Your toddler may seem like they need to eat all day long! And that is because they kind of need to. Keeping reading to find out why frequent healthy snacking for toddlers is so important. The term “snack” often means different thing to different people. For some, snack is synonymous with “junk food”. And while there’s room for fun food occasionally, we should be focusing on nutritious foods for our snack time to fill in the nutrition gaps. And here’s why: It’s hard to fit in all of the nutritional needs for a toddler into only meal times. Their bodies are growing and developing so fast that they need nutritious fuel to help them grow. Toddlers generally need 2 snacks a day in addition to their 3 regular meals. They will also need to eat about every 2-3 hours.
Sample Toddler Meal Schedule
This may be an appropriate eating schedule for your toddler.
Breakfast 7:00 am
Morning Snack 9:30 am
Lunch 12:00 pm
Afternoon Snack 3:00 pm
Dinner 6:00 pm
Before-Bed Snack 7:30 pm
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. Snacking also doesn’t mean eating when ever the mood strikes. Snack times should happen at about the same time each day. And when the inevitable “I’m starving” phrase pops up, you as the parent can decide if they can wait until the next meal or snack, or if they need food right away.
What Makes a Balanced Snack?
It’s a great idea to include fruits and veggies as well as protein into your snacks. Whole grains are also a great addition. Snack time is a time to pack in extra nutrition that you child might not get in their regular meals. This means that 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 + Nut Butter
- Cheese Cubes + Whole Wheat Crackers
- Veggies + Hummus
- Greek yogurt + Berries
- Dried fruit + Popcorn
- Cottage Cheese + Canned Peaches
- Bell Pepper Slices + Sliced Turkey
- Homemade Guacamole + Tortilla Chips
- Banana + Nut Butter
- Bran Muffin + Carrot Sticks
- Pear Wedges + Vanilla Greek Yogurt
- Whole Grain Pretzels + Edamame
- Hard Boiled Egg + Apple Slices
4 Tips for Healthy Snacks for Toddlers
1. Start with fruits & veggies. Who doesn’t need more fruits and veggies? Snack time is a
perfect way to add those healthy foods. And we all know that any food tastes better when
we are hungry. So why not take advantage of these hungry bellies and fill them with fruits
and veggies. Not all kids will like something the first time they are offered it, but after seeing
it several times and tasting it a few more, they just might actually eat those carrots and
cucumbers. If your kids aren't thrilled by the idea of fruits a veggies, try cutting them in fun
shapes or dipping them in a sauce they like. Find the ways your kids enjoy eating veggies
and start there. Pretty soon you can add in new and different ones.
2. Pack in some protein. If we add a protein to the snack, kids are more likely to be filled up
and satisfied instead of asking for another snack in 5 minutes. Some easy, snack friendly
- Nut Butter (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter)
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Cottage Cheese
- Refried beans as a spread
- Cheese Cubes
- Sliced turkey, ham or roast beef
3. Make a plan. When you’re digging through the cupboard and the kids 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
kids to choose their snack and keep it healthy at the same time.
• Find a formula that works for you. One option is allowing kids 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 kids know what to
expect (and you stick to your plan), the complaining goes away and happy healthy kids
enjoy snack time.
4. Involve the little ones. Complaining kids are no fun, but if we involve them 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! Kids 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 everyday! It is so satisfying to see your kids eat and enjoy healthy foods and have energy to play, strong immune systems, and happy attitudes.