In an ideal world we would spend hours in the kitchen whipping up snacks from scratch. As much as I would like to admit that’s what I do, we don’t live in an ideal world [sigh].
Life gets in the way. Life with kids gets even more hectic.
When I’m behind on grocery shopping and have zero fresh fruit or veggies, I may opt for Plan B. That includes grabbing a healthy packaged snack for my kids.
For you, it might just be tough finding SOMEthing or ANYthing to give your picky eaters.
Have a Gold Fish obsessed child? Throw in some crunchy Good Bean roasted chickpeas with their next snack.
Does your little one go crazy for melt-in-your-mouth Cheetos? Snap Pea Crisps might be their new favourite snack (and WAY better for them).
Introducing Good/Better/Best Healthy Packaged Snacks
When whole foods are not an option, we want packaged foods made with whole foods. We should aim for high fiber, high protein, and low sugar.
Instead of avoiding the middle aisles of a grocery store, I’ve searched high and low for snacks that little ones will love, and most importantly, you can feel good about giving them every once in a while.
Most packaged foods are filled with “crap” and added sweeteners, which send our children on a blood sugar roller coaster (tantrums anyone?).
But there are better options out there.
I looked, I tried, and now I’m sharing!
In my list of the top 19 healthy packaged snacks (I seriously could not find one more to hit 20), you can expect snacks that are:
- A source of fiber (to keep our kids fuller longer, with other health benefits including regular bowels!)
- A source of protein (important for growth, health, hormones, blood sugar balancing, etc)
- A source of nutrition (minerals, vitamins, etc)
- Free of added sugars (or have some sweetness that is paired with fiber/protein/fat to tame the sugar rush)
- Free of artificial colours or flavours
The “Better” and “Good” snacks have higher amounts of sugar and processing, but still have some great nutritional qualities.
BEST Packaged Snacks for Kids
Sustainably-grown roasted seaweed snack with a touch of organic extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. There are no artificial colours, preservatives or GMOs and are a healthy alternative to chips. Although these sea snacks are not significant for their protein or fibre content, they have no sugar and are a significant source of iodine, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, copper and selenium.
This chickpea snack is roasted and packs a good crunch. Sienna loves the plain ol’ Sea Salt version and one of my favourites is the Cinnamon Sugar (yes, I admittedly have a sweet tooth). They are a little higher in sugar than other snacks, but have an impressive 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. The company website proudly boasts that one serving of their chickpeas offers as much fibre as eating two cups of broccoli and as much folate as three cups of spinach.
These are certified organic, wheat free and gluten free. These crackers are delicious on their own or topped with your favourite topping. Both parents and kids will devour these with a satisfying crunch and mom’s can feel good knowing that they have no sugar, 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.
This was the first packaged snack I gave to Sienna, when I used to break all the mealtime rules. Before I knew that grazing was counterproductive for kids, I would let Sienna snack throughout the day and have a LARABAR on hand for those ‘just in case’ moments. I love that they are so simply made with dried fruit and nuts being the main ingredients. While they provide a good boost of energy, the healthy fats (10 grams), protein (4 grams) and fiber (5 grams) help to balance the blood sugar spike. They also contain no dairy, gluten, soy, or grains and are made entirely from plant-based foods. Even their bars with chocolate chips are 100% vegan.
Pumpkin Seed Butter on Banana
I’m a convert. I used to be all about the almond butter, cashew butter, and even peanut butter back in the day. But knowing what I know now as a Nutritionist, pumpkin seeds are where we get more nutrients for our buck. I love spreading some on a banana, a homemade dehydrated onion bread, or on rice crackers. It does have more of an earthy taste and appearance but don’t let the green tinge scare you off. You and your kids will get a boost of incredibly important minerals including magnesium (for energy and relaxation) and zinc (for immune strength), plus antioxidants.
My little addiction. And they seem to be becoming a fave for my kids as well…not at 4 months old though! (this is an old photo). These “chips” are not only healthy, but the company uses environmentally friendly “cooking” methods. They have 2 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber and only 1 gram of sugar. As an added nutritional bonus, kale is packed with vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin A, C, B6, manganese, copper and potassium. Note: This snack does contain nuts (cashews).
This is my latest discovery as far as packaged snacks go and I am pretty excited about it. The ingredients: Dried coconut. That’s it! Coconut alone is a nutrient-dense food with healthy fats, 6 grams of fibre, and 8 grams of protein. They are kosher, vegan, organic, GMO-free, gluten-free, and free of everything a mom or dad might worry about. If you’re looking for some variety they also come in a few different flavours.
Pre-cut veggies like carrots and cucumber and/or Mary’s Gone Crackers plus these convenient mini hummus cups and you have yourself a nutritious snack packed with vitamins and minerals. I like that hummus is versatile and does not have to be solely used as a dip. It can also be used on a baked potatoes or roasted veggies instead of sour cream or sauces. You can even try it as a sandwich spread alternative. This hummus has 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and ONLY 1 gram of sugar.
What I could do without is all that packaging! The better option is to buy the large container of hummus and scoop some into reusable glass or stainless steel containers.
BETTER Packaged Snacks for Kids
Made with 70% whole green pea, these non-GMO pea pods are baked and lightly salted. They can be enjoyed as part of a meal or as a snack. One serving size is packed with 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of fibre and only 1 gram of sugar. These peas are especially beneficial for picky eaters who prefer something that’s crispy and easy to eat. The closest in flavour/texture to a chip without being a “chip”.
