If your toddler is like most of his peers, his pace is pretty reliably non-stop. But all the walking, running, climbing, jumping, scampering, hopping, and twirling that he does takes tons of energy. And while they’re doing all of that, toddlers are also always growing, which also takes energy, as well as the right nutrients to keep them growing strong and healthy. Regular meals won’t cut it; their bodies demand healthy in-betweens. Enter snacktime!
But like everything else, snacktime can have its dangers. The snacks you offer Baby now can be an important part of helping him develop a healthy relationship with food as he grows.
Snacktime pros for snacktime pros
- Snacks boost a toddler’s energy. Toddlers need that energy to do all the physical activities they rush around filling their days with. The right kind of snacks help give them an extra jolt of energy without making them hyperactive.
- Snacks satisfy toddlers’ limited appetites. Because of their small stomachs, toddlers often don’t need to eat big meals, but they do find themselves hungry more often than adults.
- Toddlers who are hungry can get fussy and grouchy, and offering a snack now and then can help to stave off this change in mood.
- The nutrients in healthy snacks can help strengthen brain activity, bone development, and the immune system.
- Snacktime can be a good time to introduce a variety of food that picky eaters might like, in a small, low-pressure way.
Potential snacktime cons
- Snacktimes that come too often or too near to mealtime can interfere with a toddler’s regular meals.
- Snacking without limits, or snacking on less-nutritious foods can lead to unhealthy eating habits and unnecessary weight gain.
- The food residue left on teeth during these small, between-meal snacks can contribute to tooth decay.
Healthy snacktime tips
The snacktime cons can sound unsavory, but according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, kids need to eat snacks in order to thrive. Luckily, snacktime cons are easy to avoid, and healthy snacking is a great addition to any toddler’s routine.
- It is common for toddlers to have fickle appetites – today’s favorite may be tomorrow’s “no, no!” To avoid snacktime struggle, limit Baby’s choices to two. This way, he still gets the freedom to choose, which gives him a sense of power over his own body and appetite. On the other hand, it also keeps him from getting too overwhelmed by choices and keeps you from turning into the waiter at his little one-toddler restaurant.
- Presentation can be as important at a toddler’s snacktime as it is at any five-star restaurant. You can use plates, snack boxes, or containers that are colorful or are printed with Baby’s favorite cartoon characters to keep him interested and engaged. Snacks that involve dipping or construction can keep toddlers engaged and interested, and snacks that come in fun shapes and colors can keep routine snacks feeling fresh.
- Snacking has a reputation for being less-than-healthy, but there’s nothing unhealthy about snacking on reasonable portions of wholesome, nutrient-right foods. Avoiding snacks that are high in sugar, salt, and fat can help you ensure that Baby’s snacks are delicious and nutritious.
- Snacktime is an important part of a toddler’s day, but that doesn’t mean he should snack any time he wants – two snack times a day, in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon is a great schedule for most toddlers.
- Snacktime is for snacking, not distractions. Toddlers who snack in front of the television, computer, or tablet may end up eating either more or less than they’re actually hungry for.
Nutrient-packed snacks for toddlers
There are many healthy snacks that toddlers can enjoy – some snacks recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics include:
- Fresh and dried fruits: Apples, strawberries, or apricots
- Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, spinach, or peas
- Breads and Cereals: Crackers, whole wheat bread, or whole grain dry cereals
- Dairy products: Cheese, milk, or yogurt
- Lean proteins: Peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs, or fish
There are a thousand different ways to construct a healthy diet to help toddlers grow big and strong, and for so many of them, healthy snacking is a key ingredient!
- Jo Ellen Shield. “When Should My Kids Snack?” eat right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, February 13 2014. Retrieved July 6 2017. http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/when-should-my-kids-snack.
- “Selecting Snacks for Toddlers.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, December 14 2016. Retrieved July 6 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/nutrition/Pages/Selecting-Snacks-for-Toddlers.aspx.