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Healthy Snack Ideas

Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN)

June 11, 2024

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Healthy snacks taste delicious and fuel children’s growing bodies, laying the foundation for a lifetime of healthy choices. The Institute of Child Nutrition’s Mealtime Memo explores practices to incorporate nutritious, fun, and creative snacks into menus. 

Plan for Variety, Nutrition, and Appeal 

Balancing variety, nutrition, and appeal is necessary to help provide a varied and healthy menu. Check out these helpful tips. 


  • Serve different foods throughout the day and week. Try not to repeat.  
  • Vary the forms of foods (e.g., raw vs. cooked).  
  • Introduce new foods with familiar foods. 


  • Serve a variety of vegetables and fruits.  
    • A USDA best practice is to serve a vegetable or fruit for at least one of the two required components of a snack each day.  
    • A fruit and vegetable can be served as the two components at a CACFP snack. For example, you can serve carrots and grapes or apple slices and jicama sticks.  
    • Serve a rainbow of colors. The different colors provide an array of vitamins and minerals essential for good health.  
    • Include whole fruits and veggies (fresh, frozen, canned) instead of juice.  
  • Include a variety of whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, popcorn) and meat alternates (beans, peas, lentils, eggs, nut butters, tofu, yogurt).  
  • Reduce highly processed (high-fat, high-salt, and high-sugar) foods and prepare recipes from scratch.  
  • Serve water with snacks when the two creditable meal components do not include a beverage. This provides a more filling snack while water satisfies thirst. Remember, water does not meet a meal component requirement, but keeping children hydrated keeps them healthy. 


Offer foods that create contrast through different shapes, colors, textures, and tastes. 

  • Explore different shapes—square, rectangle, cube, round, and wedge-shaped.  
  • Include a spectrum of colors—yellow, orange, red, green, purple, blue, white, and brown.  
  • Provide foods with various textures—soft, fluffy, crunchy, crisp, creamy, and smooth.  
  • Introduce diverse tastes—mild, sweet, sour, salty, spicy, starchy, and tart. 

Healthy and Fun Snack Ideas 

Here are some fun, festive, and creative categories for healthy snack ideas. 

Theme Names 

Give snack items festive names that coincide with seasons (fall, winter, spring, and summer) and holidays (Halloween, Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc.). Here are some examples: 

  • Seasons: Frosty fruit salad, warm apples with cinnamon, cool cantaloupe, refreshing raspberries  
  • Halloween: Ghoulish grapes, mummy mangoes, gooey guacamole, monster mashed potatoes, kooky kiwi cups  
  • St. Patrick’s Day: Green pepper four-leaf clovers, green foods (avocados, green grapes, green apples, honeydew melon, kiwi, peas, spinach)  
  • Independence Day: Red, white, and blue fruit pizza (strawberries, bananas, and blueberries) 

Nontraditional Snacks 

  • Pasta salad, sandwich, salad, soup, or wrap  
  • Pita or pocket bread can be used to hold small salads or sandwich fillings.  
  • Veggie rollup (whole wheat tortilla, nut or seed butter, vegetable slices)  
  • Breakfast for snack  
  • Pancakes or waffles topped with mixed berries, chopped mango, or applesauce  
  • Cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt with berries, peaches, or bananas  
  • Breakfast burrito (whole wheat tortilla, brown rice, scrambled eggs, cheese, salsa, and veggies) 

Fun With Dips 

  • Apples or celery and nut butter  
  • Zesty zucchini strips and cottage cheese  
  • Jicama strips and ranch dip (yogurt with ranch seasoning)  
  • Guacamole and toasted pita wedges 


For more information, read ICN’s June Mealtime Memo.