A Nutritionist’s Guide to Toddler Snacking

Feeding a toddler is an interesting journey full of ups and downs. It seems like if you’re not mindful, snacking can quickly get out of hand, and possibly result in filling up on less nutrient-dense foods. It’s important to understand that the purpose of a snack for a child is to make up for nutrients that are potentially missed at meals. For example, snack time is an excellent time to add a serving of fruit with yogurt, which adds vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre to their day.

When offering snacks to our kids, we need to be intentional about the foods we are offering. First, keep in mind that human beings are supposed to be eating whole foods—yet a quick walk down any infant food aisle will show you a very different picture. While in the store this week, I looked at the most common foods I see toddlers snacking on. A quick look at the nutritional information and you will see that some of the infant food is nothing more then simple carbohydrates with very little nutritional benefit!

Popular Toddler Foods You May Want to Consider Skipping

  • Baby Mum-Mum and Cheese-like Puff Snacks: I see these every where, but they really do have no nutritional value for your kids, and I find they are given to kids more to entertain them than to satisfy them. I am continually surprised that these don’t have any iron in them.
  • Veggie Straws: Same concern as above, but these also aren’t really made with vegetables! These are mostly composed of highly processed potato and corn.
  • Goldfish Crackers: These are high in sodium and do contain MSG (autolyzed yeast). Because MSG is a flavour enhancer, it may cause children to overeat by overriding developing satiety cues. The strong flavour also may make this food more appealing for toddlers, meaning they will eat more of these and less whole foods, ultimately they would get less nutritional benefits then they would from whole foods.
  • Welch’s Fruit Snacks: Yes, they are made from pureed fruit, but they also three different types of sugar in the first five ingredients!

Looking at the nutrition facts alone, reflect on whether your go-to snack is really adding to your child’s health and development. If your children enjoy these foods, they can of course be included, but should be considered a treat rather than an everyday food.

I understand why people are attracted to these types of foods—they are easy and convenient. However, I do believe there are some more nutritious options that are just as easy to grab-and-go.


 My Top 8 Alternative Go-To Snacks for My Toddler

  • Homemade mini-muffins! I keep these in the freezer; I love looking for recipes with beans or lentils for added fiber, vitamins, and protein.
  • An easy-to-peel orange and a Babybel cheese
  • An apple and some cashews or pecans
  • Banana roll-up (nut butter and banana rolled up in whole-grain tortilla)
  • Individual hummus, snap peas and whole-grain crackers
  • Sunflower seed butter sandwich (a fun alternative to peanut butter)
  • Edamame beans (deshelled) and fruit
  • Yogurt and fruit

I do also keep a few Love Child Organics granola bars, regular Cheerios, and softer nuts (pecans, and cashews ) in the diaper bag for emergencies. Keep your freezer stocked with quick, homemade snack options to grab in a pinch, and pre-plan your day so you know what you need to have prepared.


Food for Thought About Kid Snacking

  • Follow Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility of feeding: the parents are responsible for what, when and where, and the child is responsible for if and how much.
  • Provided a flexible structure that works for your child and allow 2-3 hours between meals and snacks.
    • When time isn’t long enough between meals and snacks: this may result in your child being picky with food choices because they are not hungry.
    • When time is too long between meals and snacks: this can lead to more temper tantrums, over-eating at meals and reaching for less nutritious foods.
  • Try not to rely on the infant/toddler snack-food aisles at the grocery store, as these foods are commonly high in calories, sodium, processed ingredients, and low in nutrients.
  • Focus on balance! A carbohydrate will give them energy, but providing it along with a protein, fibre and healthy fat will help them stay full longer.
  • Eat at a table as much as possible; avoid the stroller snacks as this can lead to mindless eating. Keep in mind that food is meant to nourish our growing and developing children, not to keep them entertained.
  • Teach your children to primarily eat whole foods, not just foods that come from a package.


By Kelsey Hagen – Registered Nutritionist/Dietitian

Revive Wellness is a team of skilled and passionate Nutritionists specialