I’m regularly asked by my readers and followers on Instagram to write about and provide ideas for snacks for toddlers and young children. This is SUCH a popular topic, and one that I haven’t REALLY got round to writing about as yet!!!
I’ve written before about 5 top snack options for children as well as my fav ways to add extra nutrients into baby’s snacks, but never a blog which is really comprehensive on this topic. So, today is that day!!!
What’s the deal with snacks for babies & toddlers?
Current recommendations in the UK are that, under 1 year of age, children don’t really need snacks, and that once baby is established on 3 meals a day, those, along with milk feeds in-between meals should provide enough in the way of energy and nutrients for young babies.
Over 1 year of age, the NHS and other organisations do tend to recommend offering snacks to young children between 1-5 years of age.
Are snacks necessary?
Raffy rarely has much in the way of snacks at home. The reason for this, is that he tends to eat fairly big portions at his mealtimes, and he just doesn’t really need the extras between those meals. That said, at nursery, at friends and family’s houses and when we are out and about for the day, he does often get snacks.
In the most practical sense snacks can be really handy for keeping little ones occupied, for making sure they don’t go hungry if you’re not able to (for whatever reason) offer meals at baby’s usual food times, or in case there isn’t anything else your little one can have on a menu, for example.
However, for other families, snacks can also play an important role of keeping little ones topped up on energy and nutrients, and, especially for children who are often fussy, they can offer more opportunities for children to eat!
The best choices?
When it comes to snacks, it can be easy to rely on some of the less healthful options such as crisp/biscuits and sweet options, as you know your little one will likely gobble them up and it’ll sustain them for the short while before their next meal. However, it’s ideal if snacks at this age provide more than just calories & sugar/salt for baby. This is because children have small stomachs and high nutrient needs, comparative to their body size. In other words, if they are eating foods, it’s helpful if the calories they are eating come along with LOTS of nutrients too!
What do UK recommendations say?
Start4Life & NHS ran a rather controversial campaign a few years ago, which suggested that children should look for “100 calorie snacks, two a day max!”. However, this is a useful, rough guide, but calorie counting isn’t something I would recommend that parent’s or children really do. It’s much better to look at food groups and where snacks are coming from – helping kids to balance meals and snacks throughout the day. Also, the campaign is mainly aimed at food manufacturers, to help them to create snacks for children that are not super energy-dense!
Other organisations, such as First Steps Nutrition Trust recommend that each snack should make up roughly 10% of a child’s calorie intake for the day (around 120kcals).
Snacks on the go:
I’ve shared a visual before on non-bake snacks for taking on the go, for me, taking snacks out and about is important, and so most of the below options are ones that are easily carried around with you in appropriate containers.
I always have:
- Freezer bags
- Tupperwear boxes
- A mini cool bag
- An ice pack
- A lidded free-flowing water cup
At the ready to shove into a bag along with any snacks that need to stay cool!
What snacks does Raffy have?
When we are out and about, Raffy quite often relies on a scone, which he LOVES and is one of the reasons why I decided to make my own baby scone recipe without salt or added sugars!
He has also always loved his oatcakes, which I tend to flavour with different herbs and spices to give him plenty of flavours in his foods. I also often top this with a spread of peanut butter or marmite too and then sandwich the two together, so it doesn’t get messy!
At my parent’s house especially, Raffy will also eat his fill of blueberries, cherries, peaches…you name it, it all goes in at Grandma’s!
I’ve recently been experimenting with more home-baked snacks for him to take on the go, so check some of those out in the links below. I especially like the figgy porridge fingers!
More often than not, Raffy will have:
- A piece of fruit (e.g. banana, tangerine, plums, apricots or a small pot of blueberries are the easiest)
- A starchy carb such as bread, oatcake, a pancake or a cracker
- And sometimes (not always) a protein such as spread to go with the carb.
Healthy snacks for toddlers
Ideally, it’s good if snacks for toddlers can be more like mini-meals, so check out my post on How to Balance Meals for Toddlers to get more of an idea of what I’m referring to here, but you want to try to include:
- Starchy carbs
- A fruit or veg and
- A protein/iron or dairy food
in most of baby’s snacks.
- Oatcakes with peanut butter and some tangerine segments
- Mini tuna and cucumber sandwiches
- Pancakes with cream cheese & halved cherry tomatoes
Just because I know that parents LOVE a bit of inspo, here is a LONG LIST of some of my favourite healthy snack ideas for toddlers which tend to be nutrient rich and can help you add balance to your toddlers meals!
Healthy Snack ideas for Toddlers:
- Breadsticks/veggie sticks and dips (keep cool with an ice pack)
- Savoury flapjacks like these from What Mummy Makes
- Figgy porridge fingers
- Pancakes, usually topped with peanut butter
- A hard-boiled egg (keep cool with an ice pack)
- Mini sandwich quarters
- Mini pitta pizzas
- Savoury muffins
- Falafel bites
- Scones with some chopped strawberries
- Oatcakes with PB or marmite
- Piece of fruit – little tub of blueberries, a banana or 2 plums are my favourite kind of options
- Cooked broccoli with a pot of grated cheese (keep cool with a ice pack)
- Crackers with cheese & chopped grapes
- Carton of plain milk/fortified milk alternative with some breadsticks (keep cool with ice pack)
- Plain/natural yogurt & chopped banana
- Green beans & cooked carrot sticks
- Avocado with cream cheese & tomato chunks (keep cool with ice pack)
- Cold pasta fingers with a tomato dip
- Buttered bread fingers with a hard-boiled egg
- Peanut butter with mashed banana with bread/crackers
- Cucumber fingers with homemade hummus (keep cool with ice pack)
- Sardines on toast (maybe one for home!)
- Sweet potato wedges yogurt dip
- Mini pot of peas with some fish fingers (keep cool with ice pack)
- Energy balls Recipe