It’s that time of year again! Time for the kids to head back to school and to figure out what to pack in their lunches. Finding a balance of including yummy foods that your kids actually want to eat that also offer some great nutritional value at the same time can seem like a challenge. With supermarkets offering huge selections of pre-packaged snacks, it’s tempting to take the easy way out, but they are often loaded with sugars and preservatives. But making healthy school snacks doesn’t have to be a chore. There are some super easy options that require no prep at all!
Here are some healthy back-to-school snack ideas so that your children can stay energized throughout their entire day.
1. Plant-based jerky
Jerky made from animal protein might be tasty, but it’s super high in sodium, nearly 22% of your daily allowance. It is also highly processed, which can contribute to higher risks of cancers, a chance that’s not worth taking with yourself or your family. Luckily, there is an equally as delicious and convenient substitute available: plant-based jerky. Plant-based jerky has the savory, meaty flavor, protein, and texture of animal-based, without the harmful side effects. All Y’alls Foods currently has three different flavors and requires no prep. Just throw some slices in the lunchbox, and you’re good to go!
2. Fresh fruit
If you’re a busy parent (we know all of you are!), convenience is key when prepping lunches. You won’t find a snack more convenient and nutritious than fresh fruit. Aim to choose fruits that don’t need peeling or chopping up to make it easy for both you and your children. Fruits are packed with essential nutrients and vitamins like vitamin C and antioxidants, which support a healthy immune system, plus fiber to keep their guts running smoothly. Some great options include:
Try to choose fruits that are in season to get that peak nutritional value.
3. Trail mix
Trail mix is filling, protein-rich, high in fiber, and healthy fats that support your children’s brain development. You can purchase pre-made trail mix at nearly any supermarket, but it’s also very easy to make yourself! You can batch-make your trail mix so that it lasts you weeks, and that way, you get to choose exactly what goes into the mix. How often have you purchased trail mix, and there is one ingredient that no one likes? Plus, store-bought trail mix often coats dry fruit in sugar, and nuts may be roasted in less than healthy oils.
When making trail mix, make sure to include the proper balance of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, plus the occasional fun add-on like popcorn or dark chocolate. Choose nuts and seeds that are raw and unsalted to make up the majority of your trail mix. Add a little bit of dried fruit and make sure it has no added sugar when you’re purchasing it.
4. Chia seed pudding
Chia seed pudding is super easy to throw together in less than five minutes, and it will keep for the entire week. Start with a base of chia seeds and almond milk, and from there, you can make it your own by adding the ingredients your kids love the most. For a kid-friendly treat, you can add mango and coconut flakes for a tropical delight or banana and peanut butter. Experiment with your own concoctions to see what your kids like the best!
5. Crunchy chickpeas
Chickpeas are loaded with protein, and while they may not taste so exciting straight from the can, with a bit of seasoning and some roasting, they become a fantastic crunchy snack. You can buy these already roasted up in various flavors from your many supermarkets or make them yourself at home. All you need to do is take them out of the can and rinse and dry them. Once dried, you bake them for 15 minutes before adding any seasonings to them.
Once they start to crisp up, you can pull them out, toss lightly in some olive oil and any seasonings that you like (lemon pepper is delicious), and then let cool. Crunchy roasted chickpeas are best stored at room temperature in either a glass container or open bowl with a paper towel placed over to soak up the moisture.
6. Baked sweet potato chips
Adding these sweet potato chips into your kids’ lunchbox will give them all the thrills of a bag of potato chips without the grease, fat, and salt content that comes with store-bought brands. They require minimal ingredients and can last up to two weeks in an airtight container. Peel and slice a sweet potato thinly and toss with olive, salt, paprika, and cumin (or any seasonings you like). Bake for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees and voilà!
7. Hummus with carrots
Hummus is a crowd-pleaser. Brands are coming out with all sorts of unique flavors like pine nut, roasted red pepper, and kalamata olive. It’s high in protein, healthy fats, and iron, plus its naturally nut-, gluten- and dairy-free, so it’s a great option if your kids have any intolerances. Using carrots as hummus dippers ups the nutritional value even more with vitamin C, A, and potassium. You can make the hummus yourself if you’re feeling up to it with chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and olive oil, or purchase it premade at your local supermarket. For kids, we recommend going with a basic flavor profile to start and see how they like it before experimenting with other flavors.
Healthy snacking tips
In general, when you’re choosing the snacks to include in your child’s lunchbox, try to avoid anything that is highly processed or full of added sugars. Choosing plant-based snacks, like vegan jerky, will ensure that your kids are getting a high nutritional value from their snacks without high cholesterol to keep their hearts healthy and strong! Healthy snacks do not need to be expensive or take hours to prepare. Start adding these suggestions to your kids’ lunchbox for back-to-school snacks that they will actually eat.