When it comes to feeding kids, parents often start with the best of intentions. But if your child refuses most foods, your pre-baby plan of serving a rainbow of vegetables at every meal may quickly go out the window along with daily showers. Serving fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and meat and dairy (for non-vegan families) is ideal, but it’s not always realistic. Thankfully, there are healthy snacks for kids available.
Pre-packaged snacks typically come with a higher cost than homemade options and produce more waste because of packaging. Still, time constraints and access (ie. road trips to grandma’s house) sometimes require parents to reach for pre-made snacks that are portable, travel-friendly and won’t go bad if they are left in the bottom of a backpack for three days.
Finding snacks that are safe and healthy and that kids will enjoy isn’t always easy. Congress released a report in February 2021 that found higher levels of metal in many popular brands of baby food than originally reported by the companies, which at small levels has a relatively mild impact, but is still concerning. New dietary guidelines outlined by the US government advised for the first time ever that absolutely no added sugars should be given to children under the age of two, which can be difficult when many seemingly healthy snacks actually include high levels of added sugar. Add in common allergens and a trip down the snack aisle can feel overwhelming for parents.
Thankfully, there are still great options for parents who are crunched for time. Companies like Fresh Bellies are providing snack options made with healthy ingredients that will satisfy all palates. “With more families replacing traditional meals with quicker bites, healthy snacks provide an important source of energy and nutrition for children. Yet most options for kid snacks are high in sodium or sugar, have empty calories and are loaded with preservatives,” says Saskia Sorrosa, founder and CEO of Fresh Bellies. The company recently launched a new line of puff snacks called Groovies, which focuses on savory flavors. “We wanted parents to have a healthier option with no added sugars, low sodium, simple ingredients and high in nutritional value. All these factors can help satisfy hunger cues and provide the right source of energy so kids are not crashing or overeating throughout the day.”
Parents, you have a lot to worry about. Finding healthy snacks for your kids shouldn’t be one of them. Check out our top picks below and grab some extras for yourself.
1. RX Kids Protein Snack Bar
Finding a bar for kids that is delicious, low in sugar, has health benefits and won’t leave kids hungry is difficult, but the RX Kids Protein Snack Bar checks all the boxes. The gluten-free bars are made with a whole-grain oat base, dates, coconut oil and fruit with no added sugars. If you’re a fan of the adult-sized RX bars, you already know that the company keeps their ingredient list short and makes bars that help keep customers feeling full without the icky tummy that can happen when bars are packed with added sugars. The RX bars are chewier than other options, so these are better suited for older kids.
2. Made Good Organic Granola Minis
With most daycares and schools going nut-free, finding a pre-made snack that kids can pack in their lunch boxes can be difficult. That’s why we like the Made Good Organic Granola Minis, which offer flavors that are certified nut-free and safe for school. The allergy-friendly granola balls, or ‘rolly balls’ as they’re called in my house, are organic, made with a serving of vegetables, are low in sugar, and made from ingredients parents will actually recognize. That’s always a good thing.
3. Groovies Sampler Pack by Fresh Bellies
Kids often gravitate towards fruit because of their sweetness, but exposing little ones to a wide variety of flavors is an important part of developing their palate at a young age. Foods that are savory don’t seem like an obvious choice for toddlers and kids, but any parent that has watched their kid devour an entire roasted onion (raises hand) knows that variety is the spice of life . . . and snacks. Fresh Bellies have been gaining fans in parents and kids by making healthy snacks that put veggies front and center, helping little eaters enjoy all kinds of flavors and saving parents the hassle of spending their child’s formative years trying to hide veggies in different dishes. The company is about to release their new line of Groovies and gave SPY a sample to try. The baked puffs are made with non-GMO and Kosher-certified ingredients and focus more on savory, with mushroom, beet and broccoli flavors as well as carrots for those who like a bit of sweetness.
