Family home resting, living.
Family home resting, living. Credit: rawpixel via 123RF

There’s no way around it—kids love to snack. Take advantage of their bottomless snack stomach to teach them how to choose and prepare healthy snacks independently. Understanding how different foods work in our bodies is essential to building good lifelong dietary habits.

These four snack recipes are perfect for introducing independent snacking. They’re easy to make, taste great, and help kids remember four simple ideas for how (and why) we choose our snack ingredients.

Foods with lots of water are great! — “Ants on a log”

This classic afternoon snack has stood the test of time for a reason—it’s fun, delicious, nutritious, and easy! All you need are celery sticks, peanut butter (buy a no-sugar-added variety), and raisins. Kids of all ages can help make this snack; tots under about age 6 will need help cutting the celery, but otherwise, everything is safe and simple.

Take this opportunity to discuss the benefits of foods that have a high water content, like celery. Your kids will see, taste, and feel how much water this vegetable contains, so point out why our body needs water and the fact that high water-content foods can help us feel full longer.

If kids are packing this snack for school, have them place two pieces together with the peanut butter sides touching; that way it won’t smear all over the bag before it’s time to eat!

Fiber and protein help us stay full — Sliced fruit with ricotta cheese

Kids are often eager to eat fruit for a snack since it’s usually sweet. While this is a great option, help them learn to add some protein to their snacks by including ricotta cheese. Discuss the role that protein plays in helping build muscle and providing long-term energy to our bodies.

Fruits like apples, pears, and peaches all taste delicious paired with the creamy texture of ricotta, and your kids can easily add a big dollop of the cheese on top of fruit slices (that the older ones can cut). A fruit and ricotta snack is well-balanced since it provides lots of fiber, water, and protein—all things that help keep us full until the next meal!

If kids are packing this snack for school, spoon some ricotta into a small container for transport and let them dip their fruit slices at snack time.

Eating a variety of colors is key — Fruit and veggie smoothie

Smoothies always seem like such an indulgent treat, so let your kids take the lead making their own with ingredients they prefer. Making this snack is a great introduction to the idea that fruits and veggies have different colors partly because they have different nutrients, so including a variety of colors in our snacks helps us have a balanced diet. For example, spinach is a perfect vegetable to include in smoothies since it’s high in vitamins, yet doesn’t leave a strong flavor in the finished product (try this recipe for inspiration!).

Encourage your kids to take pictures of their various smoothie colors over the years to see if they can fill out the whole rainbow! Smoothies are also a great way to use up slightly over-ripe or wilted foods, teaching your kids to be careful consumers. Buying a bullet-style blender makes it easy for kids to complete the whole process independently, and the cups can be easily closed up for transport.

Choose Whole Grains — Turkey and avocado roll-up

For a hearty snack that’s easy to make, have your kids learn to prepare these turkey and avocado roll-ups. Kids as young as age 6 can learn to safely and easily scoop out avocado (or buy premade guacamole that doesn’t have any added ingredients), and nothing else in this snack needs cutting or prep.

Use whole-wheat tortillas and explain to your kids the difference between whole grains and refined grains; a big difference is that whole grains can help us feel full longer because our body takes longer to process that food through its system. Spread some avocado (full of great vitamins!) on the tortilla, top with turkey (or other protein of choice to help provide muscle fuel), and roll it up!

These are easy snacks to pack for school since they’re so compact.

Whether you make these exact recipes or some variation, take the time to teach your kids about why they’re choosing certain ingredients for their snacks. They’ll be able to independently curb that snack attack in no time!