Three plates of snacks like crackers, cheese, veggies and hummus

Snacks & Treats

3 Snacking Rules Of Thumb For School Plus Ideas For Recess Nibbles

Sep 11, 2018

It’s no secret that kids love snacks (who doesn’t, really?). And the truth is, they need them to stay energized and fueled during the day, especially during long school days. Nutritious snacks will help your child focus and concentrate in class, and help to prevent energy crashes and hangry mood swings. Although we need to set boundaries around snacking (because most kids would be quite happy with an all-day snack-fest), snacks should happen in between most meals because kids have small stomachs, but big energy needs. This is easy during the school day because most kids have a mid-morning recess, which gives them the chance to enjoy a nutritious snack.

So what should you be packing for your child’s snack at school? Here are my three snacking rules of thumb: 

  1. Must contain protein and fibre.
  2. Must be low in sugar
  3. Must be fun to eat

And here are the reasons why:

You'll Also Love: A Dietitian Mom’s Top 5 Tips To Simplify School Lunches (+ Lots Of Ideas!)

Protein And Fibre Keep Kids Full

Let’s be real, kids are easily distracted. Recess time is often spent chatting with friends and playing. Snacks have to be quick, easy and nutritious. They also have to provide kids with a feeling of fullness, so their stomachs don’t start to grumble before the lunch bell rings. Protein and fibre both have one benefit in common — they take longer to digest and break down, which means they keep kids feeling fuller longer, help to stabilize energy levels, blood sugar and appetite! Fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans/lentils and seeds provide lots of fibre, and meats, beans/lentils, eggs and dairy provide protein. When it comes to packaged snacks, I aim for at least five grams of protein per serving, and at least four grams of fibre per serving in order to provide that fullness factor.

Easy On The Sugar

Sugar is on everyone’s radar and for good reason! It is found in so many foods, especially store-bought products geared towards kids. When I look at a packaged snack food I aim for ten grams of total sugar or less per serving. Keep in mind that not all sugar is created equal. We want to limit sugar that has been added and stick to sugar that is naturally occurring — this means sugar in the form of dried fruit, for example. The reason for this is that sugar found in naturally occurring sweet foods like dried cherries and blueberries have the added bonus of also containing nutrients like fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants! Check the ingredients list for any signs of added sugar.

Keep Recess Fun

As a dietitian, I always reach for whole foods first when packing snacks for my kids. Keep whole food snacks like cut veggies and fruit fun by adding dip such as hummus, tzatziki or Greek yogurt with seed butter and cinnamon. This will add flavour, fun and protein for fullness!

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Recess time at school can be quick, so keep snacks easy and bite-sized. One of my favourite recipes to make with the kids is an energy ball. They’re quick to make and delicious. At recess time they can be quickly eaten so that kids enjoy their free time with friends. Check out my list of 20 easy, nutritious, kid-friendly energy ball recipes.

Here are other snack ideas:

  • Raw veggies, whole grain crackers and hummus
  • Apple slices with cinnamon plus cheese
  • Fruit (pear or plum slices) with dip (try seed butter with Greek yogurt and cinnamon)
  • Homemade trail mix (combine favourite school-safe seeds, unsweetened dried fruit and whole grain cereal)
  • A healthy school-safe granola bar with protein (I like Made with Local’s Real Food Bar Mix or this sweet and salty lentil granola bar recipe)
  • Grapes and cottage cheese
  • Wholegrain homemade muffin and cheese, milk or yogurt
  • Milk (I like Baby Gourmet’s Shakers because they’re shelf-stable) and a piece of fruit
  • Sugar snap peas with tzatziki
  • Banana and seed butter roll-ups (spread seed butter on a whole grain tortilla, wrap a banana and then slice into sushi-like pieces)
Article Author Sarah Remmer
Sarah Remmer

Read and watch more from Sarah here.

Sarah Remmer, RD, is a pediatric registered dietitian and owner of Sarah Remmer Nutrition Consulting, a nutrition consulting and communications company based in Calgary, Alberta. Her website and blog contain practical tips and advice for parents and families on feeding and nutrition (everything from pre-natal nutrition to teens), as well as nutritious and easy recipes and videos. Follow Sarah on Facebook for free advice, tips and family-friendly recipes!

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