Healthy snacking for kids

We’re pretty good at ensuring our kids are eating nutritious, healthy food for their main meals. But when it comes to snacks, there can be a tendency to just let the kids loose in the pantry or fridge for after-school, after-dinner, weekend, or ‘why-not’ snack raids!

The food that children eat is very important. Not only do kids need fuel for day-to-day life, they also require good amounts of nutrients to support their growing body and developing brain. Energy needs can vary from day to day and kids who are quite active or play sports may have higher energy needs. Feeding the appetite of your children can be a challenge – some days it seems they are constantly searching the cupboard for snacks to fill them up!

Snacks are important

Snacks make up an important part of the diet and should be seen as a way to boost your child’s intake of vitamins, minerals and nutrients – rather than a time for treat foods which tend to provide the energy but with less of the nutrients (and often high in saturated fat, sugar, or salt).

The best place to start is with the Food and Nutrition Guidelines which provide the number of serves to aim for each day to help children reach their nutrient needs, or Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDIs). This approach means you can look to fill in the gaps from main meals with healthy snacks.

Recommended serves

Here’s a summary of recommendations from The New Zealand Food and Nutrition Guidelines. Kids should eat a variety of foods in regular meals and snacks from each of the four major food groups. Aim to meet your child’s energy needs for activity, growth, and to maintain a healthy body size.

Food group Daily recommended serves Examples
Fruit and vegetables:

Different colours and textures

2+ serves of fruit

3+ serves of vegetables

About one handful

2 small or 1 large fruit

1 medium potato or kumara

1/2 cup of salad or vegetables

Breads and cereals:

Increase wholegrain products as children increase in age

5 serves for children

6 serves for older children

1 slice of bread

1 roll, pita or wrap

1/2 cup of oat muesli/porridge

1 cup cooked pasta or rice

4 grain based crackers

Milk and milk products, or suitable calcium fortified alternatives:

Preferably reduced or low-fat options

2-3 serves for children

3 serves for older children

1 glass of milk

1 pottle of yoghurt

2 slices of cheese

Lean meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds 1-2 serves for children

2 serves for older children

100g cooked meat

3/4 cup cooked mince, beans or lentils

1 egg

90g tin of tuna or salmon

1/3 cup nuts or seeds (50g)


Remember, you can accumulate your recommended serves by having smaller portions of a serve size. For example, ½ cup of low fat cottage cheese provides around ½ the calcium you may get in a pottle of yoghurt and is great mixed with avocado for a healthy spread or dip. You may also find 50g of meat or ½ a tin of tuna fits well in your standard sandwich which leaves room for a meat serve at dinner time.

Healthy snack ideas

  • 1/2 cup of low fat cottage cheese with 2 carrots cut into sticks
  • 1/3 cup chickpeas roasted in lemon juice and herbs
  • 2-3 grain, rice or corn wafers with 1/2 tin of tuna or salmon and sliced tomato
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter on 1/2 a pita pocket
  • 1/2 a pottle of low fat yoghurt and 25g of nuts or seeds
  • 1/2 a pita pocket grilled with grated cheese, tomato, mushrooms, onion, capsicum etc
  • Fruit kebabs
  • 1/2 a pottle of low fat yoghurt and 1 small piece of fruit
  • 1/2 a cup of reduced fat milk, 1/2 a banana and 1/4 cup of blueberries blended into a smoothie
  • 1/2 a cup thinly sliced potatoes, oven baked with 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp lemon juice and herbs
  • 1/4 cup oats and 1/2 a pottle of low fat yoghurt
  • 1 boiled egg on 1 piece of wholemeal toast topped with sliced tomato
  • 1/2 cup pasta with 1/3 cup of mince and leftover veges, sprinkle with parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 a fish fillet cup into strips, coated with lemon juice, then breadcrumbs and baked
  • 1/3 of a tin of baked beans on 1/2 a wholemeal bread roll
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice with 1/2 cup of tinned tuna or salmon, leftover veges and 1 tbsp. Hummus
  • 1/2 a cup of leftover potato chopped into squares and mixed with 1/4 cup cottage cheese with chives
  • 1/2 cup of lentil and vegetable soup

Also check out the Healtheries range of KidsCare® snacks which are lower in fats than regular potato chips and are great as a tasty and convenient option in the lunchbox or when you are on the go.

1. Ministry of Health. 2012. Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2-18 Years) A Background Paper. Wellington: Ministry of Health. Retrieved from

The information contained in this article was originally published for Healtheries and is reproduced here with permission. Additional content was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot NZ.

For more information about Healtheries products, visit


  1. Alezandra 03/11/2018 at 9:41 pm

    My son eats his veggies when it’s mixed with rice. And I’ve tried mixing up greens in his fruit shakes. Yoghurt is always a good option for him too.

  2. kymmage 02/11/2018 at 7:55 pm

    My eldest is easy to get vegetables and fruits into. She has her favourites but she is never worried about trying new things either. Her lunchbox is more vegetable matter than anything else. My youngest is a bit harder and she will take fruit or vegetables to school for a trip but not to eat. That said she loves veg sticks and if she thinks it is party food she is more likely to eat it, even if she is well aware its fruit or veg. Bonus, when we go to countdown she is happy to select her free fruit piece, even if she wouldn’t eat it at home.

    Other things they like is boiled eggs, cheese sticks, rice crackers or popcorn. We try to make sure they get a variety of different foods and eat the rainbow!

  3. dawnblyth 31/10/2018 at 6:52 pm

    My boys both have had the Healtheries snacks and enjoy them. They like their wee treat of a biscuit or cake, but they are quite happy with cut up fruit and will often raid the fruit in the fridge multiple times a day and even after tea if they are still hungry. Plain rice crackers and rice cakes are also good snacks

  4. Shelz69 31/10/2018 at 2:28 pm

    I like to mix up my snacks so I will give my son a big plate (we call it the platter) after school and it will have chopped up vegs, fruit, cheese and nuts and I will also put on it a chocolate biscuit. I feel happy that he is eating the vegs and fruit and he is still getting a chocolate treat so doesn’t feel like he is missing out on treats. I grew up with a friend who Mum would not let her eat chocolate, once she become old enough to buy her own treats or figure out how to trade or get treats she went to the extremes and just would eat non stop rubbish, she has struggled with obesity ever since. So I don’t want to do that with my children, I want them to have the chocolate but learn to have other good food as well and to have it in moderation.

  5. Mands1980 29/10/2018 at 6:49 pm

    I find healthy snacks a bit harder after school as we have to get to after school activities straight away but some of these ideas we could use. If we are at home more of these can be used as are easier to do when not in a vehicle. We have a healthy tea and usually fruit if they are still wanting more foods.

  6. felicity beets 29/10/2018 at 4:59 pm

    luckily my young boys enjoy eating health snacks, although dinner time can be trickier. Our boys love cheese and rice crackers and bananas the most (and also gingernuts 🙂 )

  7. Bevik1971 26/10/2018 at 1:36 pm

    Our 5 year old seems to be eating all the time lately, may be a growth spurt – but she’s always looking for food!! Her Dad who is stay at home Dad makes her main meal fairly early in the day at about 4-4.30pm so she has her dinner early – then can have a snack or something before she goes to bed around 7.30pm. This seems to work well as she is always asking for food when she gets home from school (if she hasn’t eaten all her lunch for school she eats the remainder first). Snacks for her usually consist of pieces of fruit, plain organic crackers, smoothies etc.

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