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Healthy Snacks for School

School days are long for growing children with many kids having just enough time to hastily scarf down some cereal before running off to the bus. Lunch time can be similarly rushed because of the school’s need to get every student through the line. The result is often inadequate care for a student’s nutritional needs, making healthy snacks a must-have item to help children through the day.

Nutritional Considerations for Healthy Snacks

The body primarily uses carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for energy. The digestive system breaks these macronutrients into their component parts, making them a readily available energy source for a variety of tissues.

In general, carbohydrates are the most readily available sources of energy. Simple carbohydrates, which have a less complex molecular structure, lead to a rapid increase in blood sugar. Although major swings in blood sugar are not desirable, a modest increase in blood sugar levels can prevent the dips that trigger cravings, irritability, and mental fogginess (Holloway, n.d.). Complex carbohydrates, which take longer for the body to break down, then keep your child’s energy levels up for a longer period of time.

Healthy Snacks Enhance Concentration and Studying

Packing healthy snacks for school not only staves off hunger pangs but may also improve concentration and academic performance. In fact, snacks are particularly important in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Blood sugar levels typically spike at breakfast and again at lunch. However, they tend to be lower between these meals. This causes students to feel tired, irritable, and mentally unfocused. Eating a healthy snack causes blood sugar levels to stabilize (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2014).

Healthy snacking while at school results in significant changes in cognitive performance. A 2007 study found that school-aged children of low socioeconomic status who ate a mid-morning snack experienced improved memory performance during the day. Children of similar standing who did not snack experienced a mid-morning slump in which their memory and attention waned (Muthayya et al., 2007).

The best school snack is one that contains some carbohydrates and some protein, as protein can help quell cravings. For example, slices of cheese and a few crackers keep blood sugar levels stable while promoting satiety between meals. Eating a piece of fruit is another good way add carbohydrates to your diet to provide an energy boost in the mid-afternoon.

Practical Considerations When Packing Healthy Snacks for School

Many schools have policies about children snacking during class. Elementary school children may receive small snacks or a milk break during the day. For older children, parents can pack a non-perishable snack that would survive a few hours in a locker or backpack. Pre-made snack mixes are perfect for this purpose.

For instance, a small baggie of trail mix with nuts is a good way to provide much-needed protein to prevent hunger cravings. Because a fresh, juicy piece of fruit may be messy to eat at school, opt for dried fruit or fruit leathers instead. Packing a variety of non-perishable snacks at the beginning of the week is a helpful way to ensure your child has enough sustenance to get them through each day.

Recipes to Make Stellar Snacks for School

These snacks are easy to make and supply a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to keep your child satisfied and focused throughout the day.

Chocolate Goji Berry Bars {gluten-free}

Chocolate Goji Berry Bars Recipe {gluten-free}

Packed with superfood fruits and topped with chocolate, these delectable snack bars offer a crispy treat that is sweet for both taste buds and practical purposes. The berries and quinoa provide long-lasting and short-term energy to keep your child focused.
Ingredients: Pitted dates, almond butter, quinoa puffs, goji berries, raw pistachios, coconut oil, dark chocolate chips.
Total Time: 20 minutes | Yield: 8 bars

Homemade Granola Bars {gluten-free}

Homemade Granola Bars Recipe {gluten-free}

These granola bars are packed with nutritious foods and balanced to meet all the different needs your child may have as they approach a midday slump. Natural ingredients like raspberries, strawberries, cashews, bananas, and sunflower seeds all contribute to your child’s wellbeing.
Ingredients: Dried mulberries, dried strawberries, raw cashews, organic peanut butter, ripe bananas, raw sunflower seeds, hemp protein powder, gluten-free rolled oats, chia seeds, flaxseed meal.
Total Time: 40 minutes | Yield: 12 76-gram bars

Pumpkin Granola Bars {gluten-free}

Pumpkin Granola Bars Recipe {gluten-free}

Granola bars are a great way to keep energy up with a compact treat that is easy to carry anywhere. These bars feature a unique pumpkin palate that provides variety amidst your child’s selection of these convenient and portable snacks.
Ingredients: Gluten-free rolled oats, pumpkin puree, cashew butter, honey, maple syrup, dark chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin spice.
Total Time: 45 minutes | Yield: 8 bars

No-Bake Granola Bars {gluten-free, vegan}

No-Bake Granola Bars Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

Another batch of bars, these can be made without baking to offer an alternative means of making these delectable and convenient treats. This variety is also packed with natural fruits, nuts, and seeds and similarly makes use of rolled oats- but their dark chocolate topping provides an added treat!
Ingredients: Gluten-free rolled oats, peanut butter, dried tart cherries, pistachios, flaxseed meal, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, agave syrup. unsweetened applesauce, melted cacao nibs or dark chocolate.
Total Time: 15 minutes | Yield: 8 - 10 servings

Blueberry Chia Jam Bars {gluten-free, vegan}

Blueberry Chia Jam Bars Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

For days that warrant a sweeter sensation that still does not deviate from the mission of adding energy to your student’s supply, these berry-based bars bring both sugar and starches to the table to support a steady stream of ebullience throughout the day.
Ingredients: Raw almonds, gluten-free rolled oats, chia seeds, maple syrup, water, vanilla or almond extract, blueberries, cacao powder, coconut oil.
Total Time: 30 minutes | Yield: 16 mini bars

Banana Bread {gluten-free}

Banana Bread Recipe {gluten-free}

Banana bread can be a great way both to lift up spirits for a short sprint of energy and to dispense lasting vigor for a marathon of meditation. This recipe is gluten-free and packed with nuts for a crunchy treat that your child is sure to enjoy!
Ingredients: Overripe bananas, eggs, coconut oil, applesauce, almond milk, honey, vanilla extract, brown rice flour, coconut flour, walnuts, gluten-free rolled oats, baking soda, baking powder.
Total Time: 1 hour | Yield: 12 80-gram servings

Healthy Snack Selections for School

For snacks that are certain to keep fresh and that require no preparation on your part, peruse the list below for an abundance of healthsome options that are ideal for a school setting!

References

Holloway, B. (n.d.). Overcoming your midafternoon energy slump. University of Rochester Medical School. Retrieved from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=503

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2014). The influences of nutrition on productivity: how eating a healthy diet can impact your brain function, energy levels, and your mood. Retrieved from http://mitpe.mit.edu/uploads/pdfs/Nutrition%20&%20Brain%20Productivity.pdf

Muthayya, S., Thomas, T., Srinivasan, K., Rao, K., Kurpad, A. V., Klinken, J. V., . . . Bruin, E. A. (2007). Consumption of a mid-morning snack improves memory but not attention in school children. Physiology & Behavior, 90(1), 142-150. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.09.025