Kids are notorious for their snacking capabilities. For some reason, it kicks into overdrive right after they get out of school. It probably feels like you’ve doled out hundreds (thousands??) of string cheese sticks and applesauce pouches — on top of all the other packaged chips, bars, and cookies. Still, as a parent, it seems like you’re constantly searching for more new ideas to fulfill your children’s snacking needs. Because as we all know, kids can live and breathe Goldfish for months, and then despise them out of nowhere. But if you’re looking for snacks that offers a little more nutritional value and that will keep their tummies satisfied until dinner, read on.
Here’s a list of genius snack ideas to help you survive the after-school hungries. They don’t require a long list of special ingredients. And best of all, they can either be pulled together within minutes or you can prep a big batch ahead of time so all you’ll have to do is pull it out of the pantry, fridge, or freezer. Either way, you’ll be ready.
Hummus and Veggie Straws
On those days when you just can’t deal, you can whip out this dip combo faster than your kid can say, “Bagel Bites.” Veggie Straws will give them that potato-chip crunch factor but with less fat and better-for-them ingredients, while the hummus offers a kick of plant-based protein to fend off a midday slump. Extra credit for slicing up a yellow apple and cheese to round out the food groups—and pull off the whole monochromatic yellow snack box just like Eat the Rainbow Kids — but no pressure.
Baked Apple Waffles
You say you’ve got no time to prepare a homemade treat? Surely, you’ve got one minute — that’s how long it takes for apple slices to bake into pure deliciousness in the waffle iron. Stef Pollack of Cupcake Project recommends using apples ideal for baking like Honeycrisp, Gala, Granny Smith, or Johnny, and dusting the slices with cinnamon and sugar before baking if you want extra sweetness.
Peanut Butter Cheerio Bars
These involve the magic words: no bake. These cereal bars made with Cheerios come together as easily as Rice Krispie treats, but they’re healthier thanks to the use of peanut butter and honey instead of marshmallows and butter. Since there’s no oven involved and the instructions are as basic as it gets, this might be a good opportunity to enlist your kids to help “cook,” like Amy of Twin Mom Refreshed does.
Creamsicle Yogurt Bites
Another way to get your kids on board the fresh fruit train? Give it serious ice-pop vibes, like this two-ingredient recipe from Healthy Family Project. Just take peeled slices of mandarin oranges, poke them with mini skewers, then dip in vanilla Greek yogurt (add sprinkles for an optional yet kid-appreciated third ingredient). Freeze on a parchment-lined baking sheet for an hour. Next time, try coconut yogurt for a tropical twist.
No-Waste Trail Mix
You know all those random, not-quite-empty bags of snacks clogging up the pantry that everyone is pretending don’t exist? Heather Staller of Happy Kids Kitchen came up with a brilliant solution for repurposing all those odds and ends and combining them into a tasty snack mix. Almost anything is up for grabs — cereal, pretzels, popcorn, nuts, sunflower seeds, roasted chickpeas — but the addition of freeze-dried fruit, whether strawberries, apples, bananas, or other berries, is what ties everything together. Make sure to store in an airtight container so kids can munch away for days.
Custard Yogurt Toast
Here’s an extra special treat you may want to save for the first day of school or when they ace their spelling test. Think of it as a quickie take on French toast, except the yogurt topping takes on a custardy texture that feels more like dessert. Yumna Jawad of Feel Good Foodie mixes together an egg, yogurt, cinnamon, and honey, then spoons that mixture on a slice of bread, tops it with fun fruit and an extra drizzle of honey, then bakes it for 5 minutes. Major yum!
Chocolate Chip Spinach Cookies
Now you don’t have to feel guilty when your kids ask for cookies, thanks to this egg-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free recipe from Feeding Tiny Bellies. The cookies get their green hue from a healthy dose of spinach. But, really, they taste more like banana bread with a helping of chocolate chips and cinnamon. Just be sure to call ‘em “monster cookies” and they’ll gobble them right up!
Frozen Raspberry Peanut Butter Bites
For an ice cream-esque treat that’s dairy-free, this creamy recipe from Healthy Little Foodies hits the spot. Simply puree raspberries, stewed apples (or applesauce), dates, peanut butter, and coconut oil in a blender, then dump the mixture into a pan and freeze. Cut into cubes and store them in the zippered freezer bag in the freezer so your kids can pull one out as soon as they get home from school.
Grilled Pizza Roll-Ups
When you need to turn the day around, cheese is the fastest way to get a bummed-out kid feeling happy again — especially when it’s in a fun spiral shape perfect for dunking into marinara sauce. Catherine McCord of Weelicious flattens a slice of white bread with a rolling pin, wraps it around a string cheese stick, and then pan-fries it in butter. Comfort food at its finest.
Your kids will be shocked by the surprisingly addictive combination of ranch seasoning and a plain old bag of pretzels. All you’ll need to do, says Jen of Yummy Healthy Easy, is toss the two ingredients together with a little canola oil and then bake for 20 minutes. Once cool, you can portion them out into individual-serving baggies or containers so your kids can just grab and go throughout the week.
Adding “fries” to the name instantly makes anything more appealing. The good news is that this veggie version packs in plenty of fiber and Vitamin A. Once you roast the carrots, they become sweeter and, of course, the shape is perfect for dipping into ranch, honey, or ketchup to capture that full french-fry experience. Amy Palanjian of Yummy Toddler Food says that these can be easily prepped ahead of time. Either chop carrots into sticks and store in an airtight container for up to five days until you’re ready to throw them in the oven or go ahead and roast them (on a baking sheet with olive oil and salt for about 20 minutes or so), and then you have three to five days to serve them.
Nutella-Dipped Frozen Bananas
Does it get any simpler — or more delicious — than an ice-cold banana swirled in Nutella? You can easily batch up a bunch of these two-ingredient treats, like Liren Baker of Kitchen Confidante does, so your freezer is always well stocked to fulfill a chocolate craving.
Everything Bagel Cream Cheese Stuffed Celery
Sometimes you just need a good combination to break out of a snack rut. Instead of loading up on boxed crackers or chips, Jen of Whole Lotta Yum packs a celery stick with cream cheese and sprinkles on tons of flavor with everything bagel seasoning. It’s sure to keep kids satisfied ‘til dinner.
Coconut Sunbutter Bites
So many recipes for no-bake energy balls are based on nut butter, but this one from Detoxonista uses sunflower seed butter so it’s also safe to pack for school or sports practice even if your kid doesn’t have a nut allergy. For sweetness without sugar, these also include Medjool dates and shredded coconut (and that’s it!). They’ll keep for a month refrigerated in an airtight container or up to six months in the freezer.
Yolanda Wikiel is a writer and editor based in New Jersey, where she lives with her son, husband, and cat. She has covered everything from home, food, and life skills to fashion, travel, and consumer goods for over a decade. Her work has appeared in Parents, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Oprah, and Woman’s Day.