Fun, Healthy Snacks for Toddlers

It's ok to make snack time fun for both of you.

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Healthy fruits and nuts snack box with oranges, apples, kiwi,walnuts, hazelnuts, and crackers viewed from above (Healthy fruits and nuts snack box with oranges, apples, kiwi,walnuts, hazelnuts, and crackers viewed from above, ASCII, 112 components, 11

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istetiana

Feeding a two-year old can be lots of fun — it doesn’t even have to mean that every snack is fruit cut into Pinterest-worthy shapes. This brief guide will help you know how many and which types of snacks are best for your growing toddler. It will also give some (breakable) rules – guidelines really — to help you enjoy feeding your little one.

The age range of a two-year-old toddler can be nearing two or even two and a half. And the span from 22 months to closer to 30 months is actually a pretty big difference in age. But the important thing is to help kids learn to eat when they are truly hungry – and not use snack time as a something to do when a child is bored, or needs to be entertained. A child’s hunger varies depending on the day’s activity level, whether they’re in a growth spurt, and their body composition (bone size and muscle development). Use the following table – remembering that a child is responsible for how much they eat of a food, and a parent is responsible for what foods they eat.

Younger children have tinier tummies and often need snacks to keep them from crashing to that irritable disposition or “hangry” stage. Additionally they may not be able to tell parents that the reason they are cranky is that they are hungry. As children age, they may be hungrier for bigger meals and be able to make it to the next meal without a snack. Being good and hungry at mealtimes is the goal, so kids can eat what’s serve – along with the rest of the family.

Feeding schedule by age:

About 24 months About 36 months

Breakfast Yes Yes

Morning Snack Yes Probably, but not always – depending on breakfast/lunch time

Lunch Yes Yes

Afternoon Snack Yes Maybe

Dinner Yes Yes

Bedtime Snack Maybe Maybe

Snacking tips:

Sometimes serve a bedtime snack. They help children make it through the long night before their blood sugar crashes and causes hunger to wake them before the necessary 11-14 hours of sleep per night. Milk and a mini homemade muffin, or bananas and peanut butter could be an appropriate snack.

Add a protein to snacks. This helps give a snack staying power to get a child to the next meal without getting to hungry.

Try something new. Because snack time is usually a bit more fun than scheduled meals, it’s a great opportunity to try new foods. Kids may begin to think of a “new” vegetable as a fun food. Or a “new” grain like barley may be seen amusing to pick up one by one. If the child doesn’t eat the new food, that’s fine, just make sure there is something appealing at the next meal. It can take a child 11-50(!) times before deciding to eat a food.

Get kids in the kitchen. Help your little one anticipate meal time by involving him or her in the process, whether helping to pick grapes off a bunch or transfer cut veggies from the cutting board to the plate. Or give choices: she can choose which fruit to have for snack time. These activities will help a child have a stake in her snack. If she helped make it, she’ll probably be more apt to eat it.

Add extra nutrition. Snack time offers an opportunity to get in nutrients kids may not eat enough at meals like zinc from egg yolks or hemp seeds, and omega-3 fats from fish or ground flaxseed.

16 new ideas for snacks:

  1. Chia seed pudding made with 1 tablespoon chia seeds, ¼ cup coconut milk and 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  2. Quinoa with avocado
  3. Sunflower butter spread on pear slices
  4. Chickpeas mashed with tahini spread
  5. Mushrooms with sharp Cheddar or Parmesan cheese
  6. Lentils and salsa
  7. Raw or cooked beets with chopped prunes
  8. Scrambled eggs and garlic
  9. Cottage cheese (4% fat) sprinkled with hemp seeds
  10. Cooked eggplant and pesto
  11. Cooked bok choy, butter and sesame seeds
  12. Soft homemade meatballs made with lamb, bison, or beef and without salt
  13. Canned tuna, salmon or sardines mashed into whole-fat Greek yogurt
  14. Peanut butter and warm brown rice
  15. Cooked kale shreds, with raisins and olive oil
  16. Whole white butter beans and chopped herbs like cilantro or mint

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Serena Ball, MS, RD is a registered dietitian nutritionist, food writer, and recipe developer. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com and is the author of the best-selling The 30-Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Instagram.

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