20 School Snack Ideas for Kids
By Jenna Braddock, MSH, RD, CSSD, LD/N, CPT
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.
No matter the time of year, figuring out school snack ideas can be quite laborious. Have you ever found yourself standing in the snack aisle of the grocery store, staring at all the boxes and bags of snack options, and wondering, “Which of these is kind of healthy?” Or maybe you’ve passed by the “healthy snacks” section and longingly sighed, wishing your child would actually eat one of those options.
Packing your kids’ lunches can sometimes feel like a battlefield between the forces of parents and kids over healthy eating, rapidly changing preferences, and peer pressure. Even when you do land on a good mix of food choices that everyone likes, it’s easy to get in a rut when boredom sets in.
Parents, keep fighting the good fight because school snacks matter! School snacks are a way for kids to increase their intake of nutritious foods, keep energy levels up, and improve their ability to concentrate at school.1,2
As a parent who packs school lunches day in and day out, I grow frustrated or tired of trying to figure out what kinds of snacks to add to my boys’ lunch boxes. What I’ve learned over the years is to lean on trusted options that I know everyone loves (and are nutritious) and then try to mix up one at a time throughout the school year. It’s also really helpful to keep a list of ideas or ask around for what other parents are packing. Consider this your “ask the audience” option for when you’re down to the wire and out of ideas for kids’ snacks for school.
Here are 20 snack ideas for kids to help you get through the school year triumphantly:
1. CLIF Kid Zbar®
It’s always nice to have an ace-in-the-hole snack — one that you know has ingredients you can feel good about and your kids will always enjoy — waiting in your pantry. CLIF Kid Zbar energy snack bars are certainly that snack in my house. Made with energizing whole grains from organic oats, this great-tasting snack bar will fuel your kids’ active bodies and creative minds as they fill up at lunch and head out for recess. Since there’s many delicious and soft-baked flavors to choose from (like Chocolate Chip, Iced Oatmeal Cookie, Chocolate Brownie, and new Blueberry Muffin flavor), boredom is nearly impossible! CLIF Kid Zbar energy snack bars are a great option for after-school activities too.
2. CLIF Kid Zbar® Protein
School snacks that contain protein are a big win for kids’ growing bodies. (See this article on Protein for Kids on why this is.) CLIF Kid Zbar Protein is a ready-to-go, wholesome snack bar that contains 5 grams of hunger-helping protein. Its crispy and delicious flavors of Chocolate Chip, Cookies ‘n Creme, and Chocolate Mint flavor (all gluten free too) are sure to be a big hit with your grade schooler.
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3. Flavored Popcorn Chips
It may seem like a big challenge to find a more nutritious school snack option than traditional potato chips, but there are fortunately a lot more crunchy snack options available now. Flavored popcorn chips can be a delicious, light option for a flavorful crunchy snack. You get a lot of chips for a reasonable serving size and some options contain a little fiber too.
4. Cheese and Crackers
Cheese and crackers always put a smile on my kids’ faces, and in fact, one of my children requests it in his lunchbox daily. This school snack can be as simple as a cheese stick and a handful of crackers, or you can find cheese in precut cracker-sized slices. Look for whole-grain crackers with fiber and minimal ingredients.
5. Apple Slices with Squeezable Nut Butter
Sweet apples and salty nut butter are always a delicious combination and are pretty easy to pack as a nutritious school snack. Look for pre-sliced apples in the produce section of the store and single-serve nut butter squeeze packs or cups in the peanut butter section. Butters made with soy or sunflower seeds may be a more appropriate option for some schools.
6. Nuts, Chocolate Chips, and Raisins
Yes, this is basically a make-your-own trail mix, but this is the combination that’s a big hit with my boys. Toss together 2 tablespoons of nuts (peanuts, pistachios, cashews, etc.) and 1 tablespoon each of raisins and chocolate chips. It’s a great combo of protein, fiber, and fun.
