The playground is a great place for children to engage in active, social play. Studies show children who play outdoors on a regular basis are less likely to become overweight and more likely to develop healthy habits that will benefit them throughout their lives. As parents, our goal is to help children find more opportunities to play and to play as long and as frequently as possible. Providing healthy snacks during play is one way to make sure children stay "fueled up" and eliminates the need to leave the playground every time you hear "Mom, I'm hungry!" It's also a great way to eliminate unhealthy, sugary and processed food choices that contribute to childhood obesity.
Here are 35 snack ideas that are easy to prepare, pack and carry with you to the playground. Remember to always keep snacks in sealed reusable containers and discard unused or dropped snacks in appropriate litter bins. Look for seating areas outside of the playground for snack time and don't eat snacks on playground equipment. Keeping the playground area clean is good etiquette and helps ensure the playground is enjoyable for other families.
Fruits and Vegetables:
- Apple slices and peanut butter (or almond butter, sunflower butter or other spread if allergies are present NOTE: some communities restrict the use of peanut butter in public recreation spaces due to potential allergies of patrons). You can save time with prepackaged apple slices and individual servings of peanut butter.
- Carrots (delicious with hummus!)
- Grapes (quarter and slice if children are under 5)
- Celery (add peanut butter and raisins for a fun "ants on a log" treat)
- Strawberries (with or without yogurt)
- Honeydew Melon
- Raw Sugar Snap Peas (sweet, crunchy and delicious hand-held snack)
- Frozen Peas (just toss them in a container and they make a healthy, cool and crunchy snack!)
- Unsweetened Raisins
- Whole Grain Crackers (Triscuits, Multi-Seed, Ak-Mak, Whole-Wheat Matzos, Brown Rice Crackers/Snaps, Whole-Grain Rye Crackers, etc. topped with cheese, peanut butter, or cream cheese)
- Popcorn (it doesn't get much more whole grain than popcorn)
- Puffed Whole Grain Cereal (corn, brown rice, wheat or millet variety)
- Brown Rice Cakes
- Whole-Wheat Pretzels
Nuts and Seeds:
- Pine Nuts (delicious when lightly toasted!)
- Sesame Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Nut Trail Mix including Dried Fruit
- Hard-Boiled Eggs
- Garbanzo Beans
- Cheese (cubes or sticks…with or without crackers)
- Turkey jerky
With a little preparation and planning, you can create a bag filled with real food snacks that will keep your children active and healthy. Make sure to pack something for yourself, too. You've earned it!