Despite what you may have heard, snacks don’t have to spoil your child’s appetite. In fact, toddlers need a steady stream of healthy snacks to keep up with their growing bodies and fast metabolisms. Their stomachs are tiny, and they’re constantly on the move, burning calories fast. Plus, most toddlers aren’t likely to sit still for long when mealtimes do come around.
Instead of obsessing about three meals a day, think about six mini-meals. Aim for sustenance at breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, dinner, and before bedtime. This will help keep your toddler’s blood sugar and energy levels, as well as his mood, stable throughout the day—with less meltdowns and more time for play.
Note: this doesn’t mean let your toddler munch all day long with no break in between mini-meals! Even busy kids need time to digest their food.
So, now that you know how often to feed your toddler—what are some good go-to choices? Ideally, snacks should be healthy: real, whole food with minimal processing and sugar, lots of vegetables and fruit, carbohydrates, and protein. You don’t have to worry about getting every food group into each meal or snack, but instead think about the overall nutrition your child is taking in over the course of a day.
Here are some of my favorites, and I hope you’ll share yours in the comments, too!
The earlier you introduce veggies, especially as the only option when they’re hungry, the more likely kids are to develop a taste for them. For toddlers with only a few teeth, you can lightly steam baby carrots, broccoli, and other veggies to make them easier to chew. Most kids love the sweetness of red pepper and snap peas. You can also arrange veggies on a plate to look like animals or other fun shapes, which makes them more fun to eat!
2. DIY Frozen Yogurt.
I like to freeze tubes of organic yogurt (Trader Joe’s has a great brand) for a quick and tasty snack. You can also blend your own fruit (with or without yogurt) and freeze in popsicles for the same effect.
You can buy or make this high-protein chickpea spread in a variety of flavors. My kids love it on carrots but you can also serve it with whole grain pita, corn chips, or rice crackers.
4. String cheese.
This grab-and-go snack is great for families that eat dairy. String cheese is fun for toddlers to pull apart, isn’t too messy, and fits perfectly in little hands.
5. Hardbolied eggs.
You can boil these in batches and keep them around for a couple of days. It’s best to peel them before you give them to your toddler, unless you want a real mess on your hands. My kids break off the top and throw out the yolk, but some children love the yolk. Either way, this is a protein-packed super snack.
6. Bananas or apple slices with nut butter. If nut allergies aren’t a problem for your family, organic peanut butter is usually a hit. But give almond butter, cashew butter, and tahini a try for a healthy peanut butter alternative your toddler will love. My kids like to dip their banana or apple slices themselves.
7. Fruit kabobs.
Everything tastes better to kids when it’s on a stick. Take whatever fruit you have, cut it up, and make it into colorful kabobs on wooden skewers. Be sure to cut the ends off and make them blunt to avoid injuries. You can also use frozen fruit for these, which is great on a hot day.
8. Avocado on toast.
Avocado provides excellent essential fatty acids for your growing toddler, and tastes great on toast or a rice cake. You may also want to make guacamole by adding some lime juice, crushed garlic and chopped tomatoes, and try serving it with veggie slices and organic corn chips.
9. Energy balls.
It’s super easy to make your own energy balls if you have a blender or food processor. Just mix quick oats, sunflower seeds, almond butter, dates or raisins, and a little almond milk or orange juice until the mixture is a good consistency to roll into balls. You can mix in a spoonful of spirulina to turn the balls green and add a nutrient punch. Then, roll the balls in shredded coconut, bee pollen, or hemp seeds for a super-powered snack both you and your toddler will love.
10. Make your own popcorn.
Toddlers love to help make popcorn with an air popper. The noise, the excitement, the popping—what’s not to love? You can add your favorite toppings, like olive oil and nutritional yeast (which is high in vitamin B-12) for a snack that’s great even when it isn’t movie night.
Yum, writing this post has made me hungry! Happy snacking!