Toddler nutrition – half the time, you can’t get your child to sit still for food or when you do, he doesn’t like it or dumps it in his lap. Figuring out the right balance to keep your energetic little one healthy and full can be quite the challenge.
Snacks are a big part of the equation. Why? Well, your child still has a small attention span and a small tummy! Getting a little one to eat a lot at one sitting is tough, both mentally and physically, which is why snack time can be so important. So, what are the keys to packing the right snack for your toddler? We have got it broken down into 4 simple steps!
Taste the Rainbow: Ok — we realize that this is the slogan for Skittles, the fruit-flavored, bite-sized candy, and we’re definitely not recommending you give your child candy for snack. However, the colors of the rainbow are a great guideline for Toddler Snack Time. Red raspberries or strawberries; yellow mangoes or corn; green kiwi and bite-sized broccoli, blueberries and more – the more colorful your child’s diet, the healthier it most likely is. And, go for the real thing instead of fruit or veggie-flavored gummies which can contain a lot of refined and processed sugars. Fresh fruits and veggies can easily be chopped up and stored in small containers so that you can just grab and go – in the diaper bag, backpack or in the lunch bag. Include a dip such as hummus, yogurt, spinach dip or even mustard. Toddlers love “to do it themselves” and chubby little fingers will love veggies, fruits and dip!
Just Say No to the Juice: As easy as it is to toss a juice box or pouch with your child’s snack, don’t. Four ounces of fruit juice a day is plenty for your toddler, and he’ll be much better off without the sugar and calories. Instead, encourage water and milk throughout the day and if your child wants fruit, go for the real thing, which is much better than even “100% fruit juice.” So when you’re packing a snack, make sure you have a water bottle or a milk sippy cup along for the ride.
Stick to a Schedule: You already know that getting your child to eat can be a daily hurdle. To make it easier on both of you, have a mealtime – and a snack time – schedule. Continuous grazing and nibbling throughout the day makes it hard for your child to know when he’s hungry and when he’s not. Children respond well to routine and a regular schedule will allow you to keep a better handle on your child’s appetite and nutrition. Additionally, an eating schedule, even at a young age, helps you to establish that all-important family meal routine which can be invaluable over the years. So, what’s a good schedule? Most toddlers should have 3 meals with 2-3 snacks interspersed throughout the day. If this seems like too much, remember that toddlers should be self-feeding and that portion sizes are much smaller than we adults consider enough. And as always, remember that your schedule is your guideline, not a noose around your neck. If you need some occasional flexibility, take it.
Let your Child be Choosy: No, we are not trying to create a mini-monster in your house, but so much of toddler-hood is finding and exerting independence. And while your toddler doesn’t get to decide everything, let him have some choices when it comes to snack time. “Do you want hummus and bread or cheese and crackers?” “Crackers or a rice cake?” “Strawberries or blueberries?” Having a choice doesn’t mean snack time evolves into cookies or candy bars, but as long as you manage the options, it’s perfectly fine to let your toddler make the final decision. On that note, this is your time to control what is in your refrigerator and pantry. Your child can’t eat it if you don’t buy it – so take advantage of this and set the standard for healthy eating.
Packing a snack is just one more thing to stress over, but it doesn’t have to be. We live in a world where there is an overload of information about what to feed your child, but at the end of the day, it is just good common sense. Arm yourself with the knowledge – and your house with the food – and you’ll have no problem sending your little one off with a delicious, nutritious snack.
- “Healthy Snacks for Kids.” Whattoexpect.com. December 7, 2015. https://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler-nutrition/healthy-snacks-for-kids.aspx
- “Snacks for Toddlers.” KidsHealth from Nemours. June 2015. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/toddler-snacks.html