Another summer is almost in the rearview mirror, which means that the daily ritual of backpacks and lunchboxes is just up the road. For those of us who need to pack snacks for our younger kids each school day, the choices can be a little bit overwhelming. But they don’t have to be. Follow these simple guidelines, and your kids can stay energized with healthy snacks that don’t take forever to pack, and won’t end up uneaten and wasted.
First, make it tasty. Pack snacks that your elementary school kids will want to eat and that you know that they like and aren’t likely to waste. Air-popped popcorn is one great option. It is packed with fiber and antioxidants, without all of the butter, sodium and calories of theater-style popcorn. Trail mix is another good option, although you will have to substitute granola, pretzel, or pumpkin or sunflower seeds if your child is in a nut-free environment. And be sure to throw a couple of chocolate chips in there so your kids will be excited to eat it.
Second, keep it simple. You don’t have unlimited time to prepare and pack snacks. Even if you are going to make your kids’ snacks from scratch, use an easy recipe with a small number of ingredients. There is no need to construct a multi-course meal.
Third, make it healthy. Healthy doesn’t mean bland anymore, and there are loads of choices for healthy snacks that are tasty too. Dried fruit, veggie puffs, baked corn or rice puffs, carrots, sliced apple, banana, grapes and squeezable applesauce are all delicious and healthy, and the fruit options contain natural sugar without the crash. For energy, granola is a healthy source of carbs, as are baked and whole grain crackers. Save the protein for meal time, and avoid candy bars and sugary drinks.
Fourth, make sure your kids’ snacks are appropriately sized. Just as you don’t have unlimited time to prepare your kids’ snacks, grade school kids don’t have unlimited time to eat them. They don’t need much–just enough to tide them over until their next meal and give them enough energy to make it to the end of the school day. Pack one item that can fit into a standard sized sandwich bag or small reusable plastic container and can be eaten in less than five minutes, along with a small container of water.