Snack Sense Tips

Snack Sense includes tips for buying healthy and inexpensive snacks, information on each of the Environmental Standards, budget-friendly sample snack menus, and a shopping guide.

Budgeting for healthy snacks

Although people worry that healthy foods can be expensive, there are a lot of healthy snack options that are inexpensive. When shopping, remember to select foods that are consistent with the Environmental Standards for Healthy Eating.

  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are inexpensive and available year-round, like bananas and baby carrots.
  • Buy canned fruits in 100% juice or light syrup and canned veggies without added salt. Stock up on canned fruits and veggies when they are on sale because they don't go bad!
  • Avoid highly processed and refined packaged foods like cookies and animal crackers. These can be expensive, less healthy, and may contain trans fats.
  • Serve tap water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages- tap water is a refreshing, healthy, no-calorie beverage that is virtually free!
  • Buy foods that are on sale.
  • Buy in bulk. If available, buy snacks from a wholesale retailer (e.g. BJs®, Costco®, or Sam's Club®). Or, buy snacks in large containers; individually wrapped "single serving" sizes are expensive.
  • Buy generic or store brand foods, which are usually less expensive than brand names.

Do not serve sugar-sweetened beverages

Why shouldn't you serve soda, juice drinks, or sports drinks? Because they all contain sugar! Sugar-sweetened drinks are the top source of added sugar in kids' diets. Drinking too many high sugar drinks increases the risk for overweight in kids. These drinks add extra calories our bodies don't notice. Soda, juice, and sports drinks can also cause dental cavities. Diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners. They train kids to crave "sweetness" in drinks and foods. Their long-term safety is not fully known, so it is best to avoid them. All of these sugary drinks are much more expensive than tap water which costs only pennies! If you do serve 100% juice, limit to 4 ounces per day. But remember, juice doesn't substitute for whole fruit.

Do not serve these drinks in your after school program!

  • Soda
  • Sweetened iced teas
  • Fruit punches and fruit-ades
  • Fruit drinks
  • Sports drinks
  • Energy drinks
  • Drinks with sugar substitutes, like diet soda

Serve water every day

Water is a great drink choice for kids. It is calorie-free and low cost from your nearest tap! Make sure that a pitcher of water and cups are available every day at snack time. Kids should also drink plenty of water when they are playing and being active. Even with a slice of fruit or splash of 100% fruit juice, this is the most inexpensive beverage option you can make available to children after school.

Jazz up water with these simple tricks!

  • Add sliced fruit like oranges to the water fruit for a light yummy flavor
  • Serve sodium-free seltzer water
  • Mix a splash of 100% juice with sodium-free seltzer water
  • Mix 4oz of water with 4oz of juice for a refreshing drink

Serve a fruit and/or vegetable every day

Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A diet high in fruits and vegetables can help kids grow and fight illness. The fiber and water in fruits and vegetables also help you to feel full. Serving 100% juice doesn't substitute for whole fruit! Some fruits and veggies are less-expensive in season, such as strawberries and blueberries. On the other hand, many fruits and veggies are inexpensive year-round. Check out the Snack Sense Shopping Guide for some examples of inexpensive fruits and veggies frequently served in YMCA after-school programs!

Do not serve foods containing trans fat

Trans fat is an unhealthy fat because it increases the risk of certain diseases. Trans fat is often hidden in packaged foods like muffins, cookies, brownies, and crackers. Some brands of popcorn and peanut butter may have trans fat too. Read nutrition labels and only select foods with 0g of trans fat. By law, products containing up to 0.49 grams trans fat per serving can still be listed on the nutrition label as 0 grams trans fat. Check the ingredient list and avoid buying any foods that list "partially hydrogenated oils"; this means there are trans fat in the food.

Look for and avoid trans fat in
these popular after school snacks... similar prices, try these
healthier options instead!
  • Saltine and oyster crackers
  • Ritz crackers
  • Animal crackers
  • Chex Mix
  • Fig Newtons
  • Graham crackers
  • Teddy Grahams
  • Vanilla Wafers
  • Cheese nips
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Cheerios
  • Whole grain goldfish crackers
  • Whole wheat mini bagels
  • Triscuit crackers
  • Whole wheat pita bread
  • Whole wheat pita chips

When serving grains (like bread, crackers, and cereals), serve whole grains

Whole grains contain fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats that are good for you and help you feel full longer. Many of these nutrients are not contained in refined "white" flour or sugar. Whenever possible, substitute whole grain products for refined grain foods; whole grains are often available at the same price as refined options. These are some frequently served snack foods at YMCA after school programs that are available as whole grain for a similar price!

Instead of servings these grains...     ...serve these whole grains instead!
  • White bread
  • Bagel
  • English muffin
  • Tortillas
  • Fig Newtons
  • Saltine crackers
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat mini bagels
  • Whole wheat english muffins
  • Corn or whole wheat tortillas
  • Whole grain goldfish crackers
  • Triscuit crackers
  • Whole wheat pita bread