When you’re toting a small tot across the globe (or even just across state lines), one thing you’ve got to have on hand is snack food. Lots and lots of it. Because make no mistake about it: there will be a meltdown during your journey (at least one)—and there’s nothing like something yummy to nosh on to turn a cranky kid into a happy one.
But not all kid-friendly snacks are healthy—and growing little bodies don’t need empty calories. Here’s our list of the top 8 healthiest, toddler-friendly on-the-go snacks:
- Dried fruit. It’s true that fresh fruit is ideal, but when you’re traveling and need something easy to pull out of a diaper bag or purse that won’t go bad if you forget about its existence for a few days, nothing beats organic raisins or dried apricots—or, if you want to go a more exotic route, try dried mangoes, bananas, cherries, plums, or even sun-dried goji berries or figs.
- Yogurt. Regular yogurt—the kind that requires refrigeration, a bib and a spoon—is a no-no for long journeys. But Happy Baby Organic Superfoods Yogurt & Fruit Snacks offers yogurt in finger food form—and because it melts in babies’ mouths, it’s fine even for the toothless crowd. Those natural pre- and probiotics surely will come in handy, too!
- Squeeze-pouch baby food. Little glass jars and silver spoons can be a hassle when you’re on the road, but companies including Earth’s Best and Ella’s Kitchen now make squeeze & eat pouch food that can be fed with a spoon or eaten straight from the container. Marketed for babies still at the pureed food phase, products like Earth’s Best Pumpkin Cranberry Apple and Happy Baby Organic Spinach Mango and Pear are so yummy and nutrient packed that toddlers, older children and even grown-ups will enjoy them, too!
- Nutrition bars. As moms, we’re used to throwing a Clif or KIND bar in our purse…who has time to eat a real lunch when you’ve got a diaper to change, a Mommy & Me class at 3 p.m. and your washing machine is broken? Toddlers can benefit from these dense, nutrition-packed snacks, which come in child-sized portions. Clif Kid Organic Z Bars are packed with vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, folate, and other crucial nutrients. EnviroKidz Organic makes a crispy rice and fruit bar that is free of synthetic pesticides and herbicides as well as genetically modified ingredients but tastes surprisingly like a Rice Krispies treat.
- Crackers. No travel diaper bag is complete without some baked cheese crackers, like Annie’s Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies, which are made from real, organic cheddar and don’t have preservatives. If your pediatrician has given you the green light to give your child peanut butter, Late July’s Organic Mini Peanut Butter Crackers are the perfect size for tiny hands.
- Cereal. Typecast as a breakfast food, dry cereal also makes a great travel snack. It’s crunchy and munchy and is often more nutritious than your typical starchy snack. Kay’s Naturals Better Balance Protein Cereal in Apple Cinnamon will remind you of Apple Jacks, but it’s got 9 grams of protein and contains 8% of the USDA recommended iron for adults. Mom’s Best Naturals Mallow Oats, meanwhile, is a more nutritious alternative to cereals like Lucky Charms—and contain 10% of the USDA recommended daily allowance for calcium (so don’t feel too bad if you don’t serve it with milk!).
- Jerky. If you’re not vegetarian, jerky is a great snack for older toddlers (with all their teeth.) You can find several brands that are low in fat, minimally processed, without added hormones or MSG. Our family likes to snack on Golden Valley’s natural turkey jerky.
- Lollipops. Okay, I’ll admit it. I recently flew with my 2-year-old from Fort Lauderdale to Philadelphia, and there’s no way he would have sat so nicely for the 3-hour plane ride if I didn’t keep him steadily supplied with lollipops. If you’ve got a squirmy kid who isn’t used to sitting still for long periods of time, I highly recommend Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops, which in addition to containing the expected sugary deliciousness, actually contains organic fruits and vegetables, too. What a great way to sneak in some beets and carrots while ensuring peaceful travels for everyone in the family.
Jorie Mark is the Creative Director of Vitacost.com and mother to three children, ages 2 to 10.