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The Secret Behind The Best Snacks For Kids

Jill Castle

Health, Wellness, & Safety

“Mom, I’m home! What can I have to eat?”

Many kids have a school day of bustling activity with little time and attention spent on eating. In this day of maximizing learning and optimizing standardized test scores, nutrition in school has taken a backseat.

Children come home hungry and looking for food.

Surely, those individually packaged, pre-portioned, calorie-controlled 100-calorie snack packs are perfect for the hungry student running up the driveway…or are they?

Perhaps developed with the dieter in mind or in response to the growing girth of our society, 100-calorie snack packs are everywhere. It is not uncommon to find them in school lunch boxes, diaper bags, the commuter lunch sack, and in America’s pantries. Many believe that because they are pre-portioned and calorie-controlled, they must be good for us. However, for children who are hungry, they may not be the best choice.

Few children get full and satisfied after consuming one snack pack. When children are left feeling hungry, they eat other snacks or more snack packs to fill their bellies. After-school eating can turn into a scavenger hunt for food in an effort to feel satisfied, or full. The result? Over-eating and nutrient-poor choices.

What should you do if your pantry is full of 100-cal snack packs? Use them to your child’s advantage. Pair them with other healthy foods, such as a glass of milk (or milk substitute) or a piece of fruit, making them part of a nutritious snack.

Or nix the snack packs and use a “mini-meal” mentality for after-school snacking. Provide a wholesome snack, one that includes a source of complex carbohydrate (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, or milk products) and a protein source such as nuts, peanut butter, deli meat, milk, yogurt, or cheese. A good rule of thumb is to include 2-3 food groups in your child’s snack and be sure to use age-appropriate portion sizes.  Opting for healthy, whole foods will give your child a rich source of nutrients and help them be physically and emotionally satisfied.

Wholesome snacks, especially those containing protein and complex carbohydrate, pack a punch and may eliminate the feeding frenzy after school, while contributing to the overall nutritional quality of your child’s diet. Here are three examples to try this week:


  • 1 mini-bagel with 2 teaspoons peanut butter and 1/2 banana, sliced on top
  • 1/2 sandwich (1 oz. turkey, lettuce, tomato, 1 slice whole wheat bread) with a small bunch of grapes
  • 1 c. unsweetened cereal with ½ c. lowfat milk and 1 Tbsp. raisins
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Jill Castle

Jill Castle is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with expertise in pediatric nutrition. She is the co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, and creator of Just the Right Byte, a childhood nutrition blog. Follow Jill on Twitter @pediRD and Facebook.