I first discovered these vegan and gluten-free cookies at Costco, but you can now buy on Amazon as well. Since that moment, they’ve made an appearance in our cupboard a few times. Why? Well, they are the perfect size for small children (and someone like me who just needs a few nibbles). Two cookies come with 2 grams of protein, 1 gram of fibre and 6 grams of sugar (higher than I would like but way better than any Oreo)! What I could do without is the individual wrapping for each cookie, but I’m sure it’s beneficial for packing snacks and lunches to go.
This air popped popcorn has ONLY 3 ingredients- organic coconut oil, organic popcorn and Himalayan pink salt. If you didn’t feel good about this product already, how about the fact that it boasts 2 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and less than 1 gram of sugar. Knowing that corn is one of the most contaminated foods, I’m also pretty thrilled to see that this popcorn is organic.
I stumbled on this brand of gluten-free crackers in Costco and my girls love them for snacks on the go. In the words of the company “Snack with confidence knowing that these delicious crackers are made with all non-GMO ingredients and are trans fat and cholesterol free”. Their nutritional profile isn’t so bad either with 2 grams each of protein and fibre, along with 1 gram of sugar. I don’t love the use of corn and sunflower oils but it could be worse right?
The better cracker is Mary’s Gone Crackers but kids can be hit and miss with this brand because of their seedy texture. My girls are just used to seeing them all time (and mommy enjoying them) that they make a regular appearance in their snack.
If I didn’t know better I would most likely mistake this guacamole as homemade. It provides healthy fats with Haas avocado being the main ingredient, complimented by tomato, onion, cilantro, salt and garlic. This guacamole has 2 grams of fiber in just 2 tablespoons and is great paired with veggies, crackers or just straight up on a spoon.
We aren’t a big dairy-eating family but yogurt is one of my (and my girl’s) favourite snacks. Topped with chia, shredded coconut, raspberries and some granola – yum. The odd time I’ll grab some sheep or goat yogurt, but this coconut-based yogurt is in my fridge at all times. This yogurt has such a rich and creamy coconut base. We like the unsweetened variety which is delicious on its own or with some added fruit for added sweetness. It has an impressive 6 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein and only 1 gram of sugar.
GOOD Packaged Snacks for Kids
Of course, fresh fruit is wonderful and the best option, but dried fruit still offers a nutrient punch (it just lacks the hydration). I particularly love dried unsulfured apricots. Their dark amber colour isn’t as pleasing to the eye as the bright peachy variety, but at least you’ll know they are free of preservatives. Nutritionally they are rich in iron, copper, fiber, vitamins A and C. The natural sugars are higher (15 grams) but they a high in fiber (4 grams) and some protein too (1 gram). Dried apricots are great an energy boost for before and after physical activity. BUT they are heavy on the sugar, so be sure to pair with nuts, seeds or other protein (or fat) to stabilize blood sugars.
The company tells us we will “fall in love at first bite”. They were right! A bite-size snack made with the goodness of hemp hearts is great for an energy-boosting snack. They carry 10 grams of protein and 30% of the daily recommended intake of iron. Although organic, these fall short on the healthiest packaged snack ladder due to the added sugar at 11 grams per serving.
These baked bars are made with creamy sunflower seed butter. There are no artificial ingredients and they are free of common allergens including wheat, dairy, eggs and gluten. Each bar contains 2 grams of protein, 2 grams of fibre and only 4 grams of sugar.
When I ask parents what their favourite on-the-go snack is for their little ones, I can almost guarantee to see this show up on the list. They come in the perfect bite size ball for small mouths and are allergen-free (hence perfect for taking to school). They’re also slow to digest, keeping kids fuller longer with 1 gram of protein and 2 grams of fibre. There are 6 grams of sugar in the bars but it’s tough to tell how much of it is derived from the fruit ingredients versus the added cane sugar.
I don’t know any kids that would refuse a bar, but it is usually a high sugar, processed granola bar that they opt for. These bars have 1 gram of protein and 1 gram of fiber. They are high in sugar with 10 grams of sugar, but the ingredients are much more appealing than a conventional granola bar – no artificial colours or flavours and no high fructose corn syrup. If you don’t have time to make a homemade bar then these are a good back-up.
Love Child just might be the brand I hear most about from parents. Finally a clean packaged product that has some goodness to offer. Your little one will love these fruit and grain bars! They are a delicious all-natural gluten free snack made with no added sugars (not even fruit concentrate). Theses perfectly sized bars come with 1 gram of protein and 2 grams of fiber. They do have 9 grams of sugar but it’s all from natural sources. So you can let them chow down on these every once in a while sans guilt.
That’s the list! For now…
A lot of times we focus and worry about what kids are eating at their main meals, but if the right foods are offered at the right times, snacks can play an important role in managing kids’ hunger and boosting nutrition.
Healthy snacking in between meals can ensure there are no spikes in hunger and provide a much-needed energy boost between meals. Just as important, snacks can keep younger children from getting so hungry that they become cranky, which helps mom keep her own sanity.
For those of us with picky eaters who have limited food choices, snacks like these can be added insurance that they’re getting some nutrition that their bodies need to thrive.
I’m sure I’ve missed other worthy packaged snacks that deserve to be added to the list above. If so, please do send them my way!