Kids need healthy after school snacks that refuel mind and body. They can be a handful at this time of day: tired, cranky, and hungry (seriously, school is a lot of work!).
But finding the right balance of healthy and tasty can be tricky. Ditto with serving size. After school snacks can’t be too big (they might spoil dinner) or too small ( and be unable to tame grump-inducing hunger).
The kid-friendly snacks in this article cover all those bases. They’re tasty, uncomplicated, and nutritious. Plus, they’re organized into categories like high protein, healthy shelf stable foods, homemade, antioxidant-rich, and more.
What Is A Healthy Snack For After School?
After school snacks should be nutritious and not too filling; tasty enough to feel like a treat, without actually being one (in the traditional sense, anyway).
The ideal after school snack is high protein/carbs and low sugar. High protein/carbs to refuel muscles (the brain being the most important) and low sugar in an effort to offset the sweeteners kids get at school (it adds up).
Healthy after school snacks should be easy and convenient: (mostly) painless to prepare, store, and eat on the go. If healthy snack preparation is too hard, we’ll find ourselves resorting to processed “health” bars and single serving packets of animal shaped crackers.
And that’s gonna hurt our wallets, our health, and our kids’ behavior for the rest of the day.
Can I Just Give Them Some Oreos?
Listen, I’m not here to tell you what to do. But, no. With that said, I feed my kids processed junk food (and eat it myself, too) sometimes! Life happens, I get tired, etc.
Afternoons are the perfect time to serve unprocessed, healthy, after school snacks. Kids are (hopefully) a bit too hungry to be picky.
After school snacks are often served on the go. It’s not as if youngsters can rummage the fridge for something they’ll like better.
Take advantage of this window to serve homemade granola bars, fresh fruit, and protein-rich dips.
Is It That Big Of A Deal?
Processed foods, and especially processed snack foods, are chock full of added sugar, bliss points, and chemicals/additives.
The big deal is, that those things are really bad for us.
They’re especially bad for people who are still growing. Not to go full crunchy mom, but added sugars and chemicals absolutely and adversely affect children’s behavior and their current/future health.
Check out these (damning) resources.
- Sugarproof: How sugar is silently damaging your children’s health and what you can do about it
- Sugarproof: Protect Your Family From The Hidden Dangers of Excess Sugar With Simple Everyday Fixes
- Little Sugar Addicts: End the Mood Swings, Meltdowns, Tantrums, and Low Self Esteem In Your Child Today
- Pure, White, and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do To Stop It
- Fast Food Genocide: How Processed Food is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It
- Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, From Sustainable to Suicidal
- The Hidden Dangers of Fast and Processed Food
- Why Should We Avoid Processed Food?
- Consumption of ultra-processed foods and health outcomes: a systematic review of epidemiological studies
- The Many Health Risks of Processed Foods
- Added Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease Risks in Children
- Sugar not so nice for your child’s brain development, study suggests
- Added sugars in kids’ meals from chain restaurants
A Note On Granola Bars (And a Free Mini-Cookbook)
Parents feel good about buying granola bars, thinking they’re choosing a healthier option for their families. The word “granola” denotes a health halo that makes consumers feel safe.
But that just isn’t true.
Most store-bought granola bars have as much added sugar and chemicals as their junk food counterparts. And the worst part is, since consumers think they’re making a good choice, they’ll often eat more.
You probably wouldn’t sit and eat three full-size Twix bars, but I bet you wouldn’t feel as bad about eating three Special K bars.
Don’t buy granola bars. Full stop. They’re super easy to make at home. And to make it even easier, I’m including a Granola Bar Recipe mini-ebook.
50+ Healthy After School Snack Ideas
High Protein After School Snacks
Protein is a paramount nutrient for kids’ growth-essential for the recovery and repair of muscle, skin, blood, organs, and hair and nail tissue.
Of the 20 amino acids that make up protein, our bodies only produce 11. The other nine must come from food (like the snack ideas listed below!).
- Apples and natural nut butter (anything with natural nut butter, really)
- Ish Mom’s No Bake Granola Bars (recipe in the e-book!)
- Energy balls
- Roasted chickpeas
- Veggies with hummus
- Crackers (homemade or least processed) and bean/veggie dips
- Hard boiled eggs
- No-bake cookies
- Cheese and veggie quesadillas
- Homemade trail mix (nuts, seeds, dark chocolate chips)
Antioxidant-Rich After School Snacks
Know what’s super rich in antioxidants? Fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate, raisins…lots of foods that kids are already familiar with!
These after school snacks are easy to prepare, though they may need some make-ahead cutting and assembling into containers.
- Fruit dipped in Nutella or melted dark chocolate
- Strawberries and dark chocolate chips
- Veggies and ranch (or hummus/spinach artichoke dip, etc)
- DIY fruit cups and salads
- Smoothies (add ground flax seeds/nut butter/rolled oats!)
