Healthy snacks for school

Thousands of traditional snack foods on the market may tempt kids—and their busy parents. But because these snacks often are loaded with refined sugar, harmful fats, and artificial flavors and preservatives, they provide little nutrition.

For parents seeking healthier alternatives, the best snack options are whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables, says Matthew Baral, ND, pediatrics and nutrition professor at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. But if you want to offer other types of treats from time to time, make sure to read the labels. Avoid refined sugars (high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, or dextrose), hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats), and artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

Thankfully, healthier alternatives are available for almost every processed snack out there. This chart highlights a few.

—Carlotta Mast

5 healthy munchies

Product

Nutrition notes

Taste

Company info

Other choices

Barbara’s Bakery Fig Bars

Unlike conventional fig bars, these cookies are sweetened with fruit juice and contain no refined sugar, trans fats, or artificial flavors or preservatives.

Lots of naturally sweet fig filling make these cookies a delicious treat. Along with fig flavor, the bars come in apple cinnamon, blueberry, and raspberry. A wheat-free variety is also available.

Barbara’s Bakery has donated more than $500,000 to local and national organizations involved in environmental, hunger, and children’s issues through the company’s “Barbara’s for a Brighter Future” program.

Make your own sandwich cookies using organic graham crackers and a natural nut butter or jam.

Horizon Organics Chocolate Pudding Cups

Other pudding snacks on the market contain trans fats but not Horizon Organics’. With 25 grams of sugar in each serving, however, these should be reserved for a special treat.

If your child likes chocolate, he’ll love these rich and creamy pudding cups. And you’ll appreciate that he’s eating a snack produced without hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides.

Committed to organic farming and respectful treatment of its animals, Horizon Organics was named one of the “100 Best Corporate Citizens” by Business Ethics magazine in 2003.

Snack on low-fat yogurt, fresh cantaloupe, grapes, or other fruit.

Robert’s American Gourmet Veggie Booty

Made with spinach, kale, cabbage, carrots, and broccoli, Veggie Booty contains no trans fats or artificial colors or preservatives. Unlike most chips, Veggie Booty contains calcium and vitamins A and C.

Fans of snack chips will enjoy munching on Veggie Booty. Made with less than 150 mg of sodium per serving and no monosodium glutamate (MSG), this snack tastes less salty than most conventional chips

Robert’s American Gourmet’s other snacks include Veggie Chips, which are made with potatoes, spinach, and carrots, as well as a new line of “low-carb” snack chips.

Try puffed kamut, corn, and different grains that are 100 percent natural, contain no sodium or MSG, and cost less than most snack chips.

Stretch Island Fruit Leather

Although many other “fruit” snacks on the market contain refined sugar, trans fats and artificial flavors and preservatives, fruit leather is made with real fruit and little else.

These snacks are available in a variety of natural flavors, including raspberry, strawberry, and grape. Made with apples, lemon juice, and cinnamon, the Organic Apple Fruit Leather could satisfy any sweet craving.

Started in 1976 by two families in Washington state, Stretch Island makes four fruit leather flavors from 100 percent organic ingredients.

Try raisins, dried strawberries, bananas, mango, or other fruit.

Vruit Juices

Made with 100 percent fruit and vegetable juice and packaged in single-serving boxes, Vruit packs have less sugar and sodium than conventional juices, which often contain less than 20 percent juice. Vruit juices are also rich in potassium and vitamins A and C.

Kids will never suspect the sweet Orange Veggie Blend contains carrot, cucumber, celery, and spinach juices, in addition to apple, orange, and peach juices.

Founded in 1985, American Soy Products is the largest North American soy milk producer and is the maker of Vruit juices.

Drink soy milk, fresh-squeezed juice, or water.

—C.M.