10 Nutritious Snack Ideas for Kids

As adults, we often think about snacks as something to wolf down on the go to hold us over between meals. But for kids, snacks not only help stave off hunger between meals, but they also play an important role in their overall nutrient intake.

“Snacks can provide an important opportunity for growing children and active adolescents to fill in essential nutrient gaps from a missed or uneaten meal,” says Melanie Maletta, RD, CSP, LDN, CNSC, CLC, a pediatric nutrition specialist at UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center. “Toddlers and preschoolers have erratic appetites which can make it a challenge to meet their nutrient needs with just their meals alone." A fluctuating appetite is normal for toddlers and preschoolers, but this can sometimes mean that snacks may become a larger percentage of their total food intake.

School-age kids and adolescents can have busy schedules, with after-school activities, variable lunch periods, and piles of homework, Maletta says. "This can create long spacing between meals or missed meal opportunities entirely, [which makes snacks even more important]," she says. In addition, kids are navigating what feels best to them, in the context of what's possible for their schedule. Snacks often offer more flexibility regarding portability and variety.

A recent study in Maternal & Child Nutrition found that snacks accounted for 28% of children’s total daily energy intake. “Snacks’ contribution to overall eating supports kids’ growth and development,” agrees Jill Castle, MS, RDN, a pediatric dietitian, founder of The Nourished Child and author of "The Smart Mom’s Guide to Healthy Snacking." That's why it's so important to keep different types of tasty and nutritious snacks on hand.

Snacks that offer a blend of nutrients, like protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, and plant or nut-based fats are always a good choice. “I also gravitate to whole food items or packaged snacks that are made with wholesome ingredients and contribute a meaningful blend of nutrients," says Castle. It's also important to keep in mind that no child is going to have exactly the same preferences, and not all feeding suggestions are right for all households. As with anything else, parents should consider what would work best for their child and modify accordingly.

While many of these snacks incorporate a fresh component like a fruit or vegetable, there are times when you may need to toss a store-bought packaged snack into your child’s bag. In these cases, Castle recommends going for nutrient-rich options. “One way you can determine this is to glance at the Daily Value (DV),” she says. If a snack has 20% or more DV for a nutrient, it means it’s a good source. Try incorporating these tasty options into your rotation.

Greek Yogurt and Berries

Greek yogurt with berries

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Castle likes this option because of the protein in Greek yogurt, which delivers up to twice as much protein as regular yogurt, and the filling fiber in the berries. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries also deliver powerful antioxidants that will support your little one's immune system, while the combination of probiotic-rich yogurt and fiber-rich berries will support their gut health to limit stomach aches. Since berries can be expensive and often go bad quickly, frozen berries are also a great option and just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.

Avocado on Whole Grain Toast

Avocado on whole grain toast

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The combination of plant-based fats and high-fiber carbohydrates makes this an A+ pick, says Castle. Considering that avocado is a great first food for babies thanks to the soft and creamy texture and the wide variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, E, and K, magnesium, and zinc, it continues to be a smart snack option as kids grow. Meanwhile, offering whole grain instead of white bread from a young age will teach kids to enjoy this wholesome choice. Kids can also put "sprinkles" on their bread (think: everything bagel seasoning) or use mashed avocado as guacamole for corn chips or whole grain crackers.

Cottage Cheese with Peaches

Cottage cheese with peaches

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Mandarin oranges or diced pineapple are also nutrient-rich and tasty with cottage cheese. “Combining any fruit or vegetable with either a dairy or protein is an excellent choice to build healthy snack options from these food groups,” says Maletta. In this case, the cottage cheese provides both protein—12 grams per half cup—and calcium, a key nutrient for supporting children’s growing bones, while the fruit offers high-fiber carbohydrates.

Grapes and Cheese Cubes

Cubes and slices of cheese and grapes on a wooden board.

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Cheese cubes are easy and fun for little hands to eat, plus they are high in protein and calcium. “Always encourage fresh fruit over fruit snacks or fruit tape as these snacks, while convenient, can have more than 10 to 12 grams of added sugar per serving,” notes Maletta, of why she suggests pairing the cheese with sweet and poppable grapes. They contain vitamin K for healthy bones along with choline, which is important for maintaining healthy cell membranes.

Apple or Banana Slices with Peanut Butter

apple slices with peanut butter

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There’s a reason peanut butter has been a lunch box staple for so many years—it's delicious and contains unsaturated fats, protein, and fiber which makes it incredibly satiating. Plus, you can choose a natural option without any added sugar and it will still be delicious, especially when paired with a sweet, vitamin C-rich apple or potassium-laden banana.

Deli Meat-Wrapped Cheese Stick

Deli meat slices

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For children who prefer savory snacks, Maletta recommends the simple combination of a slice of deli meat, such as turkey, chicken, or ham, wrapped around a cheese stick. This is a protein powerhouse that will provide them with the energy they need to make it through their after-school activities, especially when paired with a high-fiber carbohydrate, like fruit or whole grain crackers. What’s more, meat and poultry are two of the top food sources of iron, which is critical for healthy brain development in babies and for avoiding issues like short attention spans and difficulty concentrating in children.

Baby Carrots with Hummus

Carrots and hummus

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Hummus is made from chickpeas (or garbanzo beans), a legume that is loaded with a slew of macro and micronutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B6, delivering over 25% DV for all of these per half cup. Scooping it up with baby carrots means your little one also gets a hefty dose of vitamin A to support their eye health.    

Chicken Salad with Dried Cranberries

Chicken salad with dried cranberries

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A scoop of homemade chicken salad made with yummy add-ins like sweet, dried cranberries and crunchy celery is like a mini meal disguised as a snack, which is why it’s one of Maletta’s top ideas. Cooked chicken breast is packed with lean protein to help support the growth of strong muscles, plus it’s high in selenium, a
a nutrient that’s important to healthy thyroid function.

Homemade Trail Mix

Trail mix

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Maletta suggests mixing dry cereal with dried fruits and nuts and steering clear of chocolate chips or other candies when you make trail mix. Nuts and whole grain cereals are incredibly filling and energizing, while dried fruit will add a sweetness that makes the mix tastier, without any added sugar.

Nut-Based Snack Bar

snack bar

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A snack bar made with nuts like almonds or peanuts and dried fruit with minimal added sugar is a store-bought pick you can feel good about, notes Castle. Nuts provide more whole-food nutrition than a bar made up mostly of grains, oats, or grain-based proteins.

A Word From Verywell

Snacks play an important role in the diets of children. Making sure they are providing a range of nutrients, which can be easily achieved by combining a fruit or vegetable with a source of protein such as dairy, nuts, legumes, or animal protein, will help support your child’s development. Snacks can also be helpful for additional exposures to different textures, flavors, and foods. If you have specific concerns about your child’s dietary needs, be sure to speak with their pediatrician or healthcare provider. 

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sugar Recommendation Healthy Kids and Teens Infographic. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/sugar-recommendation-healthy-kids-and-teens-infographic.

  2. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source: Avocados.

  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cheese, cottage, lowfat, 2% milkfat.

  4. Iron needs of babies and childrenPaediatr Child Health. 2007;12(4):333-334.

  5. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, bengal gram), mature seeds, raw.

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.