kids school snacks

Healthy School Snacks for Kids: Recommendations from a Dietitian

Sarah Glinski, RD 

Written by: Sarah Glinski, RD 

Updated: June 3rd, 2024

Almost a third of Canadian kids’ daily food intake comes from snacks. Since this large portion of children’s daily food intake is provided by snacks, snack time is an opportunity to provide the nutrients required for healthy growth, such as protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.  

Snacking can have both positive and negative influences on children’s diets. While some studies report that snacking is associated with increased added sugar, sodium, and fat intake, other studies show that snacking can improve the intake of healthy foods, such as fruit and whole grains.  

Studies also show that kids who eat healthy foods are more likely to perform better academically. This highlights the importance of choosing healthy school snacks to ensure snack time positively influences overall nutrition. 

Read on to learn about healthy school snacks and examples of different snacks to try. 

What are Healthy School Snacks 

Healthy school snacks are important for children of all ages. Younger children have small stomachs and may be unable to get all the required nutrients from three regular meals. Older children can benefit from healthy school snacks because they need to stay alert and energized during the day.  

When choosing healthy school snacks, choose foods from Canada’s Food Guide, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean proteins, and lower-fat dairy products. These foods have little to no added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats and are higher in fibre, protein, and vitamins. 

Here are some other tips for ensuring your kids have healthy school snacks: 

Why is it Important for School Snacks to be Peanut-Free? 

Peanut allergies are among the most common food allergies in children, with over three percent of Canadian kids aged 0-17 having them. For some kids, even exposure to trace amounts of peanuts can trigger severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. 

Schools are implementing peanut-free policies to create a safer and more inclusive environment for children with peanut allergies and reduce the risk of accidental exposure. 

Peanut Butter Alternatives for Kids 

For kids who can’t have peanut butter due to allergies or for those who want to switch things up, there are several tasty peanut butter alternatives, including: 

These alternatives can be used in sandwiches, spread on crackers or slices of fruit, or incorporated into recipes like smoothies and baked goods. However, it’s important to be aware that some of these peanut butter alternatives may have been produced in a facility that also processes peanuts. To avoid cross-contamination if your child has a peanut allergy, choose products produced in a peanut-free facility.  

How to Make Healthy School Snacks 

When making healthy school snacks, try to include foods from the following groups: 

Healthy Fruit Snacks 

There are plenty of delicious and healthy fruit snacks that kids will love. Below are some healthy fruit snack ideas to try out:  

Healthy Vegetable Snacks 

Vegetables can be quick and easy healthy school snacks for kids. Try:  

Healthy Savoury Snacks 

Do your kids love savoury snacks? Try to choose savoury snacks that are lower in sodium (salt). These can include:  

Healthy Chocolate Snacks 

Chocolate-lovers, rejoice! There are plenty of healthy chocolate snacks your child can take to school, such as: 

Healthy Vegan Snacks 

If you’re following a plant-based diet, try some of the following healthy vegan snacks: 

Healthy After-School Snacks 

When after-school hunger strikes, try some of these healthy after-school snacks. 

Healthy School Snacks on the Go 

On the go? No problem! Here are some of our favourite healthy school snacks on the go: 

Final Thoughts 

Snacks make up a significant portion of a child’s daily food intake, so it’s important to serve nutrient-rich snacks that are lower in added sugars, sodium, and saturated and trans fats. Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy school snacks that are easy to make and enjoyed by kids. From fruit and vegetable snacks to savoury snacks to chocolate snacks, there’s an option for every taste preference. 

References 

  1. Mireault, A., Mann, L., Blotnicky, K., & Rossiter, M. D. (2023). Evaluation of snacks consumed by young children in child care and home settings. International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, 17(1), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40723-023-00106-7  
  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. (May, 2022). A Guide to Smart Snacks in School. Retrieved April 24, 2024, from https://fns-prod.azureedge.us/sites/default/files/resource-files/smartsnacks.pdf  
  1. Alcaire, F., Antúnez, L., Vidal, L., Velázquez, A. L., Giménez, A., Curutchet, M. R., Girona, A., & Ares, G. (2019). Healthy snacking in the school environment: Exploring children and mothers’ perspective using projective techniques. Food Quality and Preference, 90, 104173. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2020.104173 
  1. (2023, August 8). Healthy Snacks. Government of Canada. Retrieved April 24, 2024, from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/tips-for-healthy-eating/healthy-snacks/  
  1. (2021, February 26). 2020: Research Related to the Prevalence of Food Allergies and Intolerances. Government of Canada. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-safety/food-allergies-intolerances/food-allergen-research-program/research-related-prevalence-food-allergies-intolerances.html 

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