We’ve talked about what to pack in kids’ school lunches for healthy food, but healthy snacks are important too! It’s taken many years to get this area of life down, and we’ve made a lot of strides. Here is our ever-growing list of our favorite healthy snacks that aren’t heavy on sugar and contain lots of healthy nutrients that help kids learn, focus, and grow.
Combine several of them and you have a healthy lunch as well!
Here we go…
Beyond the Sandwich: Easy Snack & Lunch Ideas for the Whole Family
It seems like it should be enough of an accomplishment to shop, plan, and prep healthy weeknight dinners, but alas… there are those pesky breakfast and lunch times (and in between times) to plan for as well!
For this reason, I try to repurpose dinner leftovers as much as possible so I have to purchase fewer ingredients and do less prep throughout the week. Still, sometimes you just need a more portable or presentable snack when you’re on the go (or when the neighborhood pack of kids wanders into your living room… be warned: they come back more often if you feed them!).
I’ve grouped my favorite healthy snacks by category, starting with the most prep-intensive (it’s on my kids’ chore list to prep snacks for the week) and ending with my favorite convenience and pantry snacks to buy.
Snacks Kids Can Make
Kids are more capable of making meals and snacks than we give them credit. One of the best things I ever did was purchase this online kids’ cooking course that taught them safe knife skills, measuring, and more. Here are some of my favorite snack recipes that are easy for kids to make themselves:
Smoked Salmon Dip
This smoked salmon dip recipe is easy and packed with nutrients. It’s very easy for kids to make too, despite sounding fancy. I love this dip for a party or a quick snack or lunch. I always like including seafood whenever possible since chicken and beef can get boring.
Homemade Trail Mix
We love mixing up a batch of trail mix for quick snacks. Toss some nuts and dried fruit in a container and store in the freezer. Here are some ideas to include:
- Nuts: walnuts, cashews, almonds, etc.
- Dried fruit
- Unsweetened coconut flakes
- Chocolate chips
- Carob chips
- Barukas nuts
(I find Thrive Market has the best prices and quality for these. It is a membership-based service but totally worth it!)
I make variations of these all the time with whatever leftover meat I have in the house, wrapped in romaine lettuce (I add hot sauce). Other favorite variations to wrap in lettuce are:
- Turkey or ham with avocado
- Homemade chicken salad
- Tuna or egg salad
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese
Lettuce wraps are easy to make, especially if you already have the insides prepared.
Guacamole and Sliced Veggies
Most days, this is an easy snack to throw together in just a couple of minutes. I make easy guacamole by mashing avocado and salsa. Slice carrots, cucumbers, and celery for dipping and you are set. My one year old usually just eats the guacamole by the handful, but with all the nutrients in avocado, I don’t mind at all!
Celery With Almond Butter
This is one of my personal favorite snacks (or breakfasts when paired with hard boiled eggs!). Almond butter is less allergenic and has a higher nutrient profile than peanut butter (peanuts are actually a legume). I just slice celery and smear on almond butter. You can always add some raisins for the “ants on a log” look.
This healthy snack is easy for kids to make on their own and fun for them to eat too. You can use any fresh fruit you have on hand, but for a really beautiful presentation check out this recipe. Serve with full-fat (not fat-free or low-fat) Greek yogurt to dip for added protein and fat.
Whether you’re headed out the door to an after-school activity or need something quick for a car ride, these snack recipes for kids are healthy as well as low mess.
Homemade or Nitrite-Free Beef Jerky
Who doesn’t love beef jerky? My kids would eat it by the pound if I kept enough of it around. It is high in protein, and good versions don’t have any chemicals or artificial preservatives. Stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods often carry healthy versions, and you can easily make your own.
I make these all the time and my kids call them “candy bars.” These granola bar alternatives are made with a base of nuts and Medjool dates and variations can include anything from cinnamon to dried fruit to dark chocolate. (My favorite is the basic recipe with organic dark chocolate chips… tastes like a cookie!). These are easy to make and a fast snack on the go.
