Healthy packaged snacks for kids. Do they exist? Here are 10 convenient plant-based items you can feel good about packing in a lunch or storing in the pantry to grab for extra busy days.
We live in a busy time, where it sometimes seems like the one thing everyone has in common is that they have a full schedule, which can make it challenging to eat well.
While we’re all for slowing it down when you can, we also recognize that it can be difficult to feed your family well when you’re on the go much of the time.
That’s why we wanted to share some of our favorite, healthier snack options for predominantly plant-based kiddos, that happen to come in packages.
10 Healthy Packaged Snacks for Plant-Based Kids (or Adults!)
Here are 10 healthier, convenient snack items you can find at most grocery stores to keep on hand for those busy days…. or when ya just don’t feel like prepping ALL the things.
1. Dried Pea and Bean Snacks
Many brands are creating dehydrated pea and bean snacks in a variety of flavors (note that not all are dairy-free) and only contain a handful of ingredients.
For instance, the lightly salted plain flavor of Harvest Snaps contains green peas, canola oil, rice, salt, calcium carbonate, and vitamin C. One serving also offers 5 grams of protein and 8% of the DV for iron.
While a little higher in sodium than we would like, Hippeas makes chickpea puffs that offer 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving. Additionally, The Good Bean makes roasted crunchy chickpeas made only with chickpeas, oil, salt, and vitamin E.
2. Raw Unsalted Nuts and Seeds
Keep in mind that raw nuts and seeds should not be given to babies or children under age 5 years, as they are a choking hazard.
Alternatively, you can still purchase these and blend them in a food processor to make your own homemade nut and seed butters that are an age appropriate texture for little ones.
Nuts are a great source of health fats, protein, and fiber. It’s best to look for varieties that don’t have added salt, sugar, or oil.
3. Dried Seaweed Snacks
There are several brands making seaweed snacks, which are essentially thin sheets of seaweed that crunch and dissolve in your mouth.
For instance, GimMe Organic makes multiple flavors of Roasted Seaweed Snacks that kids love.
The Extra Virgin Olive Oil flavor is made with organic seaweed, organic extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and vitamin E.
Seaweed is also an excellent source of iodine, an important micronutrient for proper growth and thyroid function.
This is a nice option for plant-based kids, as most sources of iodine in the diet are dairy products, fish, and iodized salt (although we do recommend an iodine-containing multivitamin or supplement for children).
4. Unsweetened Applesauce
This is a pretty basic one, but with the overflowing shelves of snacks in the “school lunch” aisle it can be easy to overlook.
Be sure to look at the ingredient labels and choose an applesauce that only contains apples, and probably vitamin C as a preservative, but doesn’t have added sugar or other unnecessary ingredients.
5. LARA Bars
Although LARA makes a line of kid-specific bars, we actually prefer the nutrient composition of the original varieties.
For example, the Cashew Cookie flavor literally contains only cashews and dates. One bar offers 5 grams of protein, healthy unsaturated fats, 2 grams of fiber, and 8% of the DV for iron.
LARA has a long list of flavors, including some that contain greens. While there are many healthy options, we recommend avoiding ones with any added sugar (like the ones that contain chocolate), especially for littles.
6. Fruit and Veggie Pouches
While we’re not suggesting that these ever take the place of whole fruits and veggies, they are an easy way to add nutrition on-the-go when you’re in a pinch, especially for toddlers.
We recommend looking for pouches that are organic, contain minimal ingredients, and have no added sugar. The sugar in these should come naturally only from the fruits and veggies themselves.
Many brands – like Plum Organics, Beech Nut Organics, and Happy Family Organics – are starting to incorporate plant-based proteins into their pouches blends, such as beans, whole grains, and nut butters.
7. Guacamole and Hummus Cups
As delicious as homemade guac and hummus are on literally everything, pre-portioned snack size versions of these are perfect for throwing in a lunch box.
