nutty. Believe me, my son is a picky eater but I work with him, not against him. You want to lead by example — show your child that you too eat fruits and veggies. You also don’t want to make faces at a food you don’t enjoy. Even if you’re not a big fan of a certain vegetable, you should offer it and smile when you do.

Forcing a child to take one bite typically backfires and can make the child angry or uncomfortable. Create an enjoyable atmosphere, offer small amounts at a time and continue to offer the food until the child realizes that fruits and veggies are “normal” things to eat. It typically takes 20 times for a child to come to like a food — so don’t give up so easily!

Fun, Kid-Friendly Snack Recipes
Some kid-friendly favorites are fruit on skewers, smoothies, vegetable sushi rolls and sliced veggies dipped in hummus, guacamole or a low-fat dressing. Cheese and whole-wheat crackers, apples dipped in peanut butter or even a scrambled egg in a four-inch pita pocket are other options to try.

Plus, try these recipes to jazz up snack time:

And check out this New York Times article about common mistakes parents make when feeding their kids.

TELL US: What kind of healthy snacks do your kids love?

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Comments (18)

  1. Krikri says:

    Kids would eat almost everything. They typically look at the color and decide it is the ideal thing to eat. For their age, it is essential that they derive not only the right nutrients but obtain wholesomeness as any irregularity could have potential danger. Your suggestions of whole fresh fruits (with emphasis on whole), whole veggies and dairy provide a start.

  2. Holly says:

    My pediatrician gave me a VERY helpful tip… even though your child does not seem to like a food, doesn’t mean we should give up. In the case of toddlers, she recommended that I ALWAYS put colorful veggies on my daughters plate, even if she wont eat them right away, she will. It can take up to 30-50 tries, but she says they’ll eventually see it as a “regular” food. So, I have continued to give the favorites along with a veggie and, voila!, she eats her brocolli and no longer gives it the “yucky” face!

  3. Julie says:

    Make veggies a “normal” part of your food routine. Don’t turn up your nose at it, and your kids won’t either. You sometimes have to doctor it up w/clever hiding or fun plating, but if you eat them and love them in front of your kids, and they will follow suit! I actually LOLed when my boys exclaimed, “YAY broccoli! Mom, buy that broccoli!”. Other parents even turned to us to see that one, at the whole foods market. That’s an easy peasy one too-you drizzle oil over raw broccoli, add parm cheese, and bake for like 15-20 mins. It is a compromise dish, but a sure way to get them to eat broccoli. We also do tons of raw veggies w/multiple dips (you can use lowfat yogurt as your dip base and then just add spices to it). Most kids like salsa-make it raw and fresh from your own fresh veggies. Zucchini bread is always a hit in my house: if you don’t have a t&t recipe, then consider a basic banana bread recipe and sub zucchini. Squash fritters w/LIGHT syrup or agave nectar tastes almost like pancakes. Get clever. They don’t have to live off “ants on a log” to get celery in them. :D

  4. Ashley says:

    My 2 1/2 year old will only eat baby pureed vegetables in the jar…I figure it is better than him getting NO vegetables at all. He will occasionally eat frozen peas (still frozen) while I am cooking them.

  5. Amber says:

    My 5 year old daughter started out loving veggies and now turns her nose up at anything the other kindergartners say is “gross”. But, when she is part of the helping process, SHE LOVES EVERY VEGGIE OR FRUIT!!

  6. Amber says:

    When we make smoothies (w/tofu for protein and frozen fruit)she loves tricking her grandmother by sliding a few bland frozen veggies like cauliflower in there, too! Now that we are juicing, it’s so exciting to her to help pick out a combo and watch, that she will drink EVERYTHING. Now that’s a good helper.

  7. Liz says:

    Hi Toby: Liz from Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen here. My boys’ favorite snacks are strawberry banana smoothies made with 100% apple juice, frozen strawberries, lowfat strawberry yogurt, and half a banana as well as my Chocolaty Pumpkin Bars http://tinyurl.com/de9u5j and my Grab-and-Go Granola Bars http://tinyurl.com/6qqy6q. For me, fitting for delicious fruits, vegetables, nuts, lowfat dairy, whole grains and good quality protein foods into snack time is a huge priority.

  8. Patricia Paschall says:

    We serve a light dinner before VBS begins each evening. I’m trying to think of something other than hot dogs that isn’t terribly expensive as the church provides this meal for free and we have a large group of children.

  9. Marinna says:

    My grandchildren 10 and 12 have to be forced to eat even an apple or banana a day and their mom eats salads, veggies and fruit every day sooooo example doesn’t always work.

  10. Michelle says:

    My daughter loves kefir, a drinkable yogurt filled with probiotics. Sometimes we add grape nuts-type cereal, granola or frozen blueberries. I teach healthy cooking classes to kids, so we see firsthand how kids are eager to eat when they help to cook!

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