4. Real Food From The Ground Up Vegan Cauliflower Pretzels
BEST CRUNCHY SNACK
Snacks that work for the whole family make for a less stressful grocery shopping experience. Kids and adults both love crunchy food, which is why Real Food From The Ground Up Vegan Cauliflower Pretzels make a great option for the entire fam jam. Safe for older toddlers who aren’t prone to choking and young children, the pretzels have a cauliflower base, helping up the daily vegetable intake. As with most pretzels, there is still a higher salt content than other types of snacks, but Real Food has less sodium than most competitors and makes for a great dipper duo with other healthy snacks like hummus, guacamole, nut butter and cottage cheese (don’t knock it til you try it).
5. GoGo squeeZ Applesauce
If you’re an adult currently buying snacks for kids, the landscape looks much different from when we were in elementary school. Peanut butter is outlawed, added sugar is a no-go and apparently, chips are not the healthy snack our parents thought they were. One thing that has not changed is applesauce. Kids still love applesauce. Thankfully, it has been upgraded to pouches like the GoGo squeeZ Applesauce, which means no more sticky spoons in lunch pails or heavy jars. GoGo makes their applesauce without any added ingredients, using only apple, apple purée concentrate and lemon juice concentrate. Free from all major allergens, Kosher-certified and non-GMO, we also like that GoGo has designed their BPA-free packaging with a ‘helicopter’ topper that older kids can open on their own. Say it with us parents . . . independence!
6. KIND Kids Granola Chewy Bar
LOW IN SUGAR
If the RX bars are a little too chewy for your little ones, or if you want added variety in your snack cupboard, KIND has also created a kid-friendly version of their bars that satisfy picky eaters and health-conscious parents. Available in several flavors, the gluten-free, dairy-free bars have a shortlist of ingredients that include whole grains, honey and brown rice. The bars have only 5 grams of sugar (no added sugar), no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. The bars don’t have a nut-free seal of approval and may not be allowed at school, but they make a great snack for weekends and post-school hangs.
7. Happy Baby Organic Stage 2 Baby Food
BEST FOR VEGGIES ON THE GO
Food pouches are designed for babies ages six months and up for some little ones, the ‘up’ is widely open to interpretation. For parents who are struggling to get vegetables into their toddlers and young kids, pouches can be a saving grace. They’re portable, they let kids be in charge of feeding themselves and they remove the visual element of vegetables that may turn kids off. When looking at pouches, there are some key things to note. Like all kids’ food, the fewer the ingredients, the better. Only natural sugar should be included and ideally less than 8 grams per serving. We like Happy Baby Organic pouches, which typically pair one fruit with other vegetables to give the pouches a bit of sweetness and help sneak in important leafy greens.
8. That’s It. Mini Fruit Bars
BEST FRUIT LEATHER
The ingredient list doesn’t get much shorter than That’s It. Mini Fruit Bars and their small fruit leather snacks. Ideally, giving kids fresh fruit is the way to go, but that’s not always feasible. For those times, these mini fruit snacks, which contain only two types of fruit in each bar, are a great plant-based, vegan, gluten-free snack. Made without any of the major allergens, the bars aren’t specifically designed for kids, but their small size makes them conducive to snack time at recess.
9. Happy Baby Organic Greek Yogis
BEST CANDY SUBSTITUTE
At some point, your kids are going to see you or someone else eating candy and they’re going to want their own. For older kids, candy in moderation is not the end of the world. For toddlers, it’s meltdown city. Finding a snack that tastes and looks like candy but won’t wreak havoc on naptime is difficult, but Happy Baby Organic Greek Yogis are a great option. The freeze-dried yogurt dots are made with organic ingredients, yogurt cultures and they melt in your mouth, making them safe for crawling and sitting babies and toddlers. Plus, they are delicious. I once consumed a whole bag while my daughter slept through a three-hour delay at the airport. Parents need to eat too! Yogis are higher in sugar than other snacks on our list and shouldn’t make up the bulk of a child’s snack, but they are a great ‘treat’ for that tiny spot in your kid’s bento lunchbox that is always awkward to fill.