Wholly Guacamole makes individual guacamole packs with minimal ingredients, that pair nicely with raw veggies like baby carrots, sliced bell peppers, cucumbers, crackers, or jicama. For littles, guacamole also makes a perfect healthy fat-rich spread for tortillas.
Sabre makes individual guacs as well as hummus cups, made with cooked chickpeas, water, tahini, soybean oil, garlic, salt, and citric acid.
8. Unsweetened Plant-Based Yogurt
We love yogurt. However, while many parents look to yogurt to be a primary source of protein for kids, keep in mind that many plant-based yogurts are not always high in this macronutrient.
Like other plant-based dairy alternatives, nutrient composition of plant yogurts can vary significantly between brands and even flavors.
That being said, plain unsweetened plant-based yogurts – made from plant sources like organic soy, almonds, cashews, peas, or coconut – can be a great source of calcium, live active cultures (probiotics), and even vitamin B12 (if fortified).
What’s more, these yogurts can be great vehicles for other nutritious foods like crushed walnuts, ground flax and chia seeds, berries, or sliced bananas.
9. Chia Pods
Yum! These are a tasty, creamy alternative to many traditional lunchbox staples for kids.
Chia Pods are made with chia seeds, water, banana puree, and coconut milk. Each pod is rich in omega 3 fats and offers 4 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, and 8% of the DV for iron and calcium.
10. Veggie Crackers
There are literally hundreds of options when it comes to crackers, making it a challenge to find some that offer the ingredient list and nutrient panel you’re seeking.
We love carbs around here, but we also love it when crackers and bread products are packed with other great nutrients.
R.W. Garcia makes some fantastic, organic seedy crackers made with plant sources like lentils, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, beets, and kale.
All of their ingredients are recognizable, and they’re a nice source of iron, protein, and healthy fats while being low in sodium with no added sugar.
11. Bonus: Bananas (and other fruits and veggies)
Okay, we realize this isn’t a packaged food, but they DO come in their own wrapping! Fresh fruit (and veggies) are our absolute favorite on-the-go snack for the whole family and require little preparation.
We recommend keeping some of these on hand at all times, as they’re just as easy to grab-and-go than other packaged snack items.
Healthy packaged snacks for kids do exist, but it can hard to find the diamonds in the rough when there are so many options on shelves.
The best approach is to look at the ingredient labels to see what’s in the product, and check out the nutrition information to see what it offers.
There may not be many healthy packaged snacks for kids that level up to good old fruits and veggies, but there are some better options out there that we can still feel good about as parents.
Chime In: What are your (or your kids’) favorite healthy packaged snack foods? What would you add to this list?
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Do you have any suggestions for baby teething crackers? All the ones we saw had cane sugar as one of the first ingredients.
Yes- unfortunately they are fairly low in nutrition. How old is babe? We liked making teething popsicles at that age or giving them pepper/carrot strips to mash on their gums.
She is 9 months. Those seem like good ideas!
We have a recipe in our First Bites book for breastmilk pops– but basically just combine breastmilk (or soy milk) and frozen fruit in a blender and pour into little popsicle molds. We like these: https://amzn.to/2SVMw9T
Is there any limit to how often kids can have roasted seaweed? My 5 & 7 year olds love it! Also, I heard on a podcase recently not to be mixing fruit with vegetables a lot for babies because it may influence them to always want sweet. Is that valid at all? I thought if it was from fruit (not sugar) it was fine. I almost always mix a fruit with vegetables or beans for my 7 month old. Thank you!!
Yeah- I’m not aware of any research showing that kids prefer more sweet foods if they have fruit often. In fact, the opposite is typically true and it’s called “The Fruit Paradox”– meaning, we think that eating a lot of fruit should promote obesity and sweet cravings, but the opposite is true.
Seaweed can have a lot of iodine; which is a benefit as it’s often limited in a plant-based diet but too much can also cause issues.
Kiri Barnard says
Hi, do you have a recipe for the chia pods please? Many thanks.