Healthy Snacks to Feed Your Kids
Nutritious snacks are important for mom, dad, and kids, too, but the snacking aisles are more crowded and confusing than ever. Each week, companies send their newest products for us to taste test, so we're passing along the most nutritious and delicious finds we come across. We put each snack through a rigorous nutrition test: anything that doesn't meet our RD's guidelines isn't tested. What meets the nutrition requirements is then put in front of a panel of Cooking Light editors and staffers. We share the winners of best kid snacks with you so you can spend your dollars and your shopping time more wisely. Parents might even find something to love, too.
Bare Snacks Apple Cinnamon Chips
Sure, fruit chips have no protein, but their filling fiber makes them an ideal snack for hungry kids. Bare Snack's clean ingredient list is great for parents with an eye toward avoiding highly processed foods. These Apple Cinnamon chips are just that: apple and cinnamon. They're delicious on their own, but kids might also like them stirred into oatmeal or yogurt or sprinkled into granola.
What Tasters Said: "These are so good, but alone they might not be very filling or satisfying. I would definitely add to something else."
"I love the crunchy texture. The flavor is fresh, and I appreciate the fact they didn't add more sugar."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 1/2 cup)
110 calories, 0g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg sodium, 4g fiber, 21g sugar, 0g protein
Smartfood Delight White Cheddar Popcorn
Smartfood's White Cheddar Popcorn has been a snacking hit for many years, but we're big fans of their new Smartfood Delight offerings. These new popcorns retain all their crisp, buttery flavor, but the manufacturers have cut back on the toppings, which lowers sodium and fat numbers greatly. You can also feel good giving your kiddo a bag of popcorn as a daily snack—it's a fun and easy way to sneak in a serving of whole grains.
What Tasters Said: "This tastes like a less-salty version of the original Smartfood, and I love it."
"The white cheddar flavor is subtle, but if you had never tasted the original, you'd probably think it was just right."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 3 1/2 cups)
130 calories, 5g fat, 1g sat fat, 200mg sodium, 3g fiber, 1g sugar, 3g protein
Dole Fruitocracy Squeezable Fruit Pouches
We thought they might be a fad, but squeezable fruit pouches seem here to stay. Ask any tot parent: their convenience factor is undeniable. Keep a few pouches in your bag or slip them into backpacks for a quick after-school snack. Dole's Fruitocracy Squeezable Fruit Pouches are built to bridge the gap between toddler meals-on-the-go and kids' fruit-loaded snacks because their texture is richer, closer to that of a true apple sauce. We don't like to see sweeteners such as apple juice concentrate on ingredients lists, but in this case, whole fruit puree beats it on the listing.
What Tasters Said: "The texture is smooth and luscious. I was expecting something more akin to baby food, but this is fun to eat."
"I always have these types of pouches on hand for my boys. I really like this is lower in sugar than most others you can buy."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 1 pouch)
60 calories, 0g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg sodium, 1g fiber, 13g sugar, less than 1g protein
Little Duck Organics Might Fruit Freeze-Dried Snacks
Freeze-dried fruits make effortless snacks for little eaters. Little Duck Organics Might Fruits' natural sweet-tart flavor is very appealing to picky palates, and the spongy texture is especially fun for the littlest snackers. We especially like that this small company is dedicated to using organic produce and doesn't add sugar or preservatives to their products.
What Tasters Said: "These have a better texture than some other freeze-dried snacks."
"I love the surprising crunch factor. I'd hand a bag to my son and just let him eat. The little pieces are filling, so I'm confident he wouldn't need much to be full."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 1/4 cup)
25 calories, 0g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg sodium, 1g fiber, 4-5g sugar, 0g protein
Nature's Path Organic Envirokidz Granola Bites
If quantity of snackable items is important for keeping small hands busy, you can't beat Nature's Path Organic Envirokidz Granola Bites. One serving is a whopping 18 pieces. Fill up a reusable zip-top bag with a handful and keep it handy at ballparks or gyms, or send one in a backpack for a quick bite after the school bell rings. The sugar numbers are low for a granola snack—only 6 grams per serving, so for a well-rounded and filling snack, we recommend adding these bites to yogurt or serving with fiber-rich fruit.
