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Granola goodness and other healthy back-to-school snack tips

August 9, 2018

Granola bars should have around 200 calories and 12 or less grams of sugar, ideally.

Anita Ratterman, RDN, CSO, LDN, Oncology Critical Care Dietitian

As summer winds to an end and a new school year starts, it’s time to start planning for school lunches and snacks.

Snacking can be a great way to keep hunger at bay or give us the energy to get through an after-school activity or team practice.

Most of us snack throughout the day. Since snacking is so much a part of how we eat, it’s important to be smart about the snacks we choose. 

What makes a smart snack?

A smart snack should help to fill nutrient gaps. Be smart about what you snack on by choosing nutrient-rich foods, like fruits and veggies, whole grains and nuts that help nourish your body.

A smart snack should fit your lifestyle. Snacking shouldn’t be a hassle, so figure out what works best for you or your student.

If you or your kids are always on the go, find snacks that are portable, easy to eat and don’t need to be refrigerated.

A smart snack should taste good. Research shows that taste is the most important factor when choosing foods, so don’t torture yourself with snacks you don’t like. Find snacks you enjoy and look forward to eating.

Smart snack options

  • Berries with yogurt and homemade granola
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Apple or banana with nut butter
  • Nuts with dried fruits
  • Salsa with fresh veggies or whole grain chips
  • Whole grain crackers and cheese
  • Whole grain tortilla with lean meat and low-fat cheese

It is often easy and tempting to grab an energy bar as a quick snack. Read the label carefully as some bars tend to be more like a candy bar than a healthy snack.

Look for bars with:

Whole ingredients

As you glance at the nutrition label, look for whole, real ingredients with names you recognize, like nuts, seeds and fruit.

Around 200 calories

Remember, energy bars aren’t meals, they’re snacks. So while you don’t want a bar that packs a meal’s worth of calories, you do want one that has enough calories to stave off hunger and boost your energy.

Low in sugar

Many energy bars sneak in extra sugar. Aim for a bar with no more than 15 grams of sugar, but 12 grams or less is even better. Speaking of sweet stuff, avoid bars with high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners in the ingredients list.

Full of fiber

Fiber is what keeps you feeling fuller, longer, so check that your chosen bar has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.

Packed with protein

Protein is another nutrient that crushes hunger. It’s especially important if you’re grabbing a bar for a post-workout snack. Consuming protein right after you exercise helps you repair and rebuild muscle. Look for bars with 5 grams or more of protein per serving.

Try the recipe below for a healthy homemade bar.

Fall Harvest Granola Bars 

Servings: 16


  • 2 cups extra-thick rolled oats  –  (please do not use instant or quick oats) 
  • 1 cup roughly chopped almonds 
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup packed pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup creamy almond butter or peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread oats, almonds and pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet with sides and sprinkle with salt. Toast in the oven until slightly golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
  2. Using a food processor, chop up dates until they reach the consistency of a rough paste. Add them to the oat mixture.
  3. In a small saucepan over low heat, warm up the maple syrup and almond butter and stir to blend well. Pour into the oat mixture and add the dried cherries. Mix well, making sure to evenly distribute the chopped dates.
  4. Line an 8×8-inch pan with baking parchment so the paper hangs over the sides. Spoon mixture into pan and pack down with the back of a spoon. Freeze for 20 minutes.
  5. Cut into bars and wrap individually for quick snacks or store together in an airtight container for a few days. Freeze for longer storage.

Calories: 184; Fat: 8 grams; Total Carbohydrate: 27 grams; Dietary Fiber: 4 grams; Sugar: 14 grams; Protein: 5 grams

Recipe modified from The Seasoned Mom as adapted from Nutrimom