School Snacks for Kids

By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD

A Vegetarian Resource Group member contacted us asking for ideas for snacks that their vegan child can bring to school for snack time. Snacks cannot be chips/popcorn, cannot have peanuts or tree nuts, and must be low-sugar. 

We’re happy to help with some ideas.
If you have other suggestions, please add them in the comments section. All
snacks listed appear to be nut-free, peanut-free, vegan, and have 5 grams of
added sugar or less per serving. Be sure to check product labels since
ingredients can change over time.

My preference is for snacks with
minimal packaging or packaging that can be reused. I’ve included some packaged
snacks that some may want to use for convenience or to support the child who
wants snacks that look like what other kids are bringing.

When brand names are listed below,
they’ve been included to provide some examples of products. This is not an
all-inclusive list of products.

  • Fruit can be a
    refreshing snack. Make sure it’s easy to eat – cut seedless grapes into small
    bunches, slice oranges, make a fruit cup with melon chunks or berries. Choose
    seasonal fruits – apple slices sprinkled with lemon juice to keep them from
    browning in fall, clementine sections in winter, strawberries in late spring.
    Even canned or jarred unsweetened fruit can work – try juice-packed pineapple
    chunks or unsweetened applesauce with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • One of my kids’
    favorite snacks were home-grown grape tomatoes which are even smaller than
    cherry tomatoes. Grape or cherry tomatoes can be sent with a dip like hummus
    for a savory snack. Other vegetables also make good hummus dippers – carrot and
    celery sticks, jicama sticks, cucumber slices, red pepper strips. Since hummus
    comes in many flavors, this snack can be different each week.
  • Mini bagels
    thinly spread with vegan cream cheese. Check the vegan cream cheese ingredient
    list since many have nuts as a base. Tofutti
     and Violife
    both make nut-free products that have 0 grams of added sugar.
  • Roast chickpeas
    or other cooked or canned dried beans by mixing rinsed and well-drained beans
    with a little olive oil, nutritional yeast, and a dash of salt; spreading them
    on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer and baking at 400 degrees
    about 30 minutes or until crisp. You can add different spices. These can be
    eaten by the handful.
  • If you’d prefer a
    commercial product, Seapoint Farms makes dry roasted edamame.
  • Dry roasted
    pumpkin seeds are another snack that can be eaten by the handful as long as
    your child is old enough that these aren’t a choking hazard. Eden
    Foods
    has various size
    bags of pumpkin seeds including a 1-ounce single-serve bag.
  • Make a cereal
    mix, choosing low-sugar cold breakfast cereals and adding raisins or other
    unsweetened dried fruits. Have your kids help – maybe they’ll even want to name
    their recipe.
  • Homemade muffins
    – banana, corn, blueberry, oatmeal, carrot – for example. Avoid nuts, nut
    butters, or nut milks or very sugary recipes. Mini-muffin pans are nice for
    snack-size muffins. Make a batch and freeze them so they’re always handy when
    you need to pack a snack.
  • Store-bought or
    homemade bread sticks with a refried bean dip. Amy’s Kitchen has lower sodium refried beans.
  • Seedy crackers or
    rice cakes thinly spread with tahini or sunflower butter and made into a
    sandwich. Rice cakes can also be eaten plain. I’ve found Lundberg Family
    Farms
    Tamari with
    Seaweed Rice Cakes and Real Foods
    Multigrain Corn Thins to be especially tasty. Lundberg Farms also has mini-rice
    cakes and thin stackers – just watch for lots of added sugar in the sweet
    varieties.
  • Baked tofu strips
    either homemade or commercial
  • Vegan jerky
    (check label for nut ingredients or excess sugar). Savory Wild Jerky is made with mushrooms; there are many
    varieties of vegan jerky.
  • Commercial low
    sugar fruit leather, fruit bars, or fruit wraps – here are a couple of products
    that meet our criteria (vegan, nut/peanut-free, <5 grams of added
    sugar/serving):

    • Trader Joe’s
      Fruit Bar
    • Trader Joe’s
      Fruit Wrap
  • Commercial snack
    bars – here are a few brands we found that have vegan, nut-free, low-sugar
    versions (check the label since not all of these companies’ products are
    nut-free and low-sugar):

If you’re looking for more ideas and
are interested in making your own snacks, this website has a lot of low-sugar, kid-friendly ideas.
Look for recipes without nuts or nut butters like the Lea Bars, Unbaked Granola
Bars (make with suggested substitution for nut butter), and Magic Green
Muffins.