My kids are big snackers, and they probably get it from me! I often skip dinner entirely (not good, I know), and then spend the rest of the evening snacking—a bowl of cereal, some grapes, toast, or maybe if I’m feeling ambitious, a sliced cucumber with some feta cheese, drizzled with Olea True.
I encourage my kids to sit down to three meals a day and keep snacking to a minimum, but this is often not realistic. My mom’s most popular post ever is this one, which provides “recipes” for ten super simple, truly healthful snacks for kids. I know this list has been a game-changer for many of us, but what about those times when we don’t even have time to slice a carrot, let alone make kale chips?
For modern parents, there are simply a lot of instances when we need packaged snacks–whether it’s for handing out in the car or stroller or throwing in a lunch box.
Below you’ll find a round-up of my favorite, totally guilt-free, packaged snacks. There’s something here for every taste—sweet, savory, crunchy, soft, etc. These snacks are made from whole foods or are minimally processed; they’re low in sugar, or contain less sugar than the alternatives; the ingredients are simple, nutritious and high quality; and there are no weird additives in any of these items.
These healthy snacks aren’t just Okay Stuff, in my opinion–they are truly the Good Stuff, making me feel great if my kids eat any of them as part of a meal!
Skout bars are basically an upgraded Larabar. They’re made from seven or less familiar ingredients, plus they’re organic and have some added plant-based protein. They’re also vegan and kosher and free from dairy, gluten, eggs, fish and shellfish. There are lots of flavors to choose from, and a few of their bar flavors are nut-free.
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Not only are the SeaSnax seaweed snacks organic, but (unlike the Trader Joe’s version) they use olive oil instead of canola. Sea vegetables are a great source of minerals, including magnesium, iodine, calcium, selenium, potassium, and zinc.
Amara’s Plant-Based Yogurt Smoothie Melts are a vegan and dairy-free option that contain just organic coconut milk plus fruits and veggies. The Yogurt Smoothie Melts have whole-milk yogurt plus fruits and veggies (all organic). Both are gluten free. And bonus points for the re-sealable bags!
Popcorn is a great, whole-grain snack for older kids only (because of choking risk), but sometimes we don’t have time to make it in our hot air popper. On those days, I love LesserEvil’s Himalayan Pink Popcorn, which contains just popcorn, coconut oil, and Himalayan sea salt.
I used to wish that Larabar would make organic kids bars; these guys must have gotten the memo. Yo! Bars are made from organic nuts, seeds, and fruit (plus coconut oil and chocolate/cacao powder in some flavors) and they’re kid-sized and come in several yummy flavors. They’re vegan and kosher and have no gluten or soy.
Rhythm’s beet chips DO have sunflower oil (which is better than canola or soy, but not as good as olive, coconut, or avocado), but I don’t consider that much of a compromise if it means watching my kids take down an entire beet in a sitting. Also, these chips are dehydrated, not fried, and they’re a great source of potassium.
These bars are super popular among parents, and I can see why—they’re made from organic, whole-food ingredients, plus some food-based nutrients for extra protein, vitamins and minerals. They’re free from gluten and all nuts (and also dairy, eggs, shellfish, fish and soy), they’re vegan, and they come in several flavors. Additionally, Cerebelly products are independently tested to be free from hundreds of toxic substances, including heavy metals and chemicals. Impressive!
These grain-free chips come in a variety of flavors and are made with high-quality oil (avocado), rather than some of the cheaper vegetable oils you find in other chips. There isn’t a ton of nutritional value in chips, but considering they are an inevitable part of life, these are about as good as they get! Felix eats the vegan Nacho flavor by the bagful.
Yes, getting your kids to eat whole fruit is ideal, but I like White Leaf’s apple sauces (some of which are blended with pears) because they are just purees of organic and biodynamic fruits, which means that the farms are committed to biodynamic farming.
These almond cookies are made of spelt flour and sweetened with just maple syrup. In fact, Butterfly Bakery makes a range of maple-sweetened treats, which would be the only cookies my kids were allowed to eat if I had my way! (And honestly, I am fine if they eat a few of these for breakfast since they are more healthful than most pancakes.)
What about meat sticks and jerky?