- Apple nachos (sliced apples, drizzled with nut butter, topped with raisins and dark chocolate chips)
- “Nice” cream (ice cream made with frozen bananas)
- Banana roll up (spread nut butter on the tortilla, place whole banana at one end, drizzle with honey, roll up and cut into coins)
- Guacamole and veggies/chips/pita
- Apple pie skillet: saute sliced apple in a bit of butter, sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon
Healthy(ish) Shelf Stable Food
The better of the not-so-good, know what I mean? While these snacks are processed and packaged, they’re not ultra-processed.
- Fruit and vegetable puree pouches
- Cups of applesauce, sliced fruit in water, etc.
- Crackers with very small ingredient lists
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grain pretzels
- Fritos corn chips (check out that tiny ingredient list)
- Enjoy Life Protein Bites
- Larabars (very small ingredient list, still better to make your own)
- Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars
Homemade Snacks That Seem Like A Treat, But Are Healthy
If you’ve got some time on your hands or like to bake, these snacks are right up your alley. Though they need to be made ahead, these snacks are easy to throw in a container and go.
Most snacks aren’t linked, as there are just so many recipes available online. Pick your faves and go crazy.
- Ish Mom’s Healthyish Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Silken Tofu Pudding (recipe in my previous e-book)
- Black Bean Brownies (recipe in my previous e-book)
- Ish Mom’s Banana Bread Bars (recipe in the e-book)
- Fruit or Veg Mini Muffins
- Low Sugar Banana Bread
- Honey-Sweetened Peanut Butter Cookies
- Homemade Fruit Leather
Whole Grain After School Snacks
Whole grains are packed with fiber, which helps to regulate digestion and keeps kids feeling fuller longer. They also contain essential vitamins and minerals, including iron and magnesium.
Food manufacturers play fast and loose with “made with whole grain” claims. Don’t fall for it. Those processed grain products are all bliss points and added sugars.
These whole grain after school snacks are low in sugar and artificial ingredients.
- Air popped popcorn
- Overnight oats
- Avocado toast (or sweet potato, whatever the kids are doing these days)
- Homemade bread with butter and jam
- Baked oatmeal with dark chocolate chips
- Pitas stuffed with cheese and veggies
- English muffin mini-pizza
- Ish Mom’s Chocolate Chip Granola Bars (recipe in the e-book!)
Dairy After School Snacks
Dairy provides the creamy texture and bone-building calcium that kids crave.
- Yogurt parfaits with homemade granola and fruit
- Cheese sticks/cubes
- Healthier homemade milkshakes
- Homemade fondue: dip veggies, bread, etc, in melted cheese
- Cheese and crackers
- Cottage cheese and fruit puree/jam
High Fiber Snacks for Kids
Fiber makes it easier to poop. If you’ve ever dealt with a constipated child, you know how important this is.
Fiber also stabilizes blood sugar and reduces cholesterol.
- Applesauce (and other apple snacks)
- Vegetables and bean dip
- Raspberries and dark chocolate chips
- Frozen edamame
- Ish Mom’s Fruit and Grain Bars (recipe in the e-book!)
- Bran muffins
- Almonds and clementines
How To Make Healthy After School Snacks More Fun
Is your kid feeling a bit resistant to these new food choices? Begging for Capri Suns and “fruit” snacks? Make healthy after school snacks more appetizing with a few tweaks:
- Add color: bright fruits and vegetables served with healthy dips
- Add crunch: chia seeds sprinkled on nut butter snacks, serve yogurt parfaits with homemade granola
- Play with shapes: use fun little cookie cutters to make shapes in fruit, vegetables, bread, etc
- Enlist their help: my sons don’t like to eat spinach unless they’re the ones in charge of adding it to their own smoothies or dips
- Plan together: get kids to pick from a list of pre-approved healthy snacks, that feeling of control will go a long way in terms of cooperation
- Present attractively: I hate to admit it, but with food, aesthetics can matter; make healthy after school snacks pleasing to look at by packing them in bento boxes, arranging them nicely on plates, etc.
- Model the behavior you want to see: don’t go serving apple slices with nut butter and chia seeds and then sneak into the pantry for some of your Secret Stash (sorry)
- Remove temptations: you know what, just go ahead and throw out that Secret Stash; get rid of the kid stashes, too
Afternoons are the perfect time to offer nutritious snacks. Children are hungry after school and more likely to eat what’s offered.
By providing kids with healthy after school snacks, you give them the protein, fiber, and antioxidants they need to stay focused and energized until dinner time.
Are you loving this food and nutrition vibe? Check out these articles for further reading:
- Rawvana and FishGate: Another One Bites The Dust
- What Is Veganish?
- Vegan Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- 5 Hidden Vegetable Recipes for Toddlers and Kids
- Plant Based Grocery List [Free PDF Printables]
- Half-Ass Meal Prep With Me: A Tired Mom’s Guide
- Easy Blender Corn Pudding
- 13 Vegan Easter Treats & Desserts
Don’t forget to get my homemade granola bar mini cookbook!
You Tell Me
Have any ideas/recipes that I didn’t mention? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!