Snacks can be a healthy part of your toddler’s diet, giving her the fuel she needs and helping you avoid her hungry tantrums. The food parenting trick to healthy snacking for toddlers is knowing how many and which foods to offer, and how often.
Check out our five simple swaps, plus a sample menu, that make toddler snacking good for both of you!
Instead of: Letting your child graze (or snack) all day...
Try this: Give her two or three snacks at set times each day.
Why: When she knows she can count on another meal or snack in just a few hours, she’ll feel free to stop eating when she feels full. But letting her graze means she likely won’t be hungry at mealtime (and she’ll be begging for a snack 30 minutes later!).
Instead of: Asking your child what she wants or offering lots of choices…
Try this: Offer a limited choice of healthy snacks: “Do you want strawberries or banana with your yogurt?”
Why: Your toddler craves independence, but she needs your guidance. By offering a couple of Mom-approved choices, your toddler still feels like she’s in charge, even though you’re calling the shots.
Instead of: Letting your toddler walk around with her snack or take bites while playing…
Try this: Have your child sit at the table during snack time.
Why: Your toddler’s body knows when it’s hungry and full. Snacking while she’s on the move can lead to mindless overeating because she’s too distracted to notice her body’s signals.
Also, at this age, eating while walking is a choking risk. Little ones in particular need to sit so they can focus on chewing and swallowing their food.
Instead of: Serving yourself something different (and perhaps less healthy)…
Try this: Enjoy the same healthy snack as your child.
Why: Your toddler will want to eat whatever is on your plate, healthy or not. Avoid the tantrum and enjoy a healthy snack together. You are her first and best role model!
Instead of: Giving him typical snack foods that lack nutrients, such as chips, cookies, candy or “toddler snacks” that mimic adult junk food (e.g., toddler cheese puffs, yogurt drops, baby cookies, etc.)…
Try this: Offer a balanced snack, including foods from two to three food groups.
Why: Your toddler has a small stomach and needs all the right nutrients he can get from healthy snacks to meet his nutrition needs. Including two or three food groups means he’ll get the nutrients he needs to fuel his body until the next meal.
Try these wholesome foods to inspire healthy snack time:
- Whole-milk plain yogurt with berries
- Cheese and whole-grain crackers
- Plain toasted oats cereal, sliced banana and milk
- Frozen peas (straight from the freezer) and whole-wheat noodles
- Whole-wheat pita bread with mashed avocado
- Thin bell pepper strips or cucumber with hummus or bean dip
- Hard-boiled egg and unsweetened applesauce
- Cottage cheese with canned peaches or pineapple (in 100 percent juice or water, not syrup)
- Plain rice cakes and leftover steamed veggies
- A slice of whole-wheat toast, pancake or waffle, cut into strips for dipping in yogurt
- Whole-wheat tortilla and black beans
- Half a whole-wheat English muffin or mini bagel topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella—a snack-size pizza!