Disclaimer: This post was developed in sponsored partnership with IMAG!NE, however, as always opinions are my own.
Being on-the-run is part of a mother’s everyday routine and even part of the job description. Mom: “A selfless and loving human being who must be prepared at all times for unexpected situations and is expected to be in multiple places at once.” A key lesson I’ve learned as a mom and registered dietitian is to be prepared with nutritious and portable snacks wherever we go. One of the top questions I receive from moms is “What types of snacks can I give my kids when I’m traveling or on the go?” As a mom, I totally understand what pack and go means. I’m giving you some ideas on snacks for kids that are a good source of protein or calcium, convenient and easy to carry. When life gets complicated, and you are stuck in traffic or need ideas for afterschool or a play date, below you will find some inspiration.
Why snacks matter
Snacks form an essential part of a child’s nutrition and represent about a third of a child’s calorie intake Kids have small stomachs, so it’s not always possible to meet all of their nutrition demands with just three meals. Snacks help children stay focused and energized in school and throughout the day. Moreover, snacks allow us parents to introduce new flavors and ingredients into our child’s daily nutrition. Finding snack options that we feel good about feeding our children is a must because then we know we are helping our child stay fueled with the most balanced food options!
Convenience is a must
The reality of being a mom is that you need convenient snack options that can be easy to pack in your bag. You are probably thinking that as a dietitian I would never give my kids crackers or so-called “processed snacks,” right? Well, far from it. Not all crackers and snacks are created equal. Many of the boxed snacks can be an important source of fiber, whole grains and minerals like iron and calcium. Just because it’s convenient doesn’t mean it lacks nutritional value. It’s a matter of knowing what to look for and choosing nutrient dense options. Of course, I’m a big advocate for fresh fruits and veggies in all meals including snacks. However, when you are traveling or on the go, you need options that are convenient and good for you. Fortunately, these snack options I mention next meet all those requirements: nutritious, a good source of nutrients like protein or calcium, tasty and portable.
Is it snack time yet?
Snacks are meant to be spaced out 2-3 hours after a meal and include wholesome ingredients like yogurt, whole grains, cheese, etc. to satisfy your child’s hunger. Younger kids might need 1-2 snacks a day while older kids and teens might require 3 snacks a day. So, while snacks are important, remember, snacks are meant to supplement a child’s nutrition, not replace a meal.
What to look for in a snack
I recommend snacks that include nutrients and/or food groups typically lacking in kid’s diets. Per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, calcium is a “shortfall nutrient” and whole grains are included as a food group to encourage. Additionally, protein intake from the dairy food group is especially lacking in children 4-13. A good rule of thumb is to include a little protein or “good” fat in every snack to help keep your kids going and avoid the constant “I’m hungry” plea. Add fruit, a veggie, and/or a whole grain, and you have a balanced mini meal.
Check out my favorite nutritious and portable snacks that will help keep kids’ hunger at bay.
- IMAG!NE snacks – Made from real foods like yogurt or cheese as the first ingredient, the new snack line comes in two varieties that are both Non-GMO Project Verified and contain no artificial colors or flavors. Not your typical cracker by any means, these yummy crisps offer nutrients like calcium or protein that you don’t find in many conventional crackers. IMAG!NE Cheese Stars provide a good source of protein with 6 grams per serving, almost the same as 1 egg or 1 ounce of lean protein. IMAG!NE Yogurt Crisps provide 4 grams of protein plus they contain 8 grams of whole grains. I know my daughter loves to play with her food and as a pediatric dietitian, I highly encourage kids to use their five senses to get to know a new food. Kids need to see, feel, touch, taste and even get messy with food. That is why I love IMAG!NE crisps because they come in attractive star-shapes which make it fun to eat and can spark your kid’s imagination. A kid and mom approved snack!
- Sunflower seeds–A seed rather than a tree nut, which makes this an excellent option to take to a nut-free school. Sunflower seeds are high in protein, unsaturated fats, magnesium, and fiber. Pairing them with an easy to carry fruit like a tangerine can help keep your kids going.
- Almond butter and carrots- Simple enough to carry, this option is not only high in fiber but also a good source of protein and healthy fats like omega 6. Plus, it’s a great way to add veggies to your kid’s diet.
- Edamame- Usually found in Asian restaurants, edamame comes in both dry form and fresh pods which need to be steamed and can be served cold or hot. For younger kids, they can be so fun to play with. High in iron, vitamin C, and is a complete source of protein, making it an excellent alternative for vegetarian families.
- Trail mix- Tasty, portable, non-perishable, and nutritious. This is a very easy snack to carry anywhere you go. You can even make these at home by mixing different nuts of your choice along with a variety of dried fruit and other toppings. I recommend you try pistachios, cranberries, sesame seeds, and dried blueberries.
- Walnuts and dark chocolate–The perfect mix of sweet and salty. Walnuts are high in protein, vitamin E and high in plant-based omega 3. A handful of nuts is a good portion for kids; aim to use pre-packaged mini chocolates to help avoid large portions. This snack will hit your kid’s sweet spot.
Life as a mom is a true balancing act. The number one priority for any mother is to provide the best possible nutrition for their children without compromising taste. My philosophy as a dietitian and mother is simple: Life is about balance. Snacks should be nutritious, wholesome and delicious. You need snack options that are convenient and practical but also provide balanced nutrition to fuel growing bodies. Fortunately, no matter how busy life gets, these snack options have you covered.