Baby and toddler snacking tips, guidance & ideas highlights.
- Young children need to eat 5 or 6 times a day with snacks providing essential daily nutrients.
- Serve snacks at the same time every day paced so they don't ruin their appetite for mealtime.
- Avoid using sweet snacks as treats.
- We created our puffs to provide an easy, wholesome and simple option that you don’t have to plan or prepare.
For most parents, it feels like their kids can't last fifteen minutes without a snack. We all remember our parents saying, "Don't eat that. You'll spoil your appetite." Learning not to snack between meals remains sound advice.
However, snacking is also a critical part of a healthy diet for babies and toddlers. Toddlers use a lot of energy to grow and play, and their tiny stomachs can't hold enough food to keep them from getting hungry between meals. Wholesome snacks level out hunger spikes and prevent crankiness while providing a much-needed energy boost. For picky eaters, snacks can also ensure your little one gets adequate nutrients.
So, snacks are an essential part of a toddler's daily nutritional needs, but this doesn't mean they benefit from a never-ending snack time.
Serve simple, well-timed snacks between meals.
The key to developing healthy eating habits with young children is to integrate wholesome snacks into their daily routine in a predictable manner. Young children need to eat five or six times a day, ideally having three meals and two or three well-timed snacks.
It is best to time snacks, so your little one gets a boost but is hungry again by the next mealtime. We all know that children thrive on routine, so it's a good idea to try to serve meals and snacks around the same time every day. Scheduling snacks provides kids a sense of control while teaching them that snacks are only available at certain times. A good rule of thumb is to offer snacks about two hours after one meal and two hours before the next one.
Little ones who are allowed to graze all day long often have difficulty figuring out when they're hungry, and learning to recognize hunger is essential to maintaining a healthy weight later in life. So we offer our kids meals and snacks at the same time every day and then let them decide how much they want to eat. It’s our job to offer the food, and their job to decide if and how much they want to eat! Accepting this division of responsibility really helps to reduce battles at meals and snack times.
Serve nutrient-rich mini-meals at snack time.
Young children get a significant percentage of their calories from snacks, so serving nutrient-rich and well-balanced snacks is vital. Your little ones enjoy watching the same movie 212 times, and the same thing goes for snacks. The choices can be repetitive and simple and do not need to be Instagram-worthy, but they should provide nutrition.
We also recommend that you not associate snack time with sweet treats. Treats can happen anytime! We sometimes serve dessert as a side dish with dinner. If they eat dessert first then that’s ok! If dessert is not on a pedestal, it helps foster a much healthier attitude towards treats.
We also caution against rewarding good behavior with sweets. This just reinforces that other foods are ‘less good’ and therefore your child will be less likely to enjoy them.
Snack time is also an excellent opportunity to improve your child's nutrient intake. Think of snacks as mini-meals and serve healthy, nutrient-rich options low in sugar and salt. Fresh fruit, veggies, whole grains, and protein-rich foods are good choices for both snacks and meals.
There are some simple things you can do to help your little ones choose healthy snacks. We keep a bowl of fresh, just ripe whole fruit on display in the kitchen. We also keep small containers of fresh ready to eat veggies like carrots, celery sticks, and broccoli florets at a kids-eye level in the fridge. We frequently join in during snack time. If your little ones see you dipping carrots in hummus, there's a good chance they'll want to try it too!
More guidelines for snack time.
When it comes to snacks, CHOICE is a parent's best friend! Provide two or three snack choices (no more) and then let your little one choose what and how much they want to eat. If they refuse all of them, calmly say, "Okay, but after this, the kitchen will be closed until dinner. Would you like one of these snacks now, or would you like to wait until dinner to eat again?"
When at home, designate a particular area as the eating-only zone and limit all snacking to that location. Also, avoid letting kids snack while watching TV, except during family movie night, of course! Studies show that mindless munching in front of the TV leads to overeating later in life.
Our healthy snack ideas.
- Nut butter and banana toast
- Littlemore puffs dipped in mashed avocado
- Apple slices and peanut butter
- Energy balls (sunflower butter, oats, shredded coconut, & a splash of orange juice mixed and rolled into balls)
- Whole fruits such as nectarines, peaches, plums and apples
- Steamed apples & cinnamon (peel and chop an apple, place in a microwave-safe dish, cover, and cook for 2 min or until soft, then sprinkle with cinnamon, perfect for babies!)
- Littlemore puffs dipped in hummus or tzatziki
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Cucumber sticks dipped in hummus, tzatziki, or mashed avocado
- Cubed cheese & fruit
- Rice crackers with seed or nut butter or hummus
- Roasted chickpeas (coat with pesto for extra yum)
- Baby carrots (older children) or steamed sliced carrots (babies)
- Plain, no added sugar yogurt or cottage cheese with chopped fruit and chia seed sprinkles
- Edamame beans (leave in the pod for older kids because it's fun to get them out!)
- Sauteed cubed tofu
We hope these ideas and suggestions help! We totally understand the struggle of feeding little ones MANY times a day and created our puffs to provide an easy, wholesome and simple option that you don’t have to plan or prepare. Here’s to a little less snack-time stress and a little more snack time smiles!