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The 50 Best Snacks for Your Child’s Backpack
March 15th, 2011
Making sure your kids eat right as they dash between classes, after-school activities and plans with friends is tough, which is why it's important for parents to get creative when it comes to ensuring nutritional standards in their kids' lives even when they're away from home. Here we've found 50 great snacks and snack ideas that fit into the lifestyles of all types of active kids, no matter how messy that backpack is.
These classic snacks are fun to eat, kid favorites, and easy to pack in bags and lunch boxes.
- Peanut butter: Packed with protein and the good fats your kids need to keep them running around all day, it's an easy add-on to sandwiches, breakfast toast, as a veggie dip and with fruit. Spoon a few dollops into a small plastic container for dipping.
- Popcorn: Pre-pop a bag of popcorn or Kettle corn — particularly the kind without loads of extra salt and butter — for a fiber-rich snack that's fun to eat.
- Nuts: Great for active kids who need extra calories but limited junk, nuts are easy to eat and pack. Choose unsalted nuts and nut mixes for less sodium.
- Raw Veggies: Cut up carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers and other raw veggies for kids to munch on as they break for lunch or head to practices and games after school.
- Peaches: Peaches have a lot of vitamin C, so throw a pack of diced peaches into your child's backpack for cold-fighting power.
- Strawberries and citrus: These fruits are also high in vitamin C and great for transporting. Oranges don't even have to be cleaned before eating — teach your kids how to peel an orange or clementine they can eat any time.
- Healthy energy bars: Your grocery store's energy and snack bar aisle is probably pretty overwhelming, but don't' grab any old box. Pick bars with more than 3 grams of protein and fiber, heart-healthy fats, whole grains, and limited sugar.
- Sugar-free Jell-o: Jell-o now makes sugar-free, low-calorie gelatin snacks in all types of flavors, already pre-packaged for backpacks.
- Lean lunch meat: Pierce rolled up pieces of lunch meat with toothpicks for a snack.
- Trail Mix: Assemble your own trail mix according to your kids' tastes and nutritional needs. Throw in dried fruit, sunflower seeds, nuts, low-sugar cereals, and even the occasional piece of candy for something sweet.
When you have the time to experiment, surprise your kids with these fun recipes.
- Carrot Wraps: Cheeses, nuts, and apricots spruce up regular carrots.
- Cherry Hungry Caterpillar: Cherries and cream cheese are turned into a friendly caterpillar with this recipe.
- Kabobs: Low-fat meats and cheeses, cherry tomatoes, and fruit are fun to eat when pierce with a kabob stick.
- Tuna salad roll: Scoop out a whole-grain roll, then stuff it with tuna salad made with chopped apples and celery. Use low-fat mayo.
- Apple bites: Great for Halloween or a surprise, you'll stick silvered almonds in apple wedges that your kids will love to share.
- Tomato Basil Pizza Snack: Even as chilled leftovers, these are a great snack kids will look forward to all day.
- Cream cheese hearts: Use fruit spread and cream cheese with whole-wheat bread, and then cut the sandwiches into heart shapes.
- Awesome applesauce: Make your own applesauce to serve your kids at school.
- Honey Ginger Carrots: Give baby carrots more flavor with grated ginger, lemon zest, butter and lemon juice.
- Yogurt on the Go: Add sunflower seeds, raisins and strawberries to light yogurt.
- Pizzadillas: Don't forget to pack the dip for this sensible snack that packs in spinach, fiber, calcium, lots of vitamins, and protein.
- Wraps: Wraps are an easy way to get your kids to eat spinach or lettuce, especially when they're surrounded by low-sodium meats and low-fat cheeses.
- Egg tortilla: Scramble eggs to roll in a wheat pita or tortilla.
- Confetti quinoa: Introduce your children to this fiber- and protein-rich food by whipping up this mix, packing it into a containers, and serving it at room-temperature or cooled for lunch or later.
- Super Strawberry Bars: Make your own bars with rolled oats and strawberry jam.
- Sweet-Potato Sticks: Made with sweet potatoes and egg whites, this yummy snack is surprisingly easy.
- Quesadillas: Slip a leftover quesadilla made with low-fat ingredients into your kids' backpack for portable snacking.
- Polka Dots' Tomato Spots: These cherry tomato, cheese and tuna snacks will fit nicely in a plastic container and are easy to pop into little mouths.
- Polka-Dot Waffle Sticks: Kids get extra iron and vitamins with this recipe.
- Cheesy Apple Butter Snack: Add cottage cheese and grape nuts to apple butter.
- Balls of Energy: These little balls are packed with nutrients from bananas, peanut butter, peanuts and wheat germ.
Throw an ice pack into your kids' snack bag to keep these nutritional snacks fresh.
- String cheese: A favorite kid snack for years, this fun-to-eat cheese stick is perfect for throwing into side pockets and lunch boxes.
- Yogurt: Protein, vitamin D and calcium are just some of the nutrients kids can easily get from yogurt, a product that's well-marketed in kid-friendly packaging and flavors.
- Fruit salad: Depending on the season, you can pack chopped and assorted fruits in a hard container for your kids' backpacks, with kiwi, blueberries, watermelon, strawberries and grapes for a colorful, tasty variety.
- Milk: Fill up a thermos with milk instead of buying sugary juices and sodas for their lunch.
- Low-fat pudding: Use nonfat milk if you make your own, or buy low-fat pudding already pre-packaged for healthy desserts.
- Last night's chicken: If you have left-over lean chicken, chop up chilled pieces for a salad topper or a snack for your kid's backpack.
- Hard-boiled eggs: Give your child a dose of protein power by hard-boiling a couple of eggs and putting them in plastic containers.
- Cubed cheeses: Pack an assortment of cubed cheeses for easy, portable snacking, and lots of calcium and protein.
Lots of snacks seem like a great idea, until they're smashed at the bottom of a bulky backpack. These crumble-proof foods last all day.
- Raisins: Higher in calories than regular fruit, raisins do fight cavities and gum disease, and it's an effective power-boosting snack to eat before workouts and active sports.
- Pickles: Low-calorie pickles are a kid-favorite because of their tart, sour taste. Buy pickles with no added sugars or artificial flavors.
- Pita and hummus: Either as a snack or lunchtime sandwich, pita is pretty durable, even in a backpack, and whole-wheat varieties have a lot of dietary fiber.
- Salsas: Pack salsas in a hard container — either a store-bought kind or something you make yourself — for healthy dipping and extra incentive to gobble up veggies.
- 100% juice boxes: Avoid juices that are mostly made with sugar.
- Apples: They might bruise after a few days, but a washed apple is one of the easiest snacks a kid can dig out of his pack.
Snacks to Share
Pack extras for your kids to share with their friends, inspiring even more kids to eat healthy.
- Baked chips: Not all chips are totally bad for you, especially when they're baked, wheat-based, and shared with friends.
- Rice cakes: Buy lightly flavored (but low-sugar) varieties, or include a small container of peanut butter for your kids to share with the carpool gang.
- Cheese and crackers: Pack cheese spreads or slices along with wheat crackers.
- Whole Grain Cereal: Mix different types of whole grain cereal together for your kids to pass around with friends.
- Oatmeal cookies: Instead of throwing little boxes of junkier cookies into your child's bag, encourage them to share oatmeal cookies instead.