Whether you’re on the road for vacation or just going for a stroll with your little ones, having snacks available for those unpredictable hunger attacks (or delays getting home) will help keep everyone calm and happy.
Here are 12 of the healthiest snacks on the planet for little ones:
1. Fresh fruit—Chop or slice fruit into small cubes and store in a sealable container. Fruits like small berries are perfect for little fingers, and mandarin oranges can be peeled and segmented before you go. Nutrition highlight: vitamin A and fiber.
2. Fresh veggies—Crunchy carrots, snap peas, celery matchsticks, shelled edamame (soy beans), sweet red pepper slivers, raw green beans, and asparagus are easy to hold and chomp on. You can bring along a low-fat dressing or some hummus to use as a dip, but you don’t have to. Nutrition highlight: fiber and vitamin A and C.
3. Cheese stick, square, or slice—Put cheese sticks and squares in individual packages to make traveling with cheese much easier. Nutrition highlight: calcium, vitamin D, and protein.
4. Packaged yogurt smoothie or kefir drink—Yogurt- or kefir-based drinks are a flavorful alternative to yogurt. Since this is a dairy option, you’ll need to encourage immediate consumption, or use an insulated cup to keep this beverage fresh. Nutrition highlight: calcium, vitamin D, protein, and probiotics.
5. Applesauce or other fruit sauce pouches—These are easy to transport, tasty, and a kid-pleaser. Bring along a plastic spoon, and be careful not to let your little one get in the habit of sucking on a pouch. Nutrition highlight: vitamin C.
6. Raisins or other dried fruit—Little raisin boxes are perfect for little hands! As an alternative, mix dried fruit with dry cereal for a crunchy, nutritious snack. Nutrition highlight: fiber and iron.
7. 100 percent fruit or veggie juice box—Keep juice boxes small (4-6 ounces) for little kids under age 8, and limit to one juice box a day. Nutrition highlight: vitamins A and C.
8. Dry cereal—In a box or baggie, dry cereal is a kid favorite. Go for the low sugar options (ideally less than 6 grams and up to 9 grams of sugar per serving). Nutrition highlight: calcium, iron, folate, and vitamins A and D.
9. Graham crackers—Plain graham crackers are just sweet enough but not too sweet. Grahams are whole grain and make a nice snack served alone or swiped with some peanut butter. Nutrition highlight: fiber.
10 Yogurt sticks—These are easy for the on-the-go child to handle and eat. Freeze these for a healthy frozen treat and a stand-in for popsicles or other frozen confections. Nutrition highlight: calcium and protein.
11. Granola bars—These have been a long time favorite of kids, but they can be high in sugar and fat if you’re not careful and may have a nutrition profile closer to a candy bar than anything healthy. Look for bars that have less than 8 grams of sugar per bar, showcase a couple of grams of fiber, have reasonable calories (about 150 calories per bar), use no trans fats, and contain few if any artificial ingredients. Nutrition highlight: whole grains.
12. Cookies—Try these as the occasional snack. Go for lower sugar versions or ones that offer a little more nutrition. Try Fig Newtons, oatmeal, animal crackers, or ginger snaps. Nutrition highlight: grains and yummy taste.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, September 2020
- Having snacks on hand for your little one will be helpful if you are running behind schedule or traveling.
- Fresh fruits, veggies, and yogurt are some of the best snacks for kids and are easy to manage without being too messy.
- Ginger snaps, animal crackers, and other low-sugar cookies are fine occasionally but not for everyday snacking.
These are great snack lists. My youngest likes these and junk. If the junk is around though that is what he wants!
Funny because I feel the same way about my child and about myself! I don’t buy unhealthy treats to keep in the house because if they’re too accessible, I will crave them more out of convenience. I make it harder for our family to consume junk food so that we have to make an occasion out of it (a trip to the ice cream shop or local bakery).
This is so helpful!!:) thank you! I’ve been wanting to know whats best for my toddler and you helped me so much!
I wonder what is so bad about sucking the applesauce out of the pouch, mentioned in #5 above? I let my kids do it all the time because it’s cleaner and allows them to do it themselves.
Pouches are great in a pinch but many young children quickly learn to favor them over their whole food counterpart. They also often lack the fiber found in the whole food and are a more concentrated source of calories. There is a time for everything and I think that allowing independence is a great benefit of pouches.
Thank you for answering my question!
In a young child who is learning to eat, using pouches can slow down the mouth muscle development and may even delay speech development. This can occur with overuse of sippy cups as well.
This is very helpful! I am always looking for new ideas for my 3 year old. And now with school starting, these are great ideas for her lunchbox!
These are great lunchbox ideas. I am constantly looking for new ideas since the school my girls attend is peanut free. It can be difficult coming up with new snacks that don’t include peanut butter since that is there favorite.