I admit it. I like styling my kids and nothing cramps MY style like being out of the house for five minutes and noticing a new pattern – of strawberry jam blobs and melted chocolate chip granola bar bits – on my dear daughters’ duds.

Healthy foods can be some of the messiest so without some creativity and planning, I find myself grabbing for the obvious non-messies: carb-heavy processed foods with lots of calories and little valuable nutrition. Going for the whole grain, higher fiber and lower sugar versions of these help – but why not broaden your kids’ on-the-go snack repertoire?

If you’re a mom like me who fights the cookie/cracker rut despite strong daily motivation for these convenient parenting “tools” (aka maintenance of sanity via bribes, threats and rewards), check out this list of non-staining staples for the stroller, shopping cart, backseat, backpack, beach tote, Bjorn, bike basket…

 Freeze-dried fruit and veggies My kids love these – primarily from Trader Joe’s and Target – and I love that they are lower in sugar and less sticky than the dried fruit and Fun Fruits (remember those?) of my youth.  Fashion friendly: apples, bananas, mangos, peas, peaches, pears and sweet corn.  Save the brightly-colored berry varieties for home.

Freeze Dried Apple Slices

Cereal in a baggie – Yes – your mom was on to something with those Cheerios. Still a great choice and with so many cereal options, variety is attainable for any set of nutrition requirements or restrictions.  Funny, cereal companies are finally picking up on this old parent trick and packaging it this way. I usually just keep a box in the car with a bunch of ziplocs stuffed in the top for the same result.

Oatmeal Squares

Mess and melt-proof trail mix – Combine the above two items with your child’s favorite nut and a touch of something sweet (my kids love a few marshmallows added to the mix). If it’s not hot and the mix will be consumed soon? Add a cheese stick – chopped into bite-sized pieces.

Peanut butter plus I haven’t tested these products with my kids yet, but they have the potential to be  the kitchen cabinet equivalent of a valued multitasking beauty item like (my beloved) anti-aging skin-clearing tinted moisturizer.  Used as a stand-alone on bread or a tortilla, you eliminate the staining element of PBJs.


Anything on a tortilla My family’s favorite for taste, size, texture and nutrition: Mission Artisan Style tortillas.  Bury the contents away from the ends – a light spread of hummus or cream cheese plus slivered nuts and cucumbers is popular at my house – and roll it up for less ooze than with similar toppings on bread.  Peanut butter plus bananas or raisins is a good option if you have to avoid perishable items.  Even more ooze-proof:  refrigerate roll ups overnight.

Mission Tortillas

Applesauce packets There are loads of varieties now from many brands.  My car and stroller have been wallpapered with the beautiful ombre of the red and orange varieties. To avoid this, stick to the basic apple, apple cinnamon or apple banana versions away from home.

apple crushers

Fresh or frozen fruit – Bananas and white grapes are foolproof under most conditions and apple slices are too if consumed soon after preparedIf your child is old enough to handle frozen fruit, try grapes first.

frozen fruit

What are your favorites? I’ve learned many of mine from observation and recommendations from friends so please share yours via comment.  I am off to serve my kids a steamy, sloppy, splattery plate of spaghetti with meatballs and long strings of melty cheese – at my kitchen table.

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