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USDA School Snack Guide – Smart Snack List for Parents, Teachers and School Foodservice Directors

Home » food and health, fruits and veggies, fun for kids, nutrition, snacks

Hooray for Healthful SnacksThe face of school snacks is changing. With the new USDA regulations, healthful foods are replacing cookies and candy as  the snacks available to kids. But how will this impact your school event? Let’s take a look…

The Guidelines:

School snacks must conform to the USDA guidelines, which include calorie limits, sugar caps, and nutrient requirements.

  • Calorie Limits: All snacks, including extras like butter and cream cheese, must have no more than 200 calories per serving.
  • Fat Ceilings: Fat must make up no more than 35% of the total calorie count, with saturated fat content at less than 10% and trans fat content at 0.
  • Sugar Caps: Only 35% (or less) of the weight in any snack food may come from sugar.
  • Nutrient Requirements: In order to meet the USDA’s guidelines, snacks must either be rich in whole grains, contain at least a quarter cup of fruit and/or vegetables, have a fruit, vegetable, protein food, or dairy product as the first ingredient, or contain 10% or more of the percent daily value of potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D, or calcium.

The Guidelines and YOU:

Technically these guidelines are only required for food items sold at the school. They do not apply to off-site fundraisers or events that take place during non-school hours. However, we encourage everyone to follow the guidelines above.

Snack Inspiration:

Homemade Options:

  • Grapes, apples, tangerines, bananas and pears are the perfect portable fresh fruit treat.
  • Frozen grapes are great for hot days.
  • Kids always get a kick out of rabbit bags, which combine fresh fruit and vegetables in individual servings.
  • Sliced vegetables with spicy bean salsa are a fun and exciting snack!
  • Popcorn trail bags are easy. Sweet and salty come together when you mix unflavored popcorn with dry roasted peanuts and a handful of raisins. Package each serving in a mini paper bag for personal deliveries.
  • Strawberry crunchies are a snack that kids can make themselves!
  • You can’t go wrong with an assortment of sliced veggies and a flavorful low-fat dip! Find over 100 snack recipes here.
  • For a pretty and engaging snack, try apple butterflies!
  • Fruit parfaits abide by the guidelines and are totally gorgeous. Try this recipe for a fun layered parfait.
  • Oven fries are a great snack – use sodium-free ketchup or mix it up with sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes.
  • And speaking of potatoes, you can always microwave a potato and top it with steamed veggies to make a cute face!
    MyPlate Veggie Plate

Packaged Snacks:

  • 100 calorie packs are great options for certain foods. Try low-fat, whole grain crackers and whole grain pretzels. Sweets, even in 100 calorie packs, often have more than 35% of their weight as just sugar, while fried foods, like potato chips, have way more fat than is allowed. To be under 35% calories from fat a food cannot have more than 35 calories of fat per 100 calories.
  • Baked tortilla chips with 100 calorie packs of guacamole dip can be fun treats.
  • Baked potato chips will meet the guidelines at 120 calories and 3 grams of fat.
  • Baked whole grain pita chips are a handy option.
  • Fill pita pockets with veggies and a little nonfat Italian dressing for a fun snack.
  • Prepared veggie and fruit trays with low-fat dips are speedy, fuss-free options.
  • For a calcium-rich option, try single-serving, sugar-free pudding cups.
  • Light, low-fat yogurt comes in cups and squeeze tubes. As long as it meets the sugar requirements, it is good to go.
  • Whole grain cereals like shredded wheat, oatmeal “O’s”, and Chex are great snack options without added sugar.
  • Brown rice cakes are great options. Kids can top them with nut butter and fruit.
  • Boxed raisins and other dried fruits are great.
  • Whole grain fig cookies like Fig Newtons will work.
  • Fruit cups and individual fruit serving cans packed in juice are great packaged snacks, too.

For More Information:

For more details and inspiration, visit

Download a free PDF handout that summarizes these great finds today!

There’s More in the Store!

Check out these great snacking resources…

Snack Smart Think Out With the Bag Poster

Snack Smart Think Out With the Bag Poster

100 Calorie Snack Poster

Snack Smart PowerPoint and Handout Set

And more back-to-school resources:

Bulletin Boards:

Videos and Resources for School Foodservice Directors:

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