Grain-Free Apple Cinnamon Muffins
This muffin recipe was made when I discovered we only had 5 eggs left for breakfast (nowhere near enough for our family!). This is one kitchen experiment that turned into a regular family favorite. The best part is it tastes and feels like cake but has lots of protein and fiber to keep you full. I also love to make this lemon blueberry muffin.
Coconut Flour Pumpkin Bread Muffins
Another muffin variation featuring coconut flour. It also freezes well so you can make a batch or two and pull them out of the freezer as needed. Make them in mini muffin tins and you have an even lower mess snack!
Homemade Fruit Snacks
Everyone loves fruit snacks! These fruit snacks are made with gelatin and kombucha, making them healthy and delicious. They are easy to pack when you’re running out the door and don’t make much mess (even with your messiest kiddos).
Homemade Fruit Leather
Another fruit recipe, these mock fruit rollups combine strawberries and beets for hidden nutrients. They roll up really easily and are perfect for packing for a trip. Serve with trail mix or nuts and you have a rounded snack.
When baked, cheese turns into a crispy and delicious chip! These real food cheese chips aren’t an everyday snack but they are a healthy (and cheaper) alternative to store-bought chips. They are easy to pack and offer healthy fats to keep kids feeling full.
For a Party
Visiting friends and family when you don’t eat many of the foods that are served at parties can be tricky. That’s why I always bring a plate of one of these party favorites:
Zesty Radish Cream Cheese Dip
Full of healthy fat, protein, and a serving of radishes, this creamy but healthy dip is a great way to get kids eating more veggies. Radishes can be too spicy for kids, but the cheese in this recipe makes the bite of the radish more palatable.
Cucumber With Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese
I could make a meal out of this (and I do sometimes). Simply slice cucumbers and spread on some cream cheese or top with a piece of avocado (or some guacamole). Put a piece of smoked salmon on top and presto- the perfect snack. A healthy fat, protein, and vegetable in one bite!
Full of protein and healthy fats, deviled eggs are my go-to for filling hungry bellies during snack time. This is my tried-and-true deviled eggs recipe, but sometimes I improvise when I don’t have mayo on hand (or the time to make it) by mashing the yolks with avocado and a little salt and pepper. Put some nitrite-free bacon crumbles on top and you have an amazing snack (or breakfast… or lunch…)
Chicken Bacon Bites
These delicious chicken bacon bites are packed with protein (read: filling) and everyone loves them. These are my go-to snack for parties since they’re a crowd pleaser.
Shrimp Cucumber Appetizers
I love seafood and am always looking for tasty ways to get my kids to eat more of it. This shrimp cucumber appetizer recipe fits the bill. It includes healthy fat, protein, vegetables, and even probiotics. It’s a meal in a bite!
Many toddler snack recipes are full of sugar! These healthier ideas will train their tastebuds to enjoy a whole variety of tastes and textures. See my full list of toddler finger foods here, but here are my favorites:
Chia Seed Squeeze Pouches
It’s no surprise that squeeze pouches are a popular snack for toddlers. They are easy to carry, easy for toddlers to eat on their own (with little mess) and are less likely to cause choking than finger foods. But store-bought pouches are expensive and contain preservatives, little protein, and up to 10 grams of sugar or more! This chia seed recipe is an attempt to make a healthier version for on-the-go. Chia seeds are a great source of calcium, omega-3s, and antioxidants, making this recipe delicious and healthy.
Fruit and Whipped Cream
This is a simple one but is delicious and filling. Add a spoonful of whipped heavy cream (unsweetened) to organic berries or sliced fruit (like apple slices). The fat in the cream will help kids stay full and the fruit adds just enough sweetness.
Homemade Healthy Jello
I grew up eating the sugar and chemical laden jello at my school, but I didn’t want my kids to eat it. So I came up with a healthy version using fruit juice and grass-fed gelatin. It’s not an everyday snack but is a healthier choice than regular jello.
In my opinion, kale chips are the most kid-friendly way to serve kale. For toddlers, this is an especially good choice because it helps to expose them to greens early so they learn to like them. My kids don’t usually like kale, but kale chips they love!
