Toddlers and snacks just go together, it seems. Little kids’ attention spans have a tendency to run out before mealtime is over, so they end up hungry again shortly afterward. Instead of fighting against this common behavior, savvy parents use snack time as an opportunity to load up their little ones with toddler-sized portions of hearty nutrition. Over my years of parenting, I’ve come up with a go-to list of kid-friendly, healthy snack ideas for toddlers that make the most of a tot’s desire for small bites.
Blend Produce into Smoothies
The beauty of smoothies is that you can hide just about anything in them. Start with a base of milk or real fruit juice. Toss in handfuls of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies. Then, blend the mixture until it’s smooth. Serve in a cup with a straw so your toddler can easily suck down all of that delicious nutrition.
Dip Crackers and More in Hummus
Hummus is a dip made from mashed chickpeas. It usually includes olive oil, which is a healthy source of fat, and tahini, with which hummus becomes a complete protein. This dip has a mild flavor that appeals to youngsters, and they’ll enjoy dipping crackers, raw veggies, or pita bread in it. You can buy hummus pre-made or whip up your own in the food processor with a couple of cans of chickpeas.
Encourage Spoon Use with Yogurt
In general, toddlers begin to use a spoon between 13 and 15 months, and feeding your little one yogurt is a great way to encourage this step toward independence. A bowl of yogurt will load your little one up with both calcium and probiotics. Instead of sugary flavored versions, buy plain yogurt and dress it up with a spoonful of fresh fruit and a sprinkle of granola.
Slice Bananas for a Quick Snack
You probably know that bananas are packed with potassium, but they’re also rich in fiber, manganese and vitamins A and C. Bananas take almost no preparation: just peel, slice and serve! Toddlers are working on their fine motor skills, and encouraging them to self-feed banana slices helps develop their pincer grasp.
Get Fruit on the Go with Fruit Leather
Fruit snacks sound like a healthy treat, but they’re pretty much just sugar and chemicals mixed with a touch of fruit juice. Leave these on the shelf in favor of fruit leather, which is made from real pureed fruit. If you purchase store-bought varieties, look for brands without a bunch of additives. If you want to control exactly what goes into your tot’s fruit leather, it’s easy to make your own batch in the oven with just fresh strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar.
Dice Sweet Potatoes for a Healthy Finger Food
Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. For an easy snack that toddlers can feed themselves, make a large batch of sweet potato bites and keep them in the freezer. Cover diced sweet potatoes with healthy olive oil and a sprinkle of seasoning, then bake them in the oven until soft.
Spread Toast Strips with Peanut Butter
Make whole-grain toast more interesting by slicing it into kid-sized strips before serving. An ounce of peanut butter has 7 grams of protein, so boost up the health factor of whole-grain bread by topping it with a thin layer of peanut butter.
Pair Cottage Cheese with Fruit or Veggies
There’s something about mixing chopped fruits and veggies into cottage cheese that sometimes makes reluctant eaters more eager to munch on produce. Stir in diced cucumbers, cooked frozen peas or shredded carrots. As for fruit, cottage cheese goes well with both fresh and canned varieties.
Bulk Up on Protein with Scrambled Eggs
Easy-to-digest eggs make it easy for kids to absorb the many amino acids in this good source of protein. Plus, eggs have choline for liver and nerve health. For a boost of selenium, toss a handful of chopped mushrooms into the egg pan. Serve eggs as a finger food or on a tortilla.
Load Up on Calcium with Cheese Sticks
Chunks of cheese offer both calcium to strengthen bones and protein to keep little ones full. Cheese sticks pair well with sliced apples, pretzels or crackers. Save money by slicing a block of cheese into sticks instead of buying individually wrapped ones.
Are you hungry yet? I’m well past my toddler years, yet these snack ideas get even me in the mood to eat nutritious foods. Leave a comment with your favorite healthy snacks for toddlers, and share this article with all of your parent friends.