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Snacks that boost brain power

While we can’t take a test for our kids, we can arm them with the most brain-cell-boosting snacks to prepare and sustain their minds. Here are some simple, tasty, portable snacks that might make the difference between an A for alert and an F for fatigued.

Kid raising her hand in school

Want your kids to snack on healthy foods? Well, you could forbid them from wandering a grocery store, cut the cord on the television and lock down the internet, thereby eliminating all the tantalizing treats that look great but fall flat when it comes to providing an energy boost.

Wait a minute… We see that eye roll! Want a more manageable approach? Then try making these healthy snacks, then make sure they’re the only yummy things in the house. When desperate pangs of snacking hunger strike, you’ll be the hero with tasty treats that will keep energy and brain power on high!

Popular kids’ snack pins

Shelley Hill is a popular pinner parent on Pinterest with two children, ages 12 and 10. Her “healthy snacks board” is brimming with ideas, but she says her biggest surprise was discovering how much her kids love kale chips. “They taste like potato chips and my kids ate them up,” she says.

Skinny Monkey Cookies

Courtesy of

If your kids are craving something sweet, Shelley swears by Skinny Monkey Cookies, which substitute apple sauce for sugar and deliver a sweetness kick without the calories (each cookie is only 47 calories!). The recipe comes from

Shelley’s advice for helping kids choose healthy over horridly processed? “Keep healthy foods in the house at all times and stop buying the processed, chemical-filled junk that’s making us all sick,” she proclaims. “If it’s in the house, kids will eat it! Mine will blow through a bag of Oreos in one day (actually about two hours) if it’s here. It’s hard for them to choose healthy, so why not make it easier for them and just keep healthy food in stock?”

Want more sweetness? Try these healthy and yummy cinnamon baked chips with fruit salsa, first featured on!

Tantalizing treats for teens

Christine M. Palumbo, MBA, RDN, is a columnist for Chicago Parent and a contributing editor of Environmental Nutrition. After we racked up a menu of yummy and healthy snacks for kids (via Pinterest, of course!), we asked Palumbo for some teen-tailored recommendations. After all, if parents have a tough time getting their teen off the phone, how easy can it be to get them on a healthy diet?

“We hear so much about nutrition for elementary- and middle school-aged children, but teens often get short shrift,” Palumbo says. “And when you’re in high school, your grades really count!”

Quick, easy and portable

Items as simple as cheese and little bags of nuts can be the perfect snack.

“While string cheese should be refrigerated, it will keep in a backpack, purse or locker for a few hours,” Palumbo says.

“A one-ounce serving of nuts, either tree nuts or peanuts, provides about 170 calories consisting mainly of protein and healthy oils,” she continues. An easy way to gauge size? Palumbo points out that one ounce fits in a teenaged girl’s hand. Also consider snacks such as:

  • Homemade popped popcorn (pop and bag it the night before, then grab and go in the morning!)
  • Seeds (e.g., shelled pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
  • Whole grain crackers

“Even a homemade trail mix placed in a small bag is delicious and easy to pack,” Palumbo recommends. “Mix whole grain or mostly whole grain cereal such as Cheerios, Wheat Chex or mini shredded wheat biscuits with nuts (if not allergic) or seeds; pretzel rods; dried fruit such as raisins; and a small amount of candy, if desired, (such as M&Ms).”

Surprising snacks that boast a brain boost

  • Hot cocoa or cold chocolate milk made with cocoa powder

“Research on cocoa flavanols points to increased blood flow to the brain and improved cognition,” Palumbo says. “The best cocoas are those that boast of their cocoa flavanols content, not a higher cocoa content.”

  • Concord grape juice

“Research suggests improved blood flow and significant improvements in short-term retention and spatial memory testing for people who drink grape juice.” Full disclosure: Palumbo is a member of the Welch’s Health and Nutrition Advisory Panel.

  • Blueberries

“Numerous human and animal studies suggest significant cognitive improvements such as improved memory.”

  • Walnuts and eggs fortified with DHA

“The walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid (or ALA), and the eggs contain docosahexaenoic acid, both of which are omega-3 fatty acids,” Palumbo explains. “Both are helpful for growing and developing brains. A hard-boiled egg is easy to pull from the fridge and keeps for several hours if still in the shell.”

Want a quick boost? Chew on this

“While chewing gum does not provide nutrients, including calories, research suggests gum chewing increases blood flow to the brain and improves cognitive performance,” Palumbo shares. “I know that when I chew gum, I am able to think better.”

More popular snack pins from Pinterest

Healthy snacks for teenagers

Top 8 healthy snacks for teenagers

Healthy snacks for kids

Healthy snacks for kids and teens

Chocolate peanut butter protein bites

Chocolate peanut butter protein bites


Snacks that sap brain power

Palumbo says everyone should avoid caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks or coffee drinks or even caffeinated chewing gum. More advice? Ditch “mostly empty calorie snack foods such as cheese puffs or pretzels.”

More healthy snacks for kids

Moms share: Healthy snacks my kids love!
Quick snacks for busy kids
7 Nutritious snack swaps

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