Meet the Expert
Aminta Bullard : Aminta Bullard is a masters trained registered dietitian specializing in nutrition communications, nutrition education, and culinary nutrition. She has provided hands-on nutrition classes for hundreds of children and parents in schools, community centers, and summer camps. She loves to see the look on children’s (and parents’) faces when they taste new, healthy foods—and actually like it! Aminta enjoys working with children because teaching healthy habits at a young age allows them to reap a lifetime of benefits.
50 Healthy Snacks Your Kid Will Thank You For
You know that look…the hungry one. Or possibly even the temper tantrum. You’re pressed for time so you swing through the drive-thru to appease the little monsters in the back seat. Relief.
We’ve all had those times, and it’s okay. Sometimes the priority is to simply feed your child. Many fast food restaurants offer options like apple slices now, which are a great option. With a little planning (and help from this article) you can have healthy snacks for your kids ready to go in no time. And trust me, the little ones will thank you.
As a Registered Dietitian, I’ve worked with hundreds of children in schools and summer camps, teaching them about the importance of healthy eating. It’s amazing to see that children really are open to trying new, healthy foods if it’s introduced to them in a positive way. Did you know that kids might need to be exposed to a new food 8-15 times before trying or accepting it (1)? So don’t get frazzled if Junior won’t try the broccoli. It may only be a matter of time.
A Healthy Foundation
Nutrition is especially important in the early years. It is key in supporting both physical and cognitive development. Healthy eating and physical activity are even important in the classroom where they help facilitate learning and promote academic success (2). These two healthy behaviors also help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases later in life (2).
Cooking with Kids
Children naturally follow what they see adults doing. When they see you trying new, healthy foods, they will be much more likely to do so. Children react negatively when forced to eat certain things, but studies show that role modeling healthy behaviors has a positive effect (3). Children are more likely to eat healthy foods and are more open to trying new foods when their parents role model healthy behaviors. The bottom line is that your children learn from watching you. If you eat healthy foods, they will too!
Snack time at home is the perfect time to try new, healthy foods together. It’s even better if you can get the kids involved. Children are more likely to eat a new food if they helped to prepare it. You can even give young children simple jobs like washing fruits and vegetables, spreading peanut butter on bread, or tearing lettuce for salad.
If you’re ready to start introducing healthier foods, The Two-Bite Club is a great children’s book where the main character is squeamish about trying new, healthy foods. Her older brother persuades her to take just two bites. She finds that she actually does like many of the foods! I’ve personally used this book with children and it is nothing short of amazing to see how receptive they are to trying new things after reading it. You can download the PDF for free from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website.
How to Choose Healthy Snacks for Your Kids
When selecting snacks make sure to include different food groups from MyPlate in each snack:
- USDA’s MyPlate recommends 1-1 ½ cup each of fruits and vegetables per day for children ages 4-8 years old.
- They should also eat produce high in vitamins A and C at least 3 times per week (4).
- When choosing foods from the dairy group, reduced fat products are recommended for children ages 2 and up.
- Lastly, at least half of your grains should be whole.
You’ll notice that I recommend using reduced fat dairy products and using whole grains instead of refined grains in several recipes. This is an easy way to make a recipe healthier!
Our Healthy Snacks for Kids List is divided into categories so that it’s easy to choose based on whether you need a snack for lunch, at home, or on-the-go. Let the healthy snacking begin!