Toddlers and children have much smaller stomachs than adults and will naturally get hungry between meals. A healthy snack, given twice a day, will therefore stave off feelings of hunger at the same time as providing significant nutritional benefits and sustaining energy levels. So, today, we take a look at some easy and healthy snack ideas for toddlers and young children, plus any considerations around them. Our article may help to give parents and caregivers some guidance and inspiration around the subject of snacks that are both enjoyable and beneficial for the little ones.
First, though, some safety considerations should be mentioned. When feeding infants, toddlers and young children, it’s especially important to be mindful of their safety around food, for example in relation to allergens, choking hazards (e.g. due to inappropriate size and shape of food pieces) and eating anything that will be bad for their health or wellbeing. Always seek medical advice if you have any concerns.
Age Matters & Portion Sizes
Portion size is important for under-fives in particular. After all, you don’t want to make portion sizes so big that they put children off. Look out for signs like toddlers ignoring their plate, closing mouths when food is offered or, of course, spitting it out. These are all signs that the toddlers are probably full. It’s better to give smaller portions and then offer more if they clear their plate or otherwise indicate that they’re still hungry.
- For rice, beans and starchy foods like those, one portion is about the size of the child’s cupped hand.
- For fish or meat (proteins), one portion is about the size of the palm of the child’s hand.
- For fruit and cereal, one portion is roughly the size of the child’s fist.
- An appropriate portion size for one type of vegetables is, in theory, about the size the child’s cupped hand. However, it is not necessary to limit vegetable intake so much as the other food types. Indeed, should the child still be hungry after eating their entire meal or snack, giving them more vegetables rather than anything else is a good, healthy approach.
Only giving age-appropriate foods is also important, so do your research, especially for babies and infants. See our links in the sections following below and always carefully read labels.
A Word About Foods to Avoid Giving Infants
Today’s article is really aimed at the toddler age group. However, for younger children especially, there is a whole list of foods – aside from possible allergens – that it’s best to avoid. Most of them are suggested as foods to avoid because they contain too much salt, added sugar or saturated fats for babies and infants to safely ingest. However, there are also a few others that are best avoided for completely different reasons. We wrote a great guide to all of the foods to avoid in our, “A-Z of Foods to Avoid Giving Your Infant”. That guide is available by clicking the bold green link in this paragraph.
And a Word About Allergens
It’s also important to be vigilant to the possibility of your child being allergic to certain foods, particularly any that they have not tried before. The good news, however, is that we published a whole guide called, “Rough Guide to Food Allergens for Infants”, which can be read by clicking the bold green link in this paragraph. It takes you through symptoms to look out for, the most common food allergens and how to most safely introduce new foods to your little one.
Snacks for Toddlers
The NHS recommends that a toddler has two healthy snacks a day. This is easy to accomplish with a bit of planning and, as we said before, toddlers’ stomachs aren’t very big, so we are not talking about large amounts of food. The portion size of the snacks can later grow as your toddler does (see section on portion sizes earlier in this article).
Making each snack look appealing is the key to encouraging your toddler to try them. So, the addition of healthy but tasty dips, combining snacks that have rich colours or even making the food into face shapes and suchlike will help toddlers to engage more readily.
Some Simple but Healthy Snack Ideas for Toddlers:
- Muffins or rice cakes with cream cheese used as a spread or dip.
- Mashed avocado with vegetable sticks or Pita slices. You may sweeten the avocado with a bit of honey¹ if your toddler prefers.
- Cut fruit, vegetable sticks or Pita slices served with houmous as a dip.
- Plain (non-flavoured), unsweetened yoghurt with some added fruit pieces, suitably cut.
- Sliced, hard-boiled egg.
- Watermelon sticks.
- A variety of vegetable sticks such as celery, pepper, carrot and/or broccoli.
- Fruit cocktail with grapes², banana, apple and/or strawberry. If using tinned rather than fresh fruit, ensure the fruit is in its own juice rather than in syrup.
- Cheese sticks or small cheese cubes can be served with a cracker or Pita breads.
- Home-made smoothies using, for example, banana, strawberry, raspberry or mango. Use plain, unsweetened yoghurt or milk.
- Home-made mini sandwiches. These can be cut into small fingers or cubes. You could use fillings such as lean ham, houmous, mashed avocado, cheese (either grated or cream cheese).
1. Never give honey to children under the age of 1 as it contains bacteria that produces toxins in the intestines of babies/infants.
2. Grapes and other foods or pieces of similar shape should be sliced down into quarters so they’re no longer potential choking hazards.
Healthy Snacks at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery
At Leaps & Bounds Nursery, we subscribe to the Startwell guidelines on healthy eating and give children one healthy snack approximately mid-morning and another approximately mid-afternoon. These are healthy snacks too, for example fruit, vegetables or rice cakes. In this way, snacks are nutritious, stave off hunger, and help children to maintain decent levels of energy throughout their day. Children are always supervised around eating, of course, with any allergies catered for and staff being mindful in respect of any potential choking hazards.
Learn more about the Startwell Scheme here and learn more about our approach to healthy eating and encouraging children to be active here.
Nursery Places at Leaps & Bounds, Edgbaston
Leaps & Bounds is a nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham. We are also near Ladywood, Bearwood, Harborne and Smethwick, so may suit families in those locations too. All childcare funding options are supported, including free childcare hours for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds for eligible families (follow that last link for more information and options). Register your child for a nursery or pre-school place today, ask for a guided tour of the nursery or ask us any questions that you may have and we’ll be pleased to help.