With their nonstop motion, growing bodies, and short attention span, snacking is an important part of your toddler’s day. However, research suggests that about 33% of children’s total energy intake is coming in the form of “empty” calories- added fats and sugars that provide little in the way of real nutrition but can contribute to overweight .
Every parent knows that a wholesome snack filled with nutritious foods can help reduce those meltdowns and tantrums that can happen when tiny tummies go empty for too long, and play a key role in delivering the essential nutrients and calories that your little one needs to shine. Here are your step- by-step essentials to wholesome snacking, as well as 15 fresh ideas sure to satisfy your little one the next time a snack attack hits.
Space snacks 60-90 minutes ahead of mealtime.
Snacks don’t have to spoil an appetite: offer snacks no less than 60-90 minutes before mealtime. Try to have a predictable structure of meals and snacks in place so your child understands when food will-and won’t be available-in general a toddler needs to eat every 2-3 hours to meet their calorie and nutritional requirements. A sippy cup filled with milk or 100% juice is discouraged as a snack and should accompany mealtimes instead. If kids are thirsty, give them water.( For more information on what your toddler should be drinking at this age check out What’s in that Sippy Cup?).
Let your toddler pick from 2 nourishing snack options.
To avoid power struggles and support your toddler’s budding independence, offer a limited set of nutritious choices when snack time comes. Instead of “what would you like for a snack?”, ask a more targeted question such as “would you like some avocado or some cheese for a snack?” This ensures your child is choosing from nutritious options, but gives him some control in the process.
Give snacks staying power by including protein and heart healthy fats.
Ideally, foods offered at snack time should provide variety to the overall daily diet. For instance, if your toddler had a bowl of 100% oatmeal for breakfast with organic milk (which provides fiber and carbohydrates, calcium and protein), you might offer avocado slices and a hard boiled egg at snack time (which delivers a source of monounsaturated fats, folate, choline and protein). See more about how to help your toddler thrive with good nutrition during this oh-so busy time with our Ultimate Toddler Feeding Checklist.
NOTE: Check with your pediatrician if your toddler is ready for the texture and there is no family history of food allergies
Reference: American Academy of Pediatrics stance on when to introduce high-risk foods here.