As a nutritionist, there are certain questions I am asked often around this time of year, especially from parents looking for school snack suggestions. As a mother of two elementary age children, I, too, have stared at the foreign looking lunch boxes and snack bags in those first bleary mornings of the school year, willing my brain to remember what I packed with confidence and efficiency just a few months prior. But this year, I’ve got your back. I’ve been compiling a list of my favorite packaged and homemade snacks to help grease those wheels, and keep your kiddo fueled and engaged.
These are a few of my packaged snack favorites:
- Veggie-Go fruit leathers are ideal because they have found a way to sneak a serving of vegetables into universally kid-approved fruit leather. In addition, the natural sugars are very low and there are no artificial colors.
- Cliff Bar Organic fruit ropes are fruit juice sweetened, do not contain artificial dyes or trans-fats, and are frequently on sale at the supermarket. Send along string cheese, nuts, or seeds in addition to fruit ropes and leathers to help sustain energy longer and keep blood sugar balanced.
- Let’s Do Organic Coconut Flakes have no added sweeteners or oils and tastes deliciously fresh. Coconut is naturally loaded with fiber and healthy fats and therefore take ages to digest. Pack on its own, or toss with raw nuts and seeds and a tablespoon of dried fruit or chocolate chips (for nut free classrooms, use sunflower and/or pepitas). If this is a hit, make a big batch to minimize fuss in the mornings.
- Apple slices with sunflower seed butter (or almond butter if nuts are allowed).
- Carrots and cucumber with hummus.
- A whole avocado, cut in half, salted, and stuck back together. Wrap in a paper towel and send in a sturdy container to avoid bruising, and pack a spoon. Avocados have a stellar nutrition profile, and are packed with fiber and healthy fat.
- Epic jerky bars are made from free-range or grass-fed animals, pack a whopping 14 grams of protein, and are gluten-free, unlike most jerkies. Smaller kids may not go for the peppery taste, but they are worth a try with older kids with more adventurous palates. They can be expensive for every day, but are worth an occasional splurge if you have hungry, growing, athletic kids, or a hangry parent stuck in traffic with carpool and afterschool activities.
If you are looking to add homemade snacks into your rotation, these are a few of my favorites:
- Roasted Garbanzo Beans. Rinsed, drained, patted dry, and salted, garbanzo beans can be roasted at 375 in the oven until they crunch like a Corn Nut (shake the pan often toward the end). Children love crunch and salt, and very few notice or care that it is a bean. This protein and fiber rich snack is perfect for children who react poorly to sweets, and have a nut-free classroom policy.
- Kale Chips. Once again, crunch and salt almost always assure kid approval. Wash and de-stem curly green or purple kale, dry well, then rub with a drizzle of olive oil and salt. Spread in a single layer and bake for 12 minutes at 375. Don’t take them out until they crunch, but if they burn they will be bitter, so stay close to the oven to monitor.
- Apple Chips. Cut at 1/8” with a mandolin, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 200 for 2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave them overnight. When you wake in the morning, your kitchen will smell divine, and you’ll have crunchy apple chips to be eaten on their own, or tossed with coconut and almonds for a super tasty snack mix.
Now if only there was a way to package strength, courage, and confidence in neat containers, we could all completely relax. Instead, I wish you the best of luck this school year, and join the universal chorus of parents everywhere, hoping for a happy and healthy year of smiles, learning and friendship.
The handy reusable snack bag pictured is by Itzy Ritzy @ https://www.itzyritzy.com/