Does it seem like it is always snack time? Many children graze throughout the day enjoying the never-ending snack time. As a parent, you can try to pair up two items from different categories of food to keep things balanced and make sure the kids have enough to fill up at each snack time. Snacks are good for toddlers because they help them stay focused, meet their nutritional needs, and keep hunger at bay. For some parents, a snack is a bag of fries, some biscuits, juices, sodas, crisps, and many low-nutrient foods that don’t add much nutritional value to the child. Unplanned, random snacking can lead to problems. Nonstop snacking interferes with kids’ appetites and can disrupt their instinct to experience hunger and fullness. When timed correctly, snacks can help kids get the energy and nutrients they need, because snacks should be considered mini-meals and not just comfort foods.
When at home designate a certain area as the “eating-only zone” and limit all snacking to that location. When kids are snacking all over it is not easy to know exactly how much they have eaten and this habit will continue even when they are older. Also as they are snacking switch off the TV; studies have shown that mindless munching led to overeating. Most toddlers, children, and teens need to eat every three to four hours throughout the day to fuel their growing, active bodies and meet their daily food plan. Toddlers need to eat three meals and at least two snacks a day and older kids need two snacks if they are going through a growth spurt or if they are very physically active. Try as much as possible to offer planned snacks consistently throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to offer snacks a few hours after one meal ends and about one to two hours before the next meal begins.
The following strategies will make you as a parent improve your toddler’s snacking habits.
- Don’t offer snacks too close to meals.
- Offer meals and snacks at a predictable time.
- Don’t offer empty calories to your child, offer nutrient-dense foods that are otherwise lacking in the diet and will help improve your child’s nutrient intake.
- Be prepared for hungry tummies at predictable snack times, prepare snacks early to avoid giving your child empty calories like sodas.
- Place produces in plain sight, it encourages a healthy snacking time.
- Offer your child a snack containing protein and fiber, so the snacks are filling, sustaining, and add to the quality of the diet.
- Don’t use food as a reward or to bribe your child.
Most toddlers love to feel in control, so offer twice or three healthy options and let kids choose what they want. You can offer smaller portions of the foods you serve at meals or try thin slices or small pieces of fruit, cooked veggies, crackers, yogurt, and low-sugar, whole-grain breakfast cereals. Avoid foods that can cause choking, such as whole grapes, raisins, popcorn, nuts, sausages, chunks of meat, hard cheese, raw veggies, or hard fruits.
Here is a list of kid-friendly snacks that are both healthy and delicious to keep your toddler’s tummy full:
- Nuts are high in healthy fats and protein. Dietary fibre is important for supporting children’s growth.
- Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast for kids but can also make a great snack. Oatmeal is high in fibre which increases beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
- A fruit smoothie is a good way to pack a lot of nutrients into a small snack, you can also add veggies to a smoothie but avoid fruit juice, which is high in sugar.
- Hard-boiled eggs, eggs are highly nutritious and an excellent snack that provides high-quality protein and several vitamins and minerals. Also a good source of choline that is necessary for proper brain development.
- Baked sweet potato fries, sweet potatoes are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, they are a nutritious alternative to French fries.
- Whole-grain muffins.
- Pieces of fruits, most fruits contain fibre and important nutrients like potassium and vitamins. Bananas, apples, pears, grapes, and oranges are good snacks.
- Frozen fruit popsicles are yummy treats for kids, most store-bought popsicles are full of artificial flavours and refined sugars. But you can easily make yours at home by making a puree of your child’s favourite fruit.
- Yogurt is an excellent snack for babies because it is a good source of protein and live bacteria which is beneficial for the digestive system.
Toddlers enjoy snacks that are a little sweet so you can add a banana to make it sweet. Try as much as possible to offer kids whole, unprocessed foods at snack time instead of prepacked snack foods.