I consult with a lot of parents who are overwhelmingly frustrated by the many "health food" impostors that are marketed towards kids and families (hello, Veggie Straws).
Well, today's your lucky day! I've hand-selected 19 pre-packaged food options perfect for school lunches or families on the go.
Now, I'll admit- these snacks are not perfect. Some are not organic. They may still have GMOs, oils and added sugars. Don't forget, these are still processed foods.
But when you consider what the average American child is snacking on (read: Pop Tarts and Welch's Fruit Snacks), they are definitely a giant leap in the right direction!
When you don't have time to wash and chop your own produce, pre-cut fruits and veggies are a great solution for healthy snacks. Look for brands that don't have added preservatives or sugary dips. Also, if you want to ensure your child eats their pre-packaged fruits and veggies, I might recommend avoiding packages with cheese. You won't believe how many of these I've seen go into the trash after the cheese is gone!
When it comes to fruit purees, look for brands that don't add fruit juice to the mix. The fiber content in purees with juice is often lower because juice does not contain the beneficial fiber that the whole fruit does. Fiber is essential to helping your child feel full for longer.
Fruit snacks should not been seen as a substitute for a serving of fruit, but rather an occasional treat. When it comes to fruit snacks, look for brands that use the whole fruit, rather than fruit juice, to amp up the nutrient content. Avoid fruit products with added oils and sugars. Also, stay away from snacks that don't offer a serving of fiber. Without fiber, it's just fruit candy!
Convenient breakfast options and snack bars should ideally provide your child with a balance of fiber, protein and a little fat to give them a burst of quick energy while keeping them full. Look for whole grain options, as that's where you'll get the bang for your buck when it comes to both protein and fiber. Many food companies add tons of fat and sugar to whole grain items, so watch out for that as well (or you'll basically end up with a whole grain cookie).
The best snack crackers will give your child a few servings of beneficial fiber and will have a higher nutrient content than their overly-processed counterparts. Crackers should be baked, low in fat (these are under 3 grams per serving), and free of saturated fat. Just make sure whatever they're dipping it in is nutritious as well!
Spreads are another great way to give your child a combo of fiber, protein and fat to help them stay energized. Watch out for high-fat dips without fiber, such as those derived from dairy sources.
Nuts and seeds also pack a 1-2-3 punch of fiber, protein and fat. Portions don't need to be very large here so 100-calorie packs paired with a more filling item like a banana are a great idea. To make sure your child is getting the healthy fat associated with the nuts/seeds themselves, avoid products roasted in oil. Also, be careful with flavored versions as they often have added oils and sugars. Typically "natural" or "dry roasted" varieties are best, but check the label.
Got a snack in mind that you're not sure about? Tell me about it, I'll investigate it!
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