Creative Ideas and Recipes for Healthy Toddler Snacks On The Go

October 30th, 2011

It’s a fact of life that many toddlers are picky eaters and also that they’re constantly on the move. It can be difficult to get your toddler to sit still long enough to eat a whole meal, even if he doesn’t object to what you’ve cooked. Maya has been a pretty good eater so far, which I attribute to baby led weaning. However in the last month or so she’s definitely been reluctant to sit in her high chair and has on occasion barely picked at her meal.

It’s perfectly normal for toddlers to be fussy about eating. For one, the time required to eat a meal is much longer than most small children like to sit still. It is also normal for babies’ appetites to decrease as they reach the one year mark as they are no longer growing so fast. This can result in a lot of worried parents and picky toddlers who barely eat anything from one day to the next.

Part of the answer is to try not to worry about your toddler’s eating habits. No normal child will willingly starve himself and most parents find that the more fuss they make about getting their toddler to eat their dinner, the less they’ll actually eat. But how can you make sure your child is getting the nutrients he needs? Many parents like to give their children a toddler vitamin or supplement which can certainly help, but you want to make sure they’re eating some real food too.

One of the best solutions to deal with this age-old problem is to offer your toddler frequent snacks instead of 3 big meals a day. As well as being restless, toddlers have little tummies and may find it too overwhelming to try and eat a whole meal. By offering a range of different healthy toddler snacks snacks that your little one can help themselves to during the day, you can be sure you’re covering all the major food groups and your toddler can graze to his heart’s content. You’ll probably be surprised at the range and amount of food your toddler will consume when given free reign.

Ideas for Healthy Toddler Snacks On The Go

The perfect snacks for toddlers are bite size or can be picked up and carried around without crumbling and making a mess everywhere.  You’ll probably find that your toddler goes through phases of obsessing over a certain food, only to ignore it the next week. This is totally normal so just go with it.

Try to offer a range of nutritious healthy snacks from the following groups:

Fruits and vegetables

  • Fruit cut into bite size pieces, with yogurt dip for extra calories. Aim to cover all the colors of the rainbow for maximum vitamins
  • Carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus dip
  • ‘Ants on a log’ – fill celery sticks with peanut butter or cream cheese and add raisins. Don’t worry if your toddler just eats the filling – this is the nutritious part!
  • Corn on the cob, cut into toddler size portions
  • Dried fruit – as well as classic raisins try more exotic dried mango, papaya and other fruits(but try not to offer too frequently due to high sugar content)
  • Smoothies – blend banana and other fruits with yogurt and/or milk and serve in a straw cup
  • Steamed broccoli, carrot sticks and other veggies with grated cheese
  • Roast carrot and squash ‘fries’
  • Peas and sweetcorn
  • Apple slices, perhaps with peanut butter for some extra nutrients.

If your toddler never eats vegetables, don’t make an issue of it, keep offering them and maybe try sneaking some veggies chopped up small or grated into pasta sauce, pancakes and muffins.

Starches and Grains

  • Toast cut into fingers with different nutrient dense toppings – try peanut butter, hummus or cream cheese
  • Mini sandwiches with different fillings (go for sticky fillings so they don’t fall apart) – tuna and mayonnaise, cream cheese with grated carrot, toasted ham and cheese.
  • Roasted potato or sweet potato wedges with dip
  • Pasta spirals or other shapes
  • Wholegrain cereal shapes that can be eaten dry like Cheerios (but watch out for the sugar content!)
  • Wholegrain, low-salt crackers with different toppings
  • Mini muffins (don’t have to be sweet – try cheese and vegetable combinations)
  • Mini pancakes with different fillings in the batter
  • Rice balls (onigiri) with different fillings
  • Rolled up tortillas with different fillings, cut into bite size pieces
  • Rice cakes with different toppings
  • Mini homemade pizzas
  • Potato cakes with tuna or other fillings
  • Oatmeal ‘pancakes’ with raisins (recipe below)

Meats and other Protein

  • Homemade chicken nuggets – dip bite sizes pieces of chicken in beaten egg and breadcrumbs and fry
  • Homemade fish fingers – dip strips of boneless fish fillet in beaten egg and breadcrumbs and fry
  • Homemade meatballs – fry balls of minced beef with onion and garlic
  • Tofu cubes
  • Tempe slices
  • Homemade bean and lentil burgers
  • Falafel (chickpea balls)

Dairy

  • Cheese cubes
  • Yogurt
  • Smoothies made with milk or yogurt
  • Cream cheese or yogurt dips to be eaten with cut up veggies
  • Omelette with different fillings, cut into wedges.

