Many preschools today require parents to take turns bringing snacks for the entire classroom — and not just any snacks will do. Many schools have students with food allergies, requiring the snacks to be peanut-free, and they also frown upon sugary snacks. In addition, some schools don't allow homemade goods and require the snacks to be pre-packaged. There are also other allergies to consider, such as dairy allergies or even those who are gluten-free. Did we also mention that teachers appreciate it if you bring snacks that aren't too messy?
Now that you know what not to bring, let's talk about what you can bring. First off, talk to your child's teacher to find out specifics and get an idea of what type of snacks she requests. Then, think about what your own child likes.
"Perhaps the most proactive approach to helping your preschooler stay healthy, energized and in good spirits throughout the day is to provide him or her with ample, nutritious snack options," says Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT and host of healthy living talk show What Would Julieanna Do? on Veria Living.
Trail mix is always a good option for preschoolers, as it often is full of a variety of healthy and nutrient-packed items. Most traditional trail mixes have nuts, so Hever recommends you make your own by mixing a combination of whole grain cereals, dried fruits, sunflower seeds and dried coconut flakes. Check with your school, but you should also be able to include soy nuts as an alternative to peanuts. Other easy mix-ins include raisins, cranberries and pretzels. You can package the trail mix in snack-size baggies or small sacks decorated with stickers.
Kids love popcorn — and it is so easy to amp up the flavor with yummy mix-ins. Denise Hernandez, a registered and licensed dietitian at The Houstonian Club in Houston, says her favorite popcorn pack consists of stove-top popcorn mixed with dried cranberries and cinnamon. Other school-friendly mix-ins include raisins, dried apples, mini marshmallows or pretzels. Easy, peasy.
The Sun-Maid Raisin 6-packs are perfect for little hands. Parents love the fact that raisins are full of fiber, iron and antioxidants, while kids love the sweet taste. As a bonus, there is nothing to chop or package — and it is mess-free, which means less for the teacher to clean up.
Other easy fruit options include clementines, grapes or bananas.
Mini bagels with individual packs of cream cheese or fruit jam are a good option. Hever also suggests spreading sunflower seed butter and whole fruit jam on bread and using cookie cutters to cut into fun shapes. You can then package them individually into baggies.
Hernandez suggests hummus on pita bread as a healthy sandwich option. You simply fill a whole-grain pita with 2 tablespoons of hummus and sliced cucumber. Cut into quarters and package individually.
Beef jerky is a great way to get some protein into a kid's diet and it doesn't need to be refrigerated like most meats. Look for nitrite-free beef jerky at stores like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.
Other easy and wholesome preschool snack ideas include:
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