Guide to Healthy Snacking for Toddlers
Guide to Healthy Snacking for Toddlers
Toddlerhood is a busy time for your little eaters. And healthy snacking for toddlers is more important than you might think!
When you hear the term “snack,” you might think of treat food like chips and cookies. But as parents, we should really think of snacks as nutritious foods from multiple food groups, almost like a mini meal.
Here’s why: with toddler’s small size and constant busy-ness, it’s challenging to fit all their nutritional needs into just mealtimes. Their bodies are growing and developing so fast that they need good and evenly-spaced fuel to help keep their energy levels stable.
1. What If My Toddler Won’t Eat?
Often toddlers will refuse some foods at snacks or meals. But don’t worry. If they won’t eat at one meal or snack, the next opportunity isn’t too far away. Your job as the parent is to offer the healthy foods at regular times and your child has control of how much they choose to eat.
Keep in mind that “snacking” doesn’t mean eating whenever the mood strikes. Snack times should happen at about the same time each day. And when the inevitable “I’m starving!” declaration pops up, you can let your child know exactly how long until the next snack or mealtime.
2. What Makes a Balanced Snack?
It’s a great idea to include multiple food groups in each snack, whenever possible. Fruits, veggies, protein and whole grain foods make great snacks.
Since we’re trying to make snacks compliment mealtime nutrition, we need to focus on nutrient dense foods (foods that have a lot of nutrition for the amount of calories they have.)
A balanced snack should include two or more food groups. Some examples of what this might looks like:
- Apple Slices + Raisins
- Cheese Cubes + Whole Wheat Crackers
- Veggies + Hummus
- Greek yogurt + Berries
- Dried fruit + Popcorn
- Cottage Cheese + Canned Peaches
- Homemade Guacamole + Tortilla Chips
- Bran Muffin + Carrot Sticks
- Pear Wedges / banana + Vanilla Greek Yogurt
- Hard Boiled Egg + Apple Slices
3. Make a plan.
When you’re digging through the cupboard and the children are whining, it’s easy to grab some crackers and fruit snacks to make them happy. But if you have a snack plan in place, it’s a no-brainer to pass out healthy snacks instead.
- Remember to start with fruits and veggies and then add a healthy protein. Whole grains can be part of great snacks too.
- Try keeping a stash of pre-cut up veggies and fruit in the fridge. This is a simple way to allow children to choose their snack and keep it healthy at the same time.
- Find a formula that works for you. One option is allowing children to choose one item from the fruit and veggie basket and the protein box. Another might be having snacks assigned to certain days; Mondays are string cheese and apple days, Tuesdays are for smoothies Wednesdays are hard boiled eggs and fresh veggies, and so on. If your children know what to expect (and you stick to your plan), the complaining dissipates and they enjoy snack time more.
4. Involve the little ones.
If we involve our children in planning and preparing they are much more likely to enjoy and eat what we are serving. Give them a few simple guidelines (such as the snack must have a fruit or vegetable in it) and let them be creative and have fun! Children love to be involved with the food they eat and it’s a perfect time to help them learn to make good food choices along the way. So next time you hear “I’m starving”, you can tackle the situation with confidence. With these 4 tips, you’re well on your way to healthy snack time!
Having good healthy snacks prepared ahead of time will help to make sure that healthy snacking for your toddler is something that happens every day! It is so satisfying to see your children eat and enjoy healthy foods and have energy to play, strong immune systems, and happy attitudes.