A new school year starts this week for many Granite State kids, so that means there are plenty of parents looking for new and nutritious lunch and after-school snack suggestions.

My youngest son is starting his senior year of high school, so this is the last year I’ll have to get school lunches ready.

When my boys were much younger, I would often buy individually packed snacks like graham crackers shaped like teddy bears or little bags of cheese crackers. Life was busier then as I was occasionally working as a substitute teacher. I saw that when it came to packing snacks and lunches, I was not alone in buying the individually packaged snacks.

Every day after snack time in the classroom, the trash can would be full of empty little bags of snacks and juice boxes. I thought there has to be a better — and healthier — way to pack snacks and lunches, so I started looking for alternatives.

If making homemade snacks was just as quick and easy as buying little bags of graham crackers, maybe more people would do it and there would be fewer empty wrappers and bags in the trash.

One of my favorite discoveries was making three-ingredient almond butter cookies. You just mix almond butter (I like to use the honey cinnamon almond butter, but any almond butter will work) with egg and sugar and drop the mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

I like to add a pinch of sea or Kosher salt to the top of the cookies before sticking them in the oven to bake for a little more than 10 minutes. These cookies are delicious; they’re moist and chewy and you would never guess they’re also much healthier than regular cookies (plus they’re gluten free).

For another quick after-school snack, slather a banana in peanut or other nut butter, then roll it in a seed mixture like sesame and chia. Slice the banana up, serve it on a plate and it’s a perfect little snack. You can also do this with apple slices.

Another fun treat that’s easy-to-make and portable is no-bake bites. I usually make them with mashed dates, shredded coconut and tahini.

Once you roll the mixture into little balls, you finish them off by rolling them in a seed mix, chopped chocolate, chopped nuts, shredded coconut or other favorite ingredient for a little variety.

These are great for kids who have a sweet tooth because the dates are so sweet. Once you’ve made these a few times you can experiment with the ingredients and get the kids involved by letting them help you shape them into little bites.

Banana Bites

Banana Bites

Banana Bites

1 banana, peeled

1 tablespoon almond or peanut butter

2 tablespoons seed mix such as sesame and chia seeds

Spread the almond butter all over the banana. Spread the seeds onto a plate, then roll the banana gently in the seeds to coat. Slice the banana and serve immediately.

Sea Salt Almond Butter Cookies

Banana Bites, above, and Sea Salt Almond Butter Cookies, at right, require few ingredients and little time to prepare.

Sea Salt Almond Butter Cookies

1 cup almond butter

2 eggs

1/2 cup demerara or cane sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea or Kosher salt

Add the almond butter, eggs and sugar to a bowl and mix well to combine.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop about a tablespoon of the cookie mixture and drop on the parchment paper. Sprinkle the cookies with sea or Kosher salt, then set in the preheated oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

No Bake Bites

No Bake Bites.

No Bake Bites

1/4 cup shredded coconut

1 tablespoon tahini

2 teaspoons cacao powder

3 tablespoons pitted dates, chopped and mashed

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 tablespoon chocolate morsels, chopped

2 teaspoons almond flour

2 teaspoons cane or demerara sugar

1 tablespoon seed mix, if desired for garnish

Add the coconut, tahini, cacao, dates, salt, chopped chocolate, almond flour and sugar to a bowl; mix well with a spatula to combine. To form the bites, roll a generous tablespoonful into a ball, then roll into the seed mix (if using) to coat. To add variety, you can also roll the bites in additional shredded coconut or chopped chocolate. Set in refrigerator for about 30 minutes to allow the bites to firm up before serving.