School is back in full swing this fall, and it's easy to quickly run out of ideas for school lunches and snacks. You might fall into the trap of making the same thing every day, but kids get bored fast and it's best to keep their diet a bit more diverse.
At the same time, kids' snacks need to be healthy and filling so that they can focus better in class. Filling your pantry and fridge with basic ingredients that are versatile, healthy, and delicious is key to a successful school lunch week.
Peanut butter is one of the most commonly used ingredients for quick and healthy snacks, and for good reason. In this guide, we'll show you how to take advantage of this affordable ingredient to keep your kids happy with their school lunches.
Why Peanut Butter?
Before we get to the quick and easy recipes you can make for your kids, you might be wondering why we're so excited about peanut butter. Why should you reach for a jar of peanut butter as opposed to prepackaged snacks?
Here are a few reasons to keep peanut butter at the top of your ingredient list.
Health Benefits Galore
Health experts agree that adding peanut butter to a balanced diet can be a healthy choice for you, no matter what age. It holds key nutrients your body needs to function properly and can help protect against common health conditions.
For example, peanut butter is high in protein. Kids that are picky eaters might not get enough protein in their diet, so peanut butter is a great way to sneak it into a tasty snack.
In addition, peanut butter is a great source of magnesium. Our bodies need magnesium, and this nutrient can help protect our hearts and help us manage body weight and blood sugar levels.
Affordable and Shelf-Stable
In addition, peanut butter is easy to find for a great price and holds up well in your pantry. Peanuts are one of the cheaper nuts available, so buying peanut butter can be cheaper than buying other spreads.
Because peanut butter is shelf-stable, you can also buy it in bulk for a great price and keep it in your pantry. Keeping a jar or two around the house can help family members choose a healthier snack than a bag of chips or sweets.
Keeps You Satisfied
One of the most important factors to a good snack or meal is that it keeps you full for a long time. Instead of overeating and constantly snacking, eating one filling meal can keep you eating healthy portions and staying satisfied.
Peanut butter is full of protein, fiber, and rich fats, which are great for keeping you full. It also has a low-glycemic index, making it one of the few foods you can obtain high levels of fiber, fat, and protein without sending your blood sugar levels skyrocketing.
Peanut butter is so well-known for keeping you full that it's been at the center of several studies, including those for successful weight loss.
Finally, peanut butter is extremely versatile. Its consistency makes it a great topping, spread, dip, or ingredient for many baking and cooking recipes. You can use it at any stage of the meal and snack-making process, and it adds a rich creaminess and savoriness that's hard to achieve with any other ingredient.
As a result, there are endless recipes that include peanut butter, some of which we will be sharing below!
What About Alternative Nut Butters?
It's important to mention that peanut butter allergies are an extremely common occurrence. If you, your kids, or another family member suffers from a peanut butter allergy, you might be concerned about keeping peanut butter in the house.
Thankfully, many other types of nuts and ingredients can be turned into butter that mimics peanut butter. At the same time, these kinds of butter have their own health benefits, consistencies, and tastes that you can experiment with.
Cashew butter is seriously creamy, and it's lower in fat than other types of nut butter. This butter includes magnesium just like peanut butter, and it also has essential amino acids and monosaturated fatty acids. With all these nutrients, users of cashew butter can benefit from:
- Heart protection
- Blood sugar regulation
- Blood pressure regulation
- Cholesterol control
- Sugar control
- Immune system and metabolism boost
- Bone health
As a result, cashew butter is a great alternative to peanut butter.
You might be surprised, but almond butter is more beneficial for your health than peanut butter. Not only is it lower in fat, but it also is the most nutrient-dense nut butter around. Almond butter has higher levels of these nutrients than peanut butter:
- Vitamin E
- Heart-health monosaturated fats
Thankfully, all recipes that include peanut butter can use other kinds of nut butter as a substitution.
Peanut Butter Kids' Snacks for School
When kids are home, they can go into the fridge or pantry any time they get hungry. When they're at school, they only have a lunch break. You can provide them with a small snack to munch on when they're in class.
Unlike a lunch, you'll need ideas that are contained, not messy, and can be easily eaten in small bites. Here are some great peanut butter snacks to make!
Peanut Butter Energy Balls
A trend in snacking lately has been energy balls. Packed with only the most nutritious ingredients, energy balls are meant to be quick to eat and full of nutrients that help satisfy hunger and boost your energy.
Peanut butter is often the main ingredient for this reason. You can make peanut butter energy balls in so many different ways, but a great way is to combine it with oatmeal.
Flaxseeds, peanut butter, rolled oats, and maple syrup are combined into a mixture that's rolled into balls. That's it! You can add other ingredients too, like nuts to add to the crunch or chips to add to the sweetness.
The best part about this is that these balls easily conform to any special diet like vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free.
Peanut Butter Confetti Bites
Similar to energy balls, these confetti bites combine peanut butter will all kinds of fun ingredients. They also don't require backing and can be made in just a few minutes.
Make sure you have peanut butter, rice crisp cereal, honey, rolled oats, and some fun fruit-flavored mini marshmallows. You can even add in some butterscotch chips.
