Healthy snacks for kids

By Charlyn Fargo

Now that you’ve survived the first weeks of school, it’s time to get your pantry organized for snacks that will keep your kids happy and healthy. And the good news – healthy snacks are good for adults, as well.

Start with seasonal produce – the farmers markets are still going and the produce bins are usually bursting at your local grocery store, making it affordable to stock up on healthy snacks that kids will want to eat. Minimizing processed foods and focusing on nutrition will provide you and your family the energy and good health needed to get the most from any season.

Skip the fast food and try one of these budget-friendly snacks instead:

  • Frozen grapes – place washed grapes on tray and put in freezer (serve frozen)
  • Frozen fruit pops using bananas, berries, peaches or watermelon
  • Ice cream cones filled with yogurt and chopped fresh fruit
  • Peanut butter spread on celery, apples or graham crackers
  • String cheese with whole-grain crackers
  • Deli meat, cheese and lettuce rolled in tortilla shell
  • Fruit smoothie – fresh or frozen fruit, yogurt, juice and ice
  • Trail mix – cereal, dried fruit, nuts and chocolate chips

Most children need to eat every three to four hours to replenish energy. Busy schedules can be a problem for both parents and kids – especially with practices and games after school, so planning snacks ahead of time is a great way to stay on track nutritionally. No matter where you may be headed this season, follow these tips to keep the kids full and ready for the next round of fun:

  • Think MyPlate™ foods – what can the family eat that fits into MyPlate™?
    • MyPlate™ divides a dinner plate into four sections for vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins, plus a glass of milk or a serving of dairy to balance out the meal.
  • Since kids eat a lot of snacks, make sure the snacks contribute to their overall needs.
  • Focus on “whole foods” – low-sugar, high-protein, unprocessed carbohydrates such as fruit, oatmeal and whole-grains (versus cake, candy and white bread).
  • Watch portion sizes! Start with one handful, one piece or one-half cup of a snack.
  • Avoid snacking due to boredom. Provide a small snack, and then urge kids to move around, play a game or talk about their days.

A healthy snack includes at least one food from the MyPlate™ food groups – grains, vegetables, protein, fruit and dairy. Try these quick and easy, kid-approved recipes to make sure your little ones are getting all the nutrients they need to stay active, happy and healthy!

  1. ANTS ON A LOG: Spread celery sticks with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese. Top with raisins or dried cranberries.
  2. MINI PIZZA: Toast an English muffin, drizzle with pizza sauce and sprinkle with low-fat mozzarella cheese.
  3. BANANA SPLIT: Top a banana with low-fat vanilla and strawberry frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with your favorite whole-grain cereal or granola.
  4. SNACK KABOBS: Put cubes of low-fat cheese and grapes on pretzel sticks.
  5. EASY FRUIT PIZZA: Spread vanilla Greek yogurt over a graham cracker and top it with cut fruit.
  6. CRITTER CRUNCH: In a bowl, combine All-Bran wheat crackers, Cheerios, animal crackers, honey bear-shaped crackers, shredded wheat cereal, raisins and M&M’s.

Here’s a great recipe, too! See below.

Celery and Pepper Stoplight Snacks

All you need:

  • Celery, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • Light cream cheese or Laughing Cow cheese
  • Red, yellow and green bell peppers, cut into circles*
    (frozen peas may also be used for the green light)
  • Skewers (optional)

All you do:

    1. Simply spread cream cheese or Laughing Cow cheese onto each 3-inch celery piece.
    2. Arrange circles on the celery like a stoplight!
    3. Poke a skewer into the bottom to allow it to stand up (optional).

*To cut circles out of the peppers, use a small, round cookie cutter or the backside of a metal
frosting tip.

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About the author

Charlyn Fargo spent 27 years at the State Journal-Register covering agriculture, business and food. She currently is the Bureau Chief of County Fairs & Horse Racing with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. She is also a Registered Dietitian and writes a weekly syndicated nutrition column for Creator’s News Service ( and is co-owner of Simply Fair, a fair trade boutique at 2357 W. Monroe in Springfield. She has bachelor’s degrees in agricultural communications and food from the University of Illinois, Champaign and a master’s degree in nutrition from Eastern Illinois University. She and her husband, Brad Ware, have a daughter, Kate, and son, Jayden. When she’s not working or writing, she enjoys baking cookies for Simply From Scratch, a company she formed to support faith-based ministries.

View all articles by Charlyn Fargo

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