Roasted Sweet Potato Bites
It can be hard to find snacks for kids (and toddlers especially) that don’t include sugar. But I like to reserve sweet treats for special occasions and give nutrient-dense snacks instead. This roasted sweet potato bites recipe is perfect. It’s easy to make (and freeze for later) and is an easy food for toddlers to eat on their own.
Grain-Free Chicken Finger
A far cry from the chicken fingers you find on most kid menus. These healthier chicken fingers are easy to make and delicious for adults and big kids too!
Hey, healthy can be delicious too!
Yogurt Fruit Dip
This simple yogurt fruit dip is sweetened with honey and packed with probiotics. Serve with your choice of fresh fruit or even granola!
Snow Cream (No Evaporated Milk)
This healthy snow cream (Dairy-free version option) was born when my kids (and the neighborhood kids) wanted to try this treat after a snowfall. Since snow was unusual in our area, I wanted to find a way to make it happen. This recipe uses just 4 ingredients (including snow!) and is a fun and healthy treat for the winter.
Healthy Homemade Chocolate
This recipe is GAPS, Paleo, and Primal friendly.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Fat Bombs (Keto Friendly)
With lots of healthy fats and just stevia as a sweetener, these treats are surprisingly healthy.
Healthy Homemade Marshmallows
This is definitely not an everyday food but when the kids are begging for a marshmallow, this recipe is a much better choice than store-bought marshmallows. It includes nutrient-dense ingredients such as gelatin, marshmallow root, and even probiotics.
Strawberry Lemonade Popsicles
These summertime pops are not an everyday snack but they can be a fun and healthy occasional treat. These are made with just 4 ingredients and very easy to make.
My Favorite Snacks to Buy
If you’re not into making your own healthy snacks, there are so many more healthy options now than there were 10+ years ago when I started blogging! Here’s a short list of my family’s current favorites, most of them from Thrive Market, my not-so-secret secret for saving a lot of $ on pantry items like grain-free crackers, nuts, sardines, and many organic convenience foods.
- Paleovalley Beef Sticks: Like beef jerky only easier for kids to eat since they’re softer. Best of all, they are made from very high quality (grass-fed) ingredients and preserved through a natural fermentation process, making these sticks a source of probiotics. Receive 15% off at the above link.
- Epic Bars: These are made from grass-fed, pastured, and wild-caught protein sources. They’re a filling snack (or meal in a pinch) that I feel good about giving my kids. A few of the flavors (like beef and bacon) are AIP compliant.
- Hemp Power Snacks: These snacks are made with high-protein hemp, blueberries, and sweetened with dates.
- Kale Chips: If you can’t make them, these are a close second. They contain only real food ingredients and come in a variety of flavors.
- Cashews: When all else fails, nuts are a great snack. They’re full of healthy fat and protein and easy to bring anywhere. Cashews are the softest nuts, making them a good choice for kids.
- Seasnax: This seaweed snack is a great way to add iodine to the diet and kids really love them! They only contain 3 ingredients (including sea salt) and no sugar.
- Daily Harvest Smoothie Cups: One snack the kids know is reserved for mom only! Too often we moms get the short end of the nutritional stick, so to speak, just because we’re taking care of everyone else. I keep these pre-portioned smoothie cups in the freezer for a quick snack or lunch. They use nutritious fruits and veggies flash-frozen in delicious combinations like Carrot + Chia or Cold Brew + Almond. Also check out their harvest bowls and even healthy cookie dough!
- Steve’s Paleo Goods: They have some good options for snack bars, granola or dried fruits.
I buy these snacks in bulk and keep them in a safe place in the pantry (read: where kids can’t reach them) so they are there when we need them.
Snacks for Healthy Kids: It Can Be Done!
The next time you’re stumped for what to give the kids for school snacks or after school, try one of these delicious and healthy snack recipes. They are grain free and gluten free and many are peanut and dairy free as well.
If you’re wanting more healthy and kid-friendly recipes, check out my full list of healthy breakfast and lunch ideas or this awesome list of snacks from Mark’s Daily Apple.
I’m sure I’ve missed some great ideas… please share your favorites in the comments below!