This post is by Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author of The Snacktivist’s Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home. She also collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Whether your child attends a half-day or full-day preschool program, there’s probably a snack involved. Preschool snacks are designed to encourage community in the class, teach table manners and sharing, and even build gross and fine motor skills as kids help pour drinks and serve food. Snacks also help keep children nourished between meals, especially during full-day preschool.
Unhappy with the Snacks at Preschool?
I hear from many parents who say they’re unhappy with the snacks served at their child’s preschool—foods like cookies, vanilla pudding, and gummy fruit snacks that they wouldn’t serve at home. Many of these foods contain added sugar and ingredients like synthetic foods dyes that many parents avoid. Some preschools also serve juice, which is a growing concern among health experts, who say kids get too many calories and too much sugar from juice.
If you’re not pleased with the snacks your child gets at preschool, I urge you to talk to your child’s teacher or the preschool director. Be polite about expressing your concerns and ask if there’s a way you can work together. It’s always helpful to come with ideas and a willingness to help. If the preschool provides snacks, there may be budget and time constraints that could make something like sliced fresh fruit impossible—but unsweetened applesauce cups could work instead. If parents take turns providing snacks, the teacher might be on board with sending out a list of healthy suggestions.
20 Healthy Preschool Snacks
Here’s a list of 20 healthy preschool snacks to get you started (get a free printable of this list you can pass along to preschool teachers and directors):
- Apple slices with sunflower butter
- Fruit cups: Look for mandarin oranges, pineapple, and pears packed in juice
- Cups of unsweetened applesauce
- Plain yogurt portioned into cups (top with fresh fruit and maple syrup if desired)
- Sliced or chopped veggies such as carrot sticks, cucumbers, and peppers
- Whole grain crackers and cheese
- Whole grain cereal
- Whole wheat pita triangles with hummus
- Cottage cheese with cut fruit
- Fresh baked whole-grain mini muffins
- Pinwheel sandwich wraps: Place a slice of deli meat and cheese on a whole grain tortilla, roll up, and slice.
- Trail mix made with whole grain cereal pieces, dried fruit, and whole grain pretzels
- Mashed avocado and whole grain crackers
- Air-popped popcorn
- Ants on a Log: Stuff spreadable cheese or sunflower butter inside celery sticks and dot with raisins or dried cranberries.
- Green Smoothies: Blend spinach, bananas, pineapple, and water.
- Salsa and toasted whole grain pitas
- Fruit salad: Fill ice cream cones or paper cups with a mix of berries and cut fruit.
- Bananas: Write each kids’ name on it with a marker for fun.
*Always check with your child’s preschool concerning their policy on nuts, tree nuts, and other allergens before bringing any food.
If you’re unhappy with the snacks your child gets in other places—like on sports sidelines and at summer camp—check out my e-book The Snacktivist’s Handbook, the ultimate toolkit for any parent wanting to make a change to the typical junk food snack culture in youth sports, at school, at camp, and even improve snacking at home. It’s available as a digital download or a full-color paperback and includes more than 75 pages of ideas, printables, emails to send to coaches, teachers, and camp directors, and a week’s worth of snack recipes.
What has your experience been like with snacks at preschool? Tell us in the comments!