Whether it's after school, before bedtime, or midnight, someone's bound to be raiding the fridge or the pantry for a snack. When that someone is a teenager or college student, that ups the ante for making sure those foods are healthy. Otherwise, in their rush to get to their smartphones, a sporting event, a study group, or an outing with friends, they’re going to reach for a bag of chips or a sugary soda rather than hitting the fruit bowl or the veggie drawer to satisfy their hunger pangs.
Finding snacks that provide nutrition, taste great, and fit into busy schedules is challenging. Right now, my kids are still in elementary school. It's a worthy cause, though. When you've instilled healthy habits throughout your children's lives, it increases the chance that they'll take those habits with them when they go off on their own. Below, we’ve listed our top eight healthy snacks for older kids and grown kids alike that will not only satisfy their hunger but also fuel them with important nutrients.
1. Peanut Butter and Banana
Peanut butter is a classic when it comes to healthy snacking. You can spread it on whole-grain toast, put it in smoothies, or even make a spicy sauce for your favorite noodle (buckwheat is a great choice). Our vote goes to a whole-food vibe by simply smearing it on a banana. Peanut butter is high in healthy monounsaturated fats as well as protein at 7 grams per two-tablespoon serving, and bananas provide potassium and vitamin B6.
Want to step up the health factor? Make your own peanut butter out of natural, wholesome ingredients, or get creative and make spreads from other healthy nuts. Almonds for example, make a great creamy spread.
Hummus is a slam dunk when it comes to snacking. It's salty, creamy, and versatile. You can use it as a dip for a variety of veggies, a spread for sandwiches, or even as a mix-in with your favorite salad dressing for an extra-flavorful, creamy kick.
For teens and college kids on the go, a quick hummus wrap is a great option. Just spread hummus on a whole-grain tortilla, sprinkle on a handful of pre-cut shredded carrots (plus a spoonful of feta cheese if you'd like), roll it up, and head out the door. If you're feeling extra ambitious, make a batch of homemade tortillas (they freeze beautifully). They taste amazing and are easier to make than you might think. You can also use grain-free tortillas, which can be found in the freezer section of most groceries.
Smoothies are the go-to for packing in a ton of nutrition on the go. There are endless combinations of fruits and vegetables that create an equally endless list of delicious smoothies. There are no rules here. The only recommendation is to keep frozen fruit on hand to throw into the blender at a moment's notice. Another pro tip: Make sure to have smoothie-friendly cups and large straws readily available to hand off to kids running out the door. For an eco-friendly choice, reusable, metal straws with silicone tips are great.
A common add-in for smoothies is protein or superfood powder. Not only does it add nutrition but it also benefits the texture by adding some thickness. Complete by Juice Plus+ is a solid choice here to add an extra boost of protein and fiber from whole-food sources.
Guacamole is a one-two punch of flavor and healthy fat. It couldn’t be easier to make, and it’s a great healthy alternative to other creamy and fatty dips, such as the fan-favorite ranch dressing.
We all know guacamole as the perfect companion for tortilla chips. Although a tortilla chip is hard to resist, they are deep-fried, which knocks them out of the running for a healthy choice.
The good news is, guacamole can be used in a variety of ways that will please the palates of older or grown children. Of course we can't talk guac without mentioning the ubiquitous avocado toast. It's that popular for a reason: It's fast and healthy, plus the toast provides the crunch factor that everyone craves. It's also a great stuffer for a quick breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs and a little cheese on a whole-grain, grain-free, or homemade tortilla.
5. Trail mix
Trail mix is another classic snack that's great to keep around for after school or between college classes when a meal isn't feasible. It's also highly customizable for taste, allergies, and texture. It's easy and economical to make your own instead. Plus, homemade trail mix allows you to mix and match ingredients you already have in your pantry.
The basic recipe for trail mix is nuts and dried fruit. Chocolate or cacao nibs is a frequent add-in, as are seeds, bits of crunchy rice or sorghum, and dried chickpeas or edamame. Nuts provide protein, which breaks down in the body slower than carbohydrates, making it a prime pick for maintaining energy. Fruit lends a hint of sweetness. Make a big batch of trail mix ahead of time and dole out individual servings as needed, or portion it out in reusable snack bags or containers.
6. No-bake Cookies
No-bake cookies have a lot going for them. They have the timeless combination of chocolate and peanut butter. They're portable. And, the obvious winner for busy parents or students: They require no baking.
It doesn’t take a lengthy web search to discover that plenty of food bloggers have revisited this easy recipe and transformed it into a nutritious treat. Today's no-bake cookies provide an ingredient list that's short on items (always err on the side of "the fewer ingredients, the better") but tall on taste. The nutritional profile is nothing to smirk at either, including fiber from oats, antioxidants from dark chocolate, protein from peanut butter, and good fats from coconut oil. Mix up a batch, plop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet, let it set, and keep in the fridge or freezer for whenever you need a salty-sweet snack fix.
What’s your go-to healthy after-school snack? Let us know in the comments!