Smarter Snacks: Picks for During & After School

by in Back to School, Kid-Friendly, August 21, 2009

I tell my younger clients to eat three meals and two to three small, healthy snacks a day. They often look at me with a puzzled face and say, “I’m supposed to snack?” Yes, of course, but it’s all about picking wisely.

Kids should get 25% of their daily calories from snacks, so these mini-meals should be full of vitamins and minerals to help them grow. But the question is: What’s a healthy snack that your kid (and you, too) will want to eat?

What Your Kids’ Snacks Need
Snacks should have some nutritional value. Your kids might ask for cookies, chips, donuts and candy, but they’re typically high in fat, sugar or both and offer little in the good-for-you department. Instead, choose foods that have around 150 calories and contain some fiber, calcium, iron or vitamins like A and C.

Most people, including kids, don’t get enough fiber, which has many benefits, including making you feel full and keeping your digestive tract healthy. Your kids of all ages need calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Iron is a key component of red blood cells and one of our most common deficiencies — lacking iron can lead to fatigue and affect your attention span, which isn’t helpful when you’re trying to learn.

During School
It’s tough to find time for a snack during the 4 minutes between classes, but it’s important to do so. If your child gets to school around 7 a.m. and their lunch is late in the day, she will get so hungry that all she’ll think about is food. Take a minute to pack a banana or an apple or put grapes, strawberries or raisins in a small resealable baggie or plastic container. Yogurts, string cheese, dried fruit, natural popcorn, granola bars and homemade trail mixes are also quick snacks that tuck into backpacks easily — and don’t make much mess.

After-School Treats
Typically, schools serve lunch around noon and dinner at home isn’t until 6 or 7 p.m. It’s definitely time for a snack around 3 or 4 p.m. Here are some more creative ideas to try when you have a little more time to prepare:

  • Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1/4 cup blueberries
  • A slice of angel food cake topped with fresh berries
  • An apple dipped in 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 whole-wheat pita with hummus and sliced cucumbers
  • Hard-boiled egg with sliced veggies like tomatoes, radishes or cucumbers on the side
  • 1/2 cup pretzels dipped in 2 tablespoons of low-fat cream cheese
  • Edamame (baby soy beans)
  • A handful of almonds and dates: stuff 1 almond into each pitted date
  • 1 cup of homemade popcorn: try these tips for lighter flavor add-ins
  • 1 cup of cereal with 1% or skim milk
  • Turkey or ham roll ups: 1 slice lean deli meat rolled with 1 slice reduced fat American cheese

As I’ve learned from my own kids, children love to dip! Slice up some veggies, pretzels or baked chips and make your own dip:

And if you need something simple for a pinch, a sweet, juicy piece of fruit works wonders — like a fresh peach or orange slices. (That picture is of my daughter noshing on one of her favorite summer fruits.)

Hungry for more?
Check out more recipes I featured in an earlier post.

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Comments (21)

  1. Jean Ann says:

    What about the tried and true "ants on a log" celery stuffed with p'nut butter and then sprinkled with raisins. I sometimes use dried blueberries in place of the raisins. My children also loved to eat carrots that they dunked into p'nut butter. We always have oranges at home. My children seem to be more likely to eat an orange if I peel it and make slices out of it so it becomes finger food.

    • Rebecca says:

      definetely oranges! mandarin oranges and clementines are small and easy to peel so I try to get those when I can to send to school for snack.

  2. Cindy says:

    Great ideas. I've spent way too much time lately thinking about just this topic and have a blog about it going at I would love to know which of the snack suggestions are highest in fiber and iron.

  3. Looks like a really good hummus recipe. I must start this healthy stuff!!!

  4. CRP says:

    Make mini pizzas! Take an english muffin topped with marinara sauce, mushrooms, peppers, black olives, and a sprinkle of mozarella.

  5. Nani Acosta says:

    love thes food for school.

  6. Dena says:

    We regularly look for healthier snacks for our juice bar clients to carry. As you mentioned, dips are a big favorite; while not necessarily a good match with fruit, we've found hummus to be our # 1 favorite snack item behind yogurt smoothies.

  7. vitamins says:

    Thanks for sharing different snacks recipes. Some of my favourite. So I would like to make them using your tips. It is nice to visit this recipe site.

  8. Okay, so I'm not a kid and I don't have kids. I'm looking for snacks for myself during school(university) and work. Any suggestions for the people my age?

    • tamidor says:

      Hi @brittandmatt,
      Since you're in University, you may want to eat some of these foods to help fuel your brain. You can also check out this previous post on smarter late night snacks. Thanks for your comment!

    • MKEMom says:

      In school I always carried trail mix (often with chocolate chips in it for a quick sweet treat!), all natural fruit on the bottom yogurt in little cups, string cheese, granola bars, and an apple. Between all of those, and a big sandwich with lettuce etc, I always had something to eat. I found while I studied in the common rooms, foods like trail mix that were very crunchy satisfied my need to snack better than foods like crackers and chips. Overall, these foods are a lot like those mentioned above, but that's because their good for you! Lastly, if I was feeling like I needed a snack, I would first take a big drink of water and tell myself I would snack in half an hour. It kept me from eating instead of studying. Good luck and healthy snacking!

  9. DARLENE says:

    Hello -Mother of 4 here. Favorite snack aft/sch – lo-salt rice cake, smeared w/lite cream cheese & olives. Also make my own baked whole wheat chips – slice flour tortilla in 1/8ths, sprinkle w/cumin, lite salt, or whatever makes you happy. Then bake for 5-7 min. at 350* and use for dipping salsa or that hummus we all love. What happened to the old fashioned "frozen grapes", my kids love those.

  10. Anna says:

    We like ripe avocado smeared on whole grain crackers, bread and rice cakes or used as a dip for veggies when mixed with non fat Greek yogurt. Also, refried beans eaten with whole grain chips.

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