We all want to have healthy snacks on hand for when our kids come home from school, but choosing after-school snacks that are easy, nutritious, and that our kids will actually eat can sometimes seem like an uphill battle.
Confronting this issue doesn't have to make parents crazed, however. First and foremost, according to our medical experts, kids don't actually need a snack as often as they might be getting one.
“Overall I think children snack too often,” says Heather Finley-Morreale, MD. “For example, children do not need to snack before a sports game, mid-game, and after a game. Every activity does not need a snack time.”
Restricting snacking to just once a day is something that is already quite common among cultures around the world, like in France, where children are given one snack between lunch and dinner, at around 4 pm.
Dr. Lisa Lewis, a board-certified pediatrician in Fort Worth, Texas and author of "Feed the Baby Hummus, Pediatrician-Backed Secrets from Cultures Around the World," notes however that some children may need to snack more often, especially those who eat very small portions at meals.
“Parents should pay attention to signs of hunger, such as excess crankiness or fatigue," she says. "If a child is awake and hasn’t eaten in four hours, consider giving a snack because the child is likely hungry. Every child’s needs are different, and the timing of snacks will vary.”
One thing that our experts agree on? An after-school snack should be consumed calmly and mindfully, whenever possible.
“In general, everyone, children included, should eat with some mindfulness and attention,” says Finlay-Morreale. “When you eat on the go it is harder to appreciate your own body's cues of being full and people tend to overeat.”
“It is definitely preferable for a child to sit down in a relaxed state to eat, away from television and distractions,” says Lewis. “However, we know this is not always possible! It's OK to sometimes give a hungry child a snack in the car or on the go. I would advise against 'snacking on the go' as a habit. Food behaviors children learn now will likely be carried into adulthood.”
Choosing your kids' snacks mindfully can help you move towards a healthier household snacking protocol. After all, snacks that are rich in whole grains and protein will keep your kids fuller longer, curbing how often they need to snack. And picking snacks that are lower in sugar will keep them from becoming over-hyped in the afternoon... and crashing after that sugar rush.
While there are certainly homemade options that fit this mold – things like low-sugar yogurt with fresh berries or whole-grain crackers with hummus – the choices below have the added benefit of being impossibly easy to grab and pass out quickly. And to top it all off, each of these seven choices comes from a brand you can trust.
1. The Good Bean
Instead of chips or pretzels, which are crunchy and moreish but somewhat devoid in nutritional value, opt for these roasted chickpea snacks from The Good Bean. Made from chickpeas sourced from American family farms, these healthy snacks are gluten-free, nut-free, and USDA organic. With several flavors including Sea Salt, Chili Lime, and Thai Coconut, these will quickly become a household favorite.
2. Crunchmaster Vegetable Cheese Crisps
These tasty, gluten-free chips are made with non-GMO, California-grown brown rice flour and seven different vegetables: carrots, pumpkin, beets, red bell peppers, spinach, kale, and onions. The zingy, cheesy flavor comes from real cheddar. Serve these crackers on their own or alongside hummus or a yogurt dip.
3. Dang Sticky Rice Chips
For a snack with a hint of sweetness that won't have kids jumping off the walls, Dang's sticky rice chips are the perfect option. Made with a combination of organic Thai sticky rice, watermelon juice, and coconut milk, these chips are super flavorful on their own or in a variety of flavors like sriracha, aged cheddar, or savory seaweed. Many of the flavors are vegan and all are gluten-free, and while this Certified B Corp has not yet had its products certified organic, it is currently working towards this goal.
4. Bumble Bee Snack Packs
When you need a snack that's a bit heartier, the protein of Bumble Bee tuna is a great choice. Bumble Bee's seasoned tuna pouches come with a spoon, for easy, on-the-go enjoyment, and are available in a variety of flavors, like Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil or Lemon & Pepper. Committed to sustainability, Bumble Bee includes a traceability feature on all of its products to help consumers see exactly where their fish came from.
5. Good Culture Cottage Cheese
Speaking of protein, cottage cheese is an excellent source. The organic cottage cheese from Good Culture contains a heaping helping of calcium for healthy bones, and the plain whole milk version is filled with good fats and no added sugars. Pack the small 5-ounce containers to go for a quick and easy snack.
6. KPop Seaweed Snacks
This Korean-inspired snack is made with just four ingredients: seaweed, sunflower oil, sesame oil, and salt. The result is a crunchy bite that's rich in iodine, antioxidants, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Certified organic, vegan, and gluten-free, this simple snack is a great choice to have on hand.
7. Icelandic Provisions Skyr
Similar to yogurt, Icelandic skyr is a rich, creamy treat. Skyr cultures don't give the product the tang that yogurt fans are used to, instead keeps the product mild and thick. Icelandic Provisions sources all of its milk from a dairy cooperative within 100 miles of the production locale, where most cows graze for the majority of the year, and all are antibiotic- and hormone-free. Choose the individual portion of plain skyr for lots of flavor and protein without the sugar.
Related on Organic Authority
Restricting Junk Food TV Ads Linked to Lower Obesity Rates in Children, Study Finds
5 High Protein Snacks to Zap Your Hangry Mood
The Top 13 Naturally Functional Foods to Eat in 2018 for Whole Wellness