Healthful snacks for kids keep hunger at bay while providing rich nutrition for growing, active bodies. Examples include yogurt, fruits, and raw vegetables.

Opting for healthful snacks can provide a variety of benefits, such as boosting the overal intake of nutrition if a child is not consuming enough vitamins in their main meals.

Below, find snack ideas for school, parties, car trips, the movie theater, and every day.

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A 2019 study found that healthful snacks can boost the overall quality of a child’s diet. These snacks are rich in nutrients and contain little fat, sugar, or salt.

Fruits and vegetables, for example, are nutrient-dense foods that can make excellent quick, convenient snacks. A child might snack on:

  • carrot sticks
  • celery sticks
  • cucumber slices
  • cherry tomatoes

Other healthful snacks might include:

  • protein from peanut butter, chickpeas, or edamame
  • unsweetened dairy products such as milk, cheese, cottage cheese, or yogurt
  • whole grain foods such as whole grain crackers, whole wheat bread, or air-popped popcorn

Snacks to avoid include processed foods. A 2015 study found that processed snacks contribute to childhood obesity, as they contain high amounts of added sugar and salt and are low in nutrients and fiber.

Examples of unhealthful snacks include:

  • chips
  • crackers made with white flour
  • cookies
  • candy
  • cakes

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) report that most children need to eat every 3–4 hours to meet their energy needs. This means that aside from three meals a day, younger children need at least two snacks, and older children need at least one.

Snacks for school should not need to be refrigerated. They might be:

  • fruits with sturdy peels, such as oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, and plums
  • vegetables, such as baby carrots and cherry tomatoes
  • whole grain crackers
  • whole grain granola bars that are low in sugar
  • roasted chickpeas

Some convenient options might be:

  • whole grain crackers with cheese
  • applesauce
  • celery sticks filled with almond butter
  • apple slices topped with peanut butter
  • baked whole grain tortilla chips with salsa
  • parfaits with layers of low-fat yogurt, fruit chunks, and whole grain cereal

The AND recommend that children eat at the table as much as possible, instead of in front of the television. More generally, research investigating snacking patterns in kids discovered that an increase in screen time was linked with a lower-quality food intake.

The AND recommend:

  • homemade pita bread with hummus
  • melon slices in fun shapes
  • whole grain tortilla chips with guacamole, salsa, or bean dip
  • trail mix, which might contain nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain cereal
  • a tray of different-colored fruits and vegetables with hummus or a yogurt dip

On a trip without a cooler in the car, a person might offer snacks suitable for school, such as:

  • easy-peel fruits
  • whole-grain crackers
  • carrot sticks

If a person has a cooler, they might also pack:

  • low-fat string cheese
  • yogurt
  • hummus to eat with whole grain crackers or vegetables

Popcorn sold in movie theaters is very high in salt and calories. A person might instead make popcorn at home using olive oil or an air popper and bring it to the theater.

Also, bottled water and low-fat milk are alternatives to sugary sodas.

Learn more about the nutritional information of popcorn here.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommend:

  • Smoothies: Blend milk or a milk alternative and yogurt with berries and bananas or other fruit.
  • Quesadillas: Melt low-fat cheese over black beans on a whole grain tortilla, and fold the tortilla in half.
  • Mini pizzas: Top half of a whole wheat English muffin with pasta sauce, chopped vegetables, and low-fat cheese. Warm it in the oven.
  • Ants on a log: Fill celery sticks with peanut butter, and top it with raisins.
  • Popcorn trail mix: Mix air-popped popcorn with healthful trail mix.

Healthful snacks are nutrient-dense, and some examples include chopped fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grain bread or crackers, and unsweetened dairy products.

Snacks to avoid high in sugar, salt, and fat. Examples include processed foods, such as packaged cookies and chips.

When life allows for a little planning, a child can have healthful snacks even at parties, on trips, and at the movies.