Print Page | Sign In | Join NCRPA
Healthy Snack Guidelines and Policy
Share |

Healthy Snack Guidelines

Parks and recreation agencies provide a lot of programming for children. Often that programming involves food, which can often be unhealthy. Below are guidelines and resources for increasing healthy snacks and food in sports, camp, afterschool, and other programs.


Smart Snacks in School is the new national nutrition standard for public schools. The guidelines are:

  • All foods must:
    • Be a "whole grain-rich" grain product; or
    • Have a fruit, vegetable, dairy product, or protein food as a first ingredient; or
    • Be a combination food that contains at least 1/4 cup fruit and/or vegetable; or
    • Contain 10% of daily value of one of the following nutrients: calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or dietary fiber.
  • Food must also meet these guidelines:
    • Calorie limits:
      • Snacks- 200 calories or fewer
      • Entrees- 350 calories or fewer
    • Sodium limits:
      • Snacks- less than 230mg
      • Entrees- less than 480mg
    • Fat limits:
      • Total fat- less than 35% of calories
      • Saturated fat- less than 10% of calories
      • Trans fat- 0 grams
    • Sugar limit:
      • Less than 35% of total weight from sugar

  • Beverages can include:
    • Plain water (with or without carbonation)
    • Unflavored low-fat milk
    • Unflavored or flavored fat-free milk and milk alternatives
    • 100% fruit or vegetable juice (can be diluted with water if there are no additional sweeteners)
  • Portion size:
    • Elementary school age - 8oz.
    • Middle and high school age - 12 oz.
  • Additional beverages for high schoolers:
    • Up to 20 oz. of calorie-free flavored water (with or without carbonation.
    • Other flavored and/or carbonated beverages that contain <5 calories per 8 oz. (up to 10 calories per 20 oz.)
    • Up to 12 oz. of beverages with 40 calories per 8 oz. (60 calories per 12 oz.)

These guidelines are similar to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Competitive Food Guidelines. To quickly find out if the snacks you are serving meet these guidelines, try the Alliance's product calculator. If your snack does not meet the guidelines, the calculator will suggest alternative snacks.

Snacks for camps, afterschool, and other programs

Many park and recreation agencies have implemented healthy snack guidelines for the camps, afterschools, and other programming. Raleigh Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources shared their experience using healthy snack guidelines in one of NCRPA's Wellness Webinars. Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation adopted a healthy vending policy several years ago, and use those nutritional guidelines with their snack program. Their healthy beverage list is a good place to start for healthy drink ideas. Advocates for Health in Action (based in Wake County) have a healthy snack list, as well as camp-specific flyer for parents promoting healthy snacks ideas, and recipes for healthy campfire snacks.

In Pitt County, students from East Carolina University have partnered with local Boys and Girls Clubs to implement a healthy snack program called Snack Rx. The Snack Rx folks have shared some of their resources with NCRPA, including snack ideas and a menu planner with healthy, inexpensive options that can be purchased through a distributor or at discount store.

Snacks for sports

In May 2014, the NCRPA Board of Directors endorsed a position statement (developed through the Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities Advisory Committee of the NC Alliance of YMCAs) supporting the use of healthy food in athlete participation in sports, concessions during sporting events, and youth sports fundraising. The position statement suggests that NC youth sports groups use the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's guidelines.

There are several healthy food in youth sports resources that you can distribute to coaches, parents, and/or athletes. Advocates for Health in Action developed several flyers that can be given to parents with tips for game day food choices (including before, after and during the game). They also share low-cost healthy snack ideas for parents on team snack duty. In Wayne County, Goldsboro Parks and Recreation has partnered with other community organizations to produce this great flyer for youth sport leagues promoting water and other healthy beverages that can be used as a template for your own handout. The Greenwood, South Carolina YMCA also has a parent handout with specific brand ideas. And the University of Minnesota has several resources for healthy eating in youth sports, tailored to athletes, coaches, parents, and league organizers.

Next Steps

Implementing healthy snack guidelines or policy for kids is a great first step toward providing healthy food options. Once you've completed the transition, tell us about it, so we can share your tips with other agencies. Then, try one of these other healthy food policy changes:


Back to toolkit home