You can’t get away from them – snacks are everywhere! As we reported back in 2010, snacks used to make up about 27% of kids’ daily calories. Today, snacks provide as much as 42% of daily calories for kids. Unfortunately, as the nibbling trend keeps growing, so do kids’ waistlines. In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled, and one third of children are now considered overweight or obese. This could be in part due to “un-smart” snacking.

Snacks can be part of a healthy diet for both kids and adults, but choosing the right foods in the right amounts will make or break your snack time. Popular snacks like cookies and chips are typically high in sugar, saturated fat, and salt and lack important nutrients like vitamin D, iron, and fiber that kids really need.

A smart snack provides some carbohydrate, protein, and fiber for energy and fullness, plus a mix of vitamins and minerals to promote overall health. It’s also important to keep snacks below 200 calories, or else they can turn into whole extra meals. When kids decide to snack smartly, these between-meal noshes go from health-derailing to energy-boosting.

A good way to ensure your child is making a smart snack choice is to start with a fruit or vegetable, then add a small amount of protein. This simple trick will provide your child with the nutrients he or she needs and will help keep total calories in check.

Here are a few healthy and fun snack ideas that you and your child can enjoy at home or pack up to go.

Snacks at Home (serves one child):

  • Microwave Apple Crisp – Wash one apple, chop into even chunks, and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon, pinch of brown sugar, and tablespoon of oats. Mix together and microwave about 2 minutes. Top with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt.
  • Portobello Pizza – Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place a washed Portobello mushroom smooth side down on a baking sheet. Add chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons part skim mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. Bake about 20 minutes until the mushroom is tender.
  • Sweet Potato “Fries” – Preheat the oven to 400°F. Scrub one sweet potato and slice into long, thin strips. Toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil, paprika, black pepper, and a pinch of salt. Spread sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and bake about 20 minutes until sweet potatoes are crisp. While “fries” are baking, combine Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and dill for a cool and fresh dipping sauce.

Snacks to Pack:

  • Ants on a Log – Pack washed celery sticks, 2 tablespoons peanut or almond butter, and ¼ cup raisins in separate containers. At snack time kids can assemble and eat. A classic!
  • Pears with Cinnamon Yogurt – Slice a pear (hint: a sprinkle of lemon juice can prevent browning) and pack to go. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt and pack in a separate container. Kids can dunk away!
  • Veggie Sticks and Dip – Slice an assortment of colorful veggies such as carrots, bell peppers, cucumber, and jicama. Prepare our Magical Pink Dip made with beets and spinach ahead of time and pack separately for a veggie-packed snack.

Want more ideas for healthy kid-friendly fare? Try these recipes from Dole!

Published March 1, 2015