Here's a brief overview of the recipe:
- Blend half a cup of peanut butter with a quarter cup of honey.
- Stir in a cup of rolled oats, three-quarters of a cup of crushed crisp rice cereal, and a half of a cup of mini marshmallows.
- Refrigerate the mixture for half an hour, then roll it into 1-inch balls.
You can find a more detailed recipe here, but the great thing about this snack is that you can change up the ingredients into whatever your kids like!
Peanut Butter Cereal Bars
Another easy-to-enjoy snack is cereal bars. Instead of buying them prepackaged at the store, you can control the ingredients and portions by making them homemade.
You can try out any cereals you'd like, but a great recipe by Half-Baked Harvest uses cheerios and chocolate.
Here's a brief overview of this 15-minute treat:
- Put down parchment paper in a 9x13-inch baking pan.
- Melt honey and peanut butter together until smooth in the microwave and then stir in cheerios, rice crisp cereal, and peanuts.
- Spread out the mix in the pan and put it in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.
- Cut the finished mixture into 16 bars and dip them in chocolate if you'd like! If you dip them, return them to the freezer for 10 more minutes.
These bars are best stored in the freezer or fridge until you're ready to snack, especially if you've dipped them in melted chocolate. If you haven't, make sure your kids keep the snack cool in their lunch box until they're ready to eat.
Peanut Butter Meals for School Lunches
Peanut butter is an awesome ingredient for school lunches, especially when you can buy all different kinds! You can make a fun twist on the classic PB&J or try out something completely new.
Here are some ideas for incorporating peanut butter into your kids' school lunches.
Fun Twists on PB&J
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are classic because they're such a tasty and filling meal, but they get boring after a while. To help you change things up, you can try changing the form that the PB&J sandwich comes in:
- Use waffles instead of white bread to make the sandwich
- Turn the PB&J sandwich into a crepe instead
- Make homemade PB&J pop tarts
If you'd like to keep the sandwich form, you can change up the spreads you use instead. American Dream offers 13 different types of peanut butter, each with its own flavor that your kids can enjoy. Get creative with the type of other jelly or spread you combine with the peanut butter.
Instead of peanut butter, you can try different nut butter. American Dream also has 15 different types of almond butter to choose from, many of which would also make for great dips.
Other Nut Butter Sandwiches
You can make other types of nut butter sandwiches, too. A classic favorite is the banana peanut butter sandwich. This meal simply combines a layer of banana slices with a layer of peanut butter for a perfect healthy snack.
You can try other kinds of fruit as well. Try adding strawberries or apple slices to the sandwich for some extra servings of fruit and flavor.
Or, you can add some crunch but throwing in some nut pieces, seeds, granola, coconut flakes, and more. If you're looking for a different flavor, you can add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, apple pie or pumpkin pie spice, and more!
After School Peanut Butter Snacks
While your kids are in school, they need food that is tidy and contained. Snacks and meals have to be easily packed and stored all day. When it comes to after-school snacks, you can afford to get a little messier.
The below recipes can be done in a way that makes them school-friendly, but their most fun forms are messy.
Peanut Butter Apple Nachos
Nachos are a favorite snack, but they're often very unhealthy. Chips high in fat and sodium mixed with nacho cheese and other toppings are not as fulfilling and healthy as we'd like. Instead, you can change out the ingredients to include satisfying and healthy ones!
- Start with a plate or platter like you would with nachos.
- Lines the plate with a spiral or pile of thin apple slices.
- Drizzle or slather melted peanut butter on top.
- Sprinkle healthy toppings like granola, nuts, or fruit.
This recipe is fun because you can change up the ingredients you use according to what your kids like! For after school, spreading all the apple chips out and drizzling toppings all over them is great, but you can choose to pack them separately and let your kids dip them at school lunch, too.
Banana Peanut Butter Muffins
Muffins are a great snack because they're easy to contain and eat quickly, especially if you make them bite-sized. This recipe also contains no added sugar, so they're extra guilt-free. These muffins are perfect for any time of day, whether you're running late and need a quick breakfast or you're looking for a snack throughout the day.
Here's a quick overview of the process:
- Set your oven to 375 degrees.
- Mix the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
- In a separate bowl, add peanut butter, Greek yogurt, egg, almond milk, vanilla extra, and honey to mashed bananas.
- Combine the two bowls and mix well, then line muffin tins with liners. Pour the mixture into the cups.
- Muffins should bake for about 14-18 minutes.
What makes this snack a little messy is the yummy glaze you can add. A simple mixture of confectioner's sugar and almond milk makes a quick creamy topping you can drizzle on top.
Go Nuts for Peanut Butter
After you try all these fun and crazy peanut butter kids' snack ideas, your kids will be kissing your feet as their new peanut butter king or queen. You'll never regret lining your shelves with a few jars of nut butter.
American Dream is passionate about offering handcrafted gourmet nut butter that introduces a balance of wellness and deliciousness into your family's diet. Born out of a dream to replace junk food and desserts with healthy options, our nut butter now serves countless families across the USA.
Shop our large collection of peanut, almond, and cashew butter options today!