Try to avoid commercially prepared foods, especially those aimed at young children as they are often high in salt, sugar and preservatives. It is much easier than you think to make your own versions of toddler favorites such as chicken nuggets and meatballs and there are some further recipe suggestions below. When cooking foods for your toddler, do not add salt and keep an eye on salt content of crackers and breads. Children under the age of 3 should consume no more than 2g of salt per day.

Using Toddler snack cups to Encourage your Child to Eat More

One way to get your toddler to eat through the day is to set out a kind of snack platter on a low, easy to reach table that your child can help himself to through the day. Another way which I use a lot with Maya and is useful for taking snacks out with you is to use a toddler snack cup or container.

I often fill several toddler snack containers with different snacks such as apple slices, raisins, cubes of cheese and crackers and leave them within reach close to where Maya is playing. As she is not yet old enough to tell me when she is hungry or what she wants to eat, this allows her to eat healthy snacks whenever she gets hungry. If we’re heading out, I just pop the lids on the snack cups, throw them in the changing bag and we’re good to go.

You can use any small container with a lid as a toddler snack container but there are now several specially designed toddler snack cups on the market which have some handy features like handles and spill-resistant lids. Two of the most popular brands are The Snack-Trap and the Munchie Mug

Toddler Snacks for Preschool or Daycare

If your little one heads off for preschool or daycare in the morning, you’ll want to make sure they have some nutritious snacks to get them through the day. Generally any of the snacks listed in ‘Toddler Snacks on the Go’ above will work well at daycare but be aware of school rules about what foods you can bring in. Many schools do now not allow nuts and nut products such as peanut butter in packed lunches and snacks due to allergy concerns.

You also want to make sure that whatever you include can be easily eaten by your toddler without help and has a low choking risk – even if your child is a very proficient eater, they may not be supervised as carefully as you would at home so be sure to cut grapes and other small round foods in half. Some preschools also ban foods that they consider to be ‘chokable’ such as raisins and popcorn so check with the school first.

Supply the snacks in a multi-compartment snack cup or box and include an icepack to keep the food fresh. Avoid anything that needs reheating and it goes without saying that you should encourage healthy eating for all the children by not including cookies or candies – save these for an occasional treat at home

Healthy Toddler Snack Recipes You can Make at Home

If you’re still stuck for healthy toddler snack ideas, here are a few of our favorite recipes that have been thoroughly tested and approved by Maya. If you’re doing baby-led weaning, feel free to try these out on your baby too – Maya was eating them from 6 months old:

Oatmeal Pancakes

Great for breakfast and the leftovers can be cut into bite size pieces and kept in the fridge in a snack cup for later.

  1. Fill a flat bottomed bowl or deep plate with a thin layer of porridge oats
  2. Add fillings such as raisins, banana slices or spoons of fruit puree (raspberry works well)
  3. Pour on just enough milk to cover the oats
  4. Microwave on medium power for 3 minutes or until all the milk has been absorbed
  5. Wait for the pancake to cool, cut into wedges and serve.

Potato-tuna cakes

  1. Boil and mash some potatoes with milk or water
  2. Mix in some canned tuna (in oil, not brine) and peas or any veggies you fancy
  3. Add enough flour so that the mixture is formable into patty shapes
  4. Dust with more flour and fry in oil until golden brown
  5. Leave to cool and freeze the extras for later

Pizza toast

  1. Toast a thick slice of bread on one side (wholegrain or white is fine – toddlers should have a mixture of both)
  2. Spread the non-toasted side with no-added-salt tomato puree and sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese
  3. Add different toppings – sliced ham, tuna, chopped onion, sliced vegetables and so on
  4. Toast until the cheese is melted
  5. Leave to cool and cut into squares

Cheese and Vegetable muffins

  1. In a bowl mix 2 cups of self-raising flour, 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese, 1 cup grated carrot and 1 cup cooked broccoli cut into small pieces
  2. Beat 2 eggs together with 1 cup of milk and 30g of melted butter
  3. Combine the 2 mixtures and stir until mixed well
  4. Spoon into a muffin tin and bake at 200 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes or until a metal skewer comes out clean when poked into a muffin
  5. Leave to cool and enjoy with your toddler!

 

 

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