7. Drinkable or Squeezable Yogurt
Squeezable (or drinkable) yogurts are a game changer for parents who are seeking easy school snack ideas. Most kids find great joy in this method of snack delivery and it tastes great! The good news for parents is that they usually contain some calcium and vitamin D — important nutrients for growing kids. Look for brands with no artificial flavors or colors and a low amount of added sugar.
8. Fruit leather
A great way to add some natural sweetness to your kid’s lunchbox is with fruit leather. It is an alternative to fruit roll-up–type snacks and are typically made with real fruit puree and no added sugars. Fruit leather is easy to find at most grocery stores or try making your own.
9. Mini PB&Js
This classic sandwich does not have to just be for lunch. It makes a delicious snack as well. Make a PB&J on bread, then cut into four triangles. Split between two kids’ snacks or use over two days. You can also try mini pita bread or a small tortilla with nut butter rolled up in it.
10. Grapes and a Cheese Stick
Grapes are a nutritious snack loved by all. Their sweet juiciness is particularly enjoyable when the school days are warm. Pair them with a cheese stick to add some satisfying protein.
11. Veggie chips
If you’re looking for a tasty way to get veggies into your kiddos, veggie chips might be a fun option to try as a school snack. Not all the nutrients from fresh vegetables are necessarily going to be maintained in chip form, but it presents veggies in a very kid-friendly way. I personally think the more kids see and experience veggies, the better.
12. Bean Puffs
A more nutritious option for puffed chips is bean-based puffs. You’ll find them made from a variety of types of beans that may be new to you, but that familiar satisfying crunch is absolutely there. Because they have more protein than your average puff, you’ll find kids are satisfied more quickly too.
13. Dry Cereal
Cereal is a perfect bite-size snack that offers endless options. Cereals shaped like O’s and mini whole-wheat or rice squares are perfect for snacking. Kids can get involved by making their own unique snack mix with several options. Look for whole-grain cereals with a lower added sugar content.
14. Hard-Boiled Egg
For a very affordable, nutritious school snack, look no further than hard-boiled eggs. They are a good source of complete protein and important nutrients for growing kids. They are also easy to prep ahead on the weekend and peel for easy snack packing throughout the week. For a little added flavor, sprinkle halved eggs with a dash of salt or sweet paprika.
15. Chips and Guacamole
Chips and guac are now portable enough to take as a school snack thanks to single-serve guacamole options. Pair them with whole-grain chips and you have a downright delightful and nutritious snack for kids.
Not only do kids love to stuff their fingers in the holes of olives, but they also love the flavor. Olives are a source of unsaturated fat and a wholesome school snack option. You can find them in single-serve cups or pouches, but the most affordable option is to portion them out yourself from a can.
17. Crunchy Chickpeas
Chickpeas take on a whole new personality when they are roasted and flavored. I personally love a good ranch-flavored crunchy chickpea. Look for store-bought brands, or you can easily make them yourself in the oven or air fryer.
18. Cucumber Slices and Hummus
When all other veggies are failing with my kids, cucumbers always come to the rescue! Crunchy, refreshing, and light in flavor, cucumbers are a great gateway veggie to use as a school snack. Pair them with single-serve hummus cups or even some ranch dressing for a snack win!
19. Cashews and Dried Cranberries
Not all kids like nuts, but many will be open to the delicious cashew nut. It’s a great way to build their base for whole-food snack options. Pair with dried cranberries for a sweet, salty, and tart combo that’s sure to please. A half ounce of nuts paired with 1-2 tablespoons of cranberries is a good starting point.
Jerky is a great source of portable protein. It can help satisfy wild hunger at snack time. Some jerky can be pretty tough for little eaters, so look for brands with softer texture. You can also cut up strips into bite-size pieces that are easier to chew.
Now you are armed with ample school snack ideas and hopefully ready to continue strong throughout the school year.
- Gavin ML. “Snacks.” Nemours Kids Health. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/snacking.html. Accessed on June 1, 2022.
- Shield JE. “When Should My Kids Snack?” Kids Eat Right. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Available at: https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/when-should-my-kids-snack#:~:text=Snacks%20are%20good%20for%20kids,of%20snacks%20as%20mini%2Dmeals. Accessed on June 1, 2022.