What Tasters Said: "These taste like oatmeal, in a good way. I'd love to sprinkle these on my yogurt."
"I prefer the Apple Cinnamon over Mixed Berries, but both are great for a little crunch.'
"They're not too hard, which is important for younger kids."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 18 pieces)
100 calories, 2g fat, 0g sat fat, 35mg sodium, 2g fiber, 6g sugar, 1g protein
Vermont Smoke & Cure Uncured Pepperoni Turkey Sticks
Meat sticks and snacks are popular once again in the snack aisle. Thanks to the push for healthier alternatives to traditional snack favorites, brands like Vermont Smoke and Cure have crafted snacks you can feel good about giving your kids. The meat used for their Uncured Pepperoni Turkey Sticks are raised without antibiotics and hormones; the sticks are gluten free; and they're very low calorie (just 35 per stick).
What Tasters Said: "I'd pair this with cheese for a super filling snack."
"These are hard to open, so I'd have to open them for my kid or put them in a snack bag unwrapped."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 1 stick)
35 calories, 1.5g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 115mg sodium, 0g fiber, 0g sugar, 5g protein.
Justin's Snack Pack - Peanut Butter with Banana Chips
All-natural nut butter favorite Justin's released their first snack pack last year with nut butters and pretzels. The newest addition to their snack packs line, Classic Peanut Butter + Banana Chips, is their best one yet. One pack is high in saturated fat thanks to oils used in the banana chips, but don't be deterred. The protein-rich nut butter packs in 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Younger snackers will surely give this two thumbs up.
What Tasters Said: "I think these are a great idea. I'd pick this up at the airport to keep my kid happy."
"These snack packs would definitely be kid-approved, but I would totally eat them as well."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 1 pack)
210 calories, 16g fat, 6g sat fat, 20mg sodium, 3g fiber, 6g sugar, 6g protein
Wow Baking Company Lemon Burst Cookies
Snack cookies are a dime a dozen, but that doesn't mean they're all fit for healthy snackers. Focus on finding whole-grain versions of sweet favorites. In this case Wow Baking Company's Lemon Burst Cookies are made with a gluten-free flour blend that contains whole-grain brown rice. It's not 100% whole grain, but it's better than enriched wheat flour. The serving size is a bit big for young eaters, so we'd suggest offering up 3 cookies to keep calories and fat numbers low.
What Tasters Said: "I love these! The texture is great for a gluten-free cookie, too. It's like a shortbread when you bit into it, but then you can taste the lemon with each chew."
"Good lemon taste, but it might be a better pick for teenagers."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 4 cookies)
260 calories, 12g fat, 7g sat fat, 220mg sodium, 1g fiber, 14g sugar, 2g protein
Nabisco Good Thins
The cracker aisle is getting more innovative as snackers are demanding more nutrition from their bites. Nabisco's new Good Thins crackers load in whole grains (but are not 100% whole grain) for a filling snack with 2 grams fiber and 2 grams of protein. For the ultimate snack, pair with cheese, fruit, or a dip like hummus for an extra filling factor.
What Tasters Said: "Both are so satisfying and really do the trick for that salty-crunchy snack craving."
"Yum! These are great. Cheddar is super crisp and savory while sweet oat is the perfect salty-sweet balance."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 30 grams or about 21-23 pieces)
130-140 calories, 4-5g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 170-190mg sodium, 2g fiber, 2-3g sugar, 2g protein
Lesser Evil Buddha Bowl Popcorn
Popcorn is an especially great treat for kids. It's filling, it's a whole grain, and a serving is typically several cups, which means you can get more bang for your buck when serving up a quick snack before dinner. Popping your own is ideal, but if you need some flavored options to keep on hand, we're good with Lesser Evil's Buddha Bowl flavors. We tried Avocado-Licious, Himalayan Pink, and Himalayan Sweetness. Each is unique, and the different oils used to pop the kernels are very pronounced. Both coconut and avocado oils increase saturated fat numbers, but the serving size is small enough that's not a huge concern.
What Tasters Said: "These are addictive. The flavor isn't very strong, which I like."
"The coconut oil flavor is a bit much if you're not used to it, but I like it in the salty-sweet combo."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: about 2-3 cups)
110-120 calories, 3-5g fat, 2-3g sat fat, 170-190mg sodium, 4-5g fiber, 1-6g sugar, 2-3g protein
Dang Toasted Coconut Chips
If it's any indication how good these Dang Lightly Salted Coconut Chips are, a handful of testers emptied the bag before others were even able to try them. They're versatile thanks to a touch of sea salt, and we'd suggest skipping any sweetened versions so your kids can avoid added sugar. We would add these to yogurt or granola for an on-the-go breakfast, or sprinkle some into cacao nibs for an instant trail mix.
What Tasters Said: "The best things invented in the entire world."
"I absolutely love these. They're so satisfying."
"They're not too sweet like so many coconut flakes are."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 1 ounce)
140 calories, 10g fat, 10g sat fat, 185mg sodium, 4g fiber, 3g sugar, 2g protein
Pressed by Kind Fruit Bars
Pressed by Kind bars are a great kid-friendly healthy "fruit roll-up" alternative. One bar has 2 servings of fruit, so our RD gives these a big thumbs up. The ingredient list is super clean, too—just the ingredients on the label, plus apple—so you can feel good about loading up an after-school bag with these.
What Tasters Said: "These are tart in the best way possible. You know there's real fruit in here because you can see it and taste it."
"Apricot Pear Carrot Beet is my favorite. It's not overly sweet and has a bit of tang."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 1 bar)
110-130 calories, 0-3.5g fat, 0-2.5g sat fat, 45-70mg sodium, 2.5-4g fiber, 11-21g sugar, 1g protein
Go Gourmet Organic Slammers SuperFood Pouches
Another squeezable fruit pouch made the best snacks of this year. Go Gourmet's Organic Slammers Superfood Snacks are filled with organic fruits and veggies. Our favorite ingredient, though, was a little bit of a surprise. Whole-grain amaranth and quinoa have spots on the ingredients list, which adds filling fiber and richness to the fruit and veg puree. One common issue with these squeezable pouches is the sugar content—many have added sweeteners as one of the first ingredients—but these pouches keep sugar numbers below 10g, which is difficult when you're working with so much natural sugar.
What Tasters Said: "The texture is thicker than most others. That actually makes it a bit easier to eat for me."
" The flavor is pure fruit and vegetable. It's not overly sweet or tart."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 1 pouch)
60 calories, 0g fat, 0g sat fat, 0-10mg sodium, 1-2g fiber, 9g sugar, 1g protein
Curate Kids Snack Bars
Instead of giving your kids one of your snack bars, give them one of their own. Curate Kids Bars are right-sized for young eaters, and they're packed with filling oats, fruit, and nuts. Each bar has less than 10 grams of sugar, which is ideal for any snack but especially great for a bar. With 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, a bar is sure to help your kid bridge the gap between breakfast and lunch deliciously.
What Tasters Said: "Chocolate & Banana is my favorite, but I think lots of kids would love any of these."
"These are a really good alternative for kids who are craving something sweet, like a candy bar."
"Apple & Cinnamon is very satisfying. My kids would approve of these gladly."
Nutrition Facts: (serving size: 1 bar)
150-160 calories, 6-7g fat, 1-2g sat fat, 50-75mg sodium, 2g fiber, 8-9g sugar, 4g protein