By Alandra Johnson
It’s a well-established fact: Kids love snacks.
The best snacks for children are portable, healthy, easy for kids to eat and easy on parents’ wallets.
Grocery aisles are now packed with snack choices, specifically packaged and marketed for kids and the parents who feed them.
But we wondered how these relatively new packaged snacks compared with, you know, regular food. So we put them in head-to-head races to see how these snacks stacked up.
In almost all cases the prepackaged snacks required less preparation but ended up costing more.
Here’s a detailed breakdown for various packaged snacks and some regular food alternatives, as each item tries to win the snack race into your kid’s belly. •
Crunchy, bite-sized matchup
Goldfish crackers: Ubiquitous fish-shaped cracker comes in especially handy packages perfect for small hands. Nutrition information (per snack packet): Calories 130; fat 4.5 g; saturated fat 1 g; sodium 240 mg; carbohydrates 19 g; fiber less than 1 g; protein 3 g.
Handful of lightly salted, toasted almonds: Small, crunchy nuts offer a satisfying lightly salted snack. Nutrition information (per ¼ cup): Calories 180; fat 16 g; saturated fat 1 g; sodium 60 mg; carbohydrates 6 g; fiber 4 g; protein 7 g.
Results: With twice as much protein and more than four times the fiber (not to mention one-fourth the sodium), almonds surge in front of the goldfish.
Gogurt: Easy-to-eat sticks of fruit-flavored yogurt also come with added sugar. Nutrition information (per 2.25 oz tube): Calories 60; fat .5 g; sodium 30 mg; sugars 9 g; protein 2 g; calcium 100 mg.
Plain yogurt mixed with applesauce: This yogurt requires a dish and spoon, which means added prep time. But this combo also means no added sugars or artificial flavors. Nutrition information (based on 2 oz plain nonfat Nancy’s yogurt mixed with 2 oz unsweetened Tree Top applesauce): Calories 55; fat 0 g; sugar 8.3 g; fiber 1 g; protein 3 g; calcium 117 mg.
Results: Gogurt has the clear prep-time advantage here, but with sugar as its second ingredient it ultimately could not overtake the powerful combination of plain yogurt and applesauce, which eked out a lead.
Fruit bites package: Portable, tasty, gummy and made with some fruit juice, these snacks are quite popular. They also stick to teeth, making them a dentist’s nightmare, and — at least some brands — contain corn syrup, sugar, artificial flavors and colors. Nutrition information (per .8 oz package of Sunkist brand): Calories 80; fat 0 g; sodium 25 mg; carbohydrates 19 g; sugars 12 g; protein 0; also contains 100 percent of daily Vitamin C.
Grapes: Tasty, portable and naturally sweet, grapes make a great snack. Nutrition information (per 1 cup): calories 62; fat .3 g; sodium 2 mg; carbohydrates 15.8 g; fiber 0.8 g; sugars 14.9 g; protein 0.6 g.
Results: This one wasn’t even close. Grapes are just as easy to eat and prep as fruit bites, yet their natural sugars are a far better choice than the sticky, artificial sugars found in the fruit snacks. Grapes by a mile.
Lunchable: There’s a reason these packaged cracker, cheese and lunch meat combos have been around so long. They’re easy to eat, easy to pack and super processed and filled with sodium. Nutrition information (per one 3.2 oz turkey, cheddar and cracker Lunchable): Calories 250; fat 13 g; saturated fat 6 g; trans fat .5 g; cholesterol 40 mg; sodium 670 mg; carbohydrates 22 g; fiber less than 1 g; sugars 4 g; protein 12 g.
String cheese and crackers: Get that quick hit of cheese and crackers with a string cheese and a handful of whole wheat crackers. Nutrition information (per one Trader Joe’s brand string cheese and 14 Bite Size Everything Crackers): calories 220; fat 10 g; saturated fat 3 g; trans fat 0 mg; cholesterol 15 mg; sodium 370 mg; carbohydrates 22 g; fiber 2 g; sugars 2 g; protein 11 g.
Results: Yes, you could probably find healthier choices than either of these, but string cheese and a cracker containing fiber packs nearly as much protein and less saturated fat than the Lunchables alternative, not to mention about half of the sodium. The string cheese and crackers are cruising to victory in this competition.
Bar versus PB&J matchup
Cliff Bar Zbar: On-the-go eating is easy with these bars aimed at kids, which have protein and fiber. Nutrition information (per 1.27 bar, chocolate brownie flavor): calories 120; fat 3.5 g; saturated fat 1 g; sodium 135 mg; carbohydrates 22 g; fiber 3 g; sugars 11 g; protein 2 g. (Also contains variety of added vitamins and minerals).
Half peanut butter and jelly sandwich: The classic is back! Yes, it requires some prep work, but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a pretty quick fix. Nutrition information (per one piece whole wheat bread, 1 TBS homemade raspberry jam, 1 TBS Adam’s peanut butter): calories 240; fat 8.5 g; saturated fat 1.25; sodium 275 mg; carbohydrates 37 g; fiber 4 g; sugars 12.5 g; protein 7.5 g.
Results: This one is the tightest race yet. While the classic half PB&J has more protein and fiber (and is cheaper), it also has more sugar and sodium. When you add in the prep time, we are giving an ever-so-small edge to the Zbar.