Jerky and meat sticks are a popular, portable snack. There are definitely some appealing versions out there, made from organic and/or grass-feed meats. But—here’s the big but—I don’t recommend this category as a snack because the regular consumption of processed meats, even the organic/natural/nitrate-free/uncured ones, is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. My kids eat a lot of turkey bacon, so they don’t need another source of processed meat in their diet!
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Runners Up: Healthy-ish Snacks
We considered adding the following nine brands in our list above, but ultimately decided that they are better in moderation than as a go-to snack.
They have a variety of prepared crackers, cookies, bars, pita chips, and more. Aside from the fact that most of the ingredients aren’t organic, I do like the brand…basically what I’d be baking with from scratch if I weren’t too lazy/busy!
These are basically fruit/veg plus oat bars. The only somewhat iffy ingredients are vegetable glycerin and natural flavors. They are organic and there’s nothing bad about these bars, but the bars listed above are better.
This is another healthier brand of candy bars–they are delicious, but still candy more than snacks.
That’s it Mini Fruit Bars and Organic Apple Crunchables
That’s it makes really simple snacks. The Mini Fruit Bars are a good, kid-sized alternative to fruit snacks and fruit leathers. They’re softer, less dense, and less sweet than many fruit-based snacks. Some of the flavors are just fruit, and some have fruit plus coconut. The Organic Apple Crunchables are crisp apples in single-serve bags. I just wish that this brand were organic!
These are made of nuts, dates, and fruit (and sometimes a little chocolate) and happen to be really tasty and just the right size. Another option is Larabar Kids Bakes, which are brownie-like, gluten free, and made from simple ingredients like you have at home. The only downside is that nothing is organic.
The Sneaky Stuff
There were several brands that you guys asked about that I have to call out as Sneaky Stuff. This doesn’t mean my kids don’t eat these items–they do, and worse stuff, too! It’s just that these have to be seen as treats, not truly nutritious snacks. Here are four examples of brands that are marketed as clean, but aren’t really a health food.
Made Good Granola Bars. These are organic but a bit contrived (long list of ingredients, including brown rice derivatives and “vegetable extracts” to boost the nutrition profile; kind of remind me of the Annie’s granola bars). Not bad, necessarily, but not good enough to recommend, especially given other standouts in the snack bar category.
Perfect Kids Snack Bar. Aside from the fact that these have to be refrigerated, they are a little more processed than some of the competitors (for example, they add nonfat dry milk powder, rice protein, dried whole egg powder for protein, and some “dried whole food powders” to boost the nutritional profile). I don’t have anything against them per se, just not too keen to add them to the top list, given the competition.
Pure Organic Layered Fruit Bars. These fruit leathers are organic but are basically a bunch of fruit concentrates (from purees and juices) and are higher in sugar.
ZBars. My kids would live on these if I let them, but those are decidedly sneaky (with lots of sugar, soy, etc.).
Please share below which packaged snacks are your go-tos for kids!
P.S.: If you’re looking for one place to buy all these snacks, you should consider Thrive Market. It’s a Costco meets Whole Foods meets Amazon model, with hard-to-find healthful foods delivered, for free, at steeply discounted prices.
P.P.S.: As a littler kid, Wolfie wasn’t a huge carrot eater, unless I bought the baby ones in little individual bags. It just goes to show you how much my kids have always loved any and all packaged foods!
Hi Maia, I was curious what you think about RX bars and if they would be considered Good Stuff or not? We love them in our family. Sometimes I worry about the gumminess and dental issues, but was wondering your thoughts on ingredients? Thanks so much. Your guides are so incredibly helpful for me and my family. I have been using them for years and always recommend them to others.
What do you think of organic slammers…i have been buying the plum mash up and he loves them.But I came across this brand and liked that they had kale and greek yogurt options. However is concentrate a negative . Thank you love this site
I found those Ruby Rockets popsicles at a supermarket when my little gal was teething (and about 18 months old). She LOVED them (all flavors). I was so pleased with their ingredient list that I even wrote to them to say thank you. I always have them in my fridge now! I’m so glad that you are spreading the word. They seem like a great company, and I am glad to know that more folks will buy them because of this post. Thank you for it! 🙂