15 Filling Snacks for Kids
By Jenna Braddock, MSH, RD, CSSD, CPT, a mom and consultant sports dietitian who works with Clif Bar & Company
The ideas and suggestions written below are provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health- and nutrition related activity.
Healthy, growing kids are also hungry, growing kids. Since kids are often on the move, parents need to have an arsenal of snack ideas that will fill those hungry kids up and keep them going. I’m sure you’ve experienced a snack that was a total bust in successfully curbing your child’s hunger. It can be frustrating for parents and kids when the “hungries” just won’t go away.
Growth spurts can certainly increase the appetites of kids, but aside from that, it’s important for parents to use filling snack options at designated times (or as close to it as you can). This helps eliminate kids grazing on snacks all day, which can interfere with them learning their hunger and fullness cues. According to Kids Eat Right from The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, school-age children likely need about two snacks a day and teens need one to two per day.1
One of the most powerful components of a filling snack is that it contains protein, which is known to be satiating. In my children, including protein in a snack is the difference between their hunger returning soon after they’ve eaten or keeping them satisfied between meals. Research also supports this effect! In a study on children that looked at the impact of protein at mealtime, researchers found that a higher protein content resulted in lasting fullness and less desire to eat following the meal.2 Protein can have a similar effect at snack time.
Children need varying amounts of protein for proper growth and development, but it may not be as much as you think. A small dose of 5-7 grams in a filling snack can be a strong contributor to kiddos meeting their daily needs. Learn more about specific protein recommendations for different age groups in this article Protein for Kids: Why Protein Should Be on Your Shopping List.
Finding the right filling snacks for your kids may take a little trial and error, but here is a list of 15 nutritious and filling snacks to get you started. Each of these options contains 5-7 grams of hunger-busting protein in a serving size that’s also a satisfying quantity.
This nutritious snack bar will certainly fill little bellies thanks to the hunger-fighting 5 grams of protein it contains from dairy, whole-grain oats, and pea protein. There are a few added bonuses to this option too — it’s gluten free, very portable for taking protein on the go, and 100% yummy! Be sure to try my kids’ favorite flavors, Cookies ‘n Creme and Chocolate Chip.
2. Yogurt + Berries
A simple yogurt parfait always puts a smile on my son’s face and fills him up for an afternoon of playing. Simply top a ½ cup of your favorite flavor of yogurt with a ¼ cup of blueberries for a filling 5 grams of protein in the perfect quantity for hungry kiddos. If a non-dairy yogurt is needed, look for ones with at least 4 grams of protein in a ½ cup serving.
3. English Muffin + Peanut Butter
Whole-grain English muffins are a wonderful base for many filling snack options. To keep it simple, top ½ of an English muffin with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter for a filling 7 grams of protein.
4. String Cheese
The good ole string cheese has been a staple of snack time for decades. One of the reasons why is because mozzarella-based string cheese usually contains about 7 grams of protein per stick. While the quantity of food may look small, after that cheese stick “settles,” bellies are satisfied.
5. Whole-Grain Crackers + Hummus
Many kids love crackers for snack time, but they don’t always contain the protein needed to be a filling snack. By pairing a serving of whole-grain crackers with 2 tablespoons of hummus, you boost the protein factor to 5 grams, turning it into a more filling snack for a single serving.
6. Jerky + Popcorn
Jerky is a great source of protein but often comes in a rather small serving. To make it a more filling snack option, pair a ½ ounce of jerky with 2 cups of popcorn. This strategy has helped jerky last a little longer in my house while still filling my son’s belly.
7. Whole-Grain Cereal + Milk
Cereal is an easy, filling snack for kids that usually works like a charm in my house. A ½ cup portion of cereal with a ½ cup of milk rings in at 6 grams of protein for the perfect size and quantity of nutritious food. Look for cereals with lower sugar and that contain fiber. If you need non-dairy milk, look for soymilk or another option with at least 4 grams of protein in a ½ cup serving.
8. Cheese and Nut Snack Pack
Store-bought cheese and nuts snack packs are like charcuterie to go and are a perfect filling snack for kids. The versions with cheese cubes, nuts, and dried fruit tend to ring in around 7 grams of protein per pack. You can easily make these at home with a sectioned reusable snack container, a block of cheese, your kid’s favorite nuts, and raisins. Use a ½ ounce of each.
9. Whole-Grain Frozen Waffle
Waffles are not just for breakfast! A hearty, whole-grain frozen waffle can also be a filling snack. Look for options made with whole grains or ones described as “protein” waffles that contain about 5-7 grams of protein per waffle.
10. Cottage Cheese + Grapes
Cottage cheese is well known for its protein content, but kids may not want or need a big bowl of it as a snack. Pair a ¼ cup of cottage cheese with 1 cup of hydrating grapes for a perfect filling and nutritious snack that provides about 7 grams of protein.
11. 1 Packet Instant Oatmeal Made With Milk
Once again we can borrow from breakfast for a filling snack idea. Instant oatmeal made with at least a ¼ cup of dairy milk (or soymilk for a non-dairy option) bumps up the protein to 6 grams. Plus, it’s a source of fiber, which most kids need more of anyway.
A smoothie is a wonderful way to get lots of good nutrition. By adding in protein, you also help make it a filling snack. A simple recipe of frozen fruit, a handful of spinach, and 1 cup of soymilk is all you need to get in about 7 grams of protein. Try this simple, plant-based Kid-Friendly Green Smoothie recipe for a nutrient-packed option.
13. Hard-Boiled Egg + Tangerine
Eggs are a wonderful source of protein and therefore are a filling snack option. Pair one hard-boiled egg with a tangerine for 6 grams of protein for a sweet and savory combo that’s sure to fill kids up.
14. Turkey Avocado Roll-Ups
There’s something just so delicious about a slice of deli meat wrapped around a slice of avocado. It’s also a nutritious and filling snack! Combine 1 ounce of deli meat and a ¼ of an avocado for about 6 grams of protein. These are perfect to make ahead and take on the go.
15. Snack Balls
Cookies are a delicious snack, but they rarely offer much protein. To fix that, I turned one of my family’s favorite cookies into a nutritious snack that provides 5 grams of protein for two balls. Try this easy, plant-based recipe for Monster Cookie Balls that tastes like cookie dough but actually fills you up (in a healthier way!).
Begin your filling snack journey by trying two to three of these options with your kids, balancing two convenient options with one homemade option. Pay attention to how your kids respond by how filling it is for them. With a little time and the power of observation, you’ll know the exact filling snack combo that curbs their hunger.
- Shield JE. When should my kids snack? EatRight. March 4, 2019. Updated January 2021. Accessed May 10, 2022. https://www.eatright.org/food/...;
- Baum JI, Gray M, Binns A. Breakfasts Higher in Protein Increase Postprandial Energy Expenditure, Increase Fat Oxidation, and Reduce Hunger in Overweight Children from 8 to 12 Years of Age. J Nutr. 2015;145(10):2229-2235. doi:10.3945/jn.115.214551