the role of snacks in a toddler’s diet
how to create healthy snacks for your tot
Toddlers eat smaller amounts of food at one time than adults because they have smaller stomachs, and given the portion size, these “meals” would often be better described as snacks. For many toddlers, 25% of their caloric intake actually comes from snacking, which makes it critical that those snacks be wholesome and nutritious. Healthful snacks can also provide your little one with nutrition they might be missing during regular meals, particularly if she is a picky eater. How do we create healthy snacks with absolutely no junk? Planned snacks can use a combination of ingredients and food groups to offer balanced nutrition as part of your toddler’s diet, or you can choose to focus on one food group you’d like your little one to explore (veggie sticks, anyone?). While gaining proper nutrition, your toddler can also have fun snacking by learning about new textures, shapes, and the flavor combinations provided by unique ingredients. Snacks are a great way to eat your colors!
THE MYTH“Snacks always ruin a child’s appetite for meals.” Not true! Snacks can actually fuel growing bodies and help keep your tot on a healthy eating schedule. For a hungry tot, waiting too long between meals can just be too much. To avoid meltdowns without spoiling mealtime, choose appropriate portion sizes and avoid refined carbohydrates with low nutritional value. When your child learns to satisfy herself with real nutrition, she builds a healthy relationship with food. To help prevent those hyperactive afternoons and inevitable crashes, choose a toddler diet that includes colorful vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and proteins. Just like us, our little ones need well-balanced nutrition.
PLUM’S FAVORITE SNACK TIME TIPSIt’s always best to read the nutrition labels while shopping in the grocery store. The goal is to fill your pantry with options that offer a good balance of nutrition for your toddler. Don’t just look at the nutritional values—be mindful of the “ingredients” used to create the products you’re purchasing. Generally, the fewer ingredients the better, and sticking to words you recognize and can pronounce is always a good rule of thumb! Every toddler is different and will develop at his or her own pace. You’ll know when your little one is ready for certain snacks. As always, your tiny taster should be seated when eating and supervised. Hopefully you’ll be snacking together!
- TRY VEGGIE SNACKS: For older tots, try grabbing a few of those mini bags of baby carrots next time you’re in the produce aisle, or get some wax paper bags and make your own. Keeping portioned snacks that are washed and cut ready to go the in the fridge will help when toddler hunger strikes and you’re on the move. For younger tots we recommend you cook the carrots until soft and cut them into smaller pieces.
- ADD SEASONINGS: Using flavors that your toddler loves is a perfect way to make snack time more exciting. For younger tots, try seasoning cooked and cut veggies with some of your favorite herbs and spices and a small dash of sea salt. (Kale chips anyone?!) If your little one enjoys dairy, try adding comforting spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to their favorite yogurt or cottage cheese.
- REMEMBER TO MAKE IT INTERACTIVE: Try dipping slices of whole grain pita in hummus or guacamole—little ones love to dip and dunk!
- DON’T STRESS ABOUT TREATS: Tasty treats are important, too—just not for every snack or every day.
- ADD WATER: Hydration is key and will keep your tot from reaching for treats when they may actually just be dehydrated. Also, H20 is always a better option than filling up on fruit juice.
- MAKE IT A SNACKTIVITY: If you have time, plan to cook or prepare a snack with your child in the kitchen; they will begin to appreciate whole foods, and research shows they are more likely to eat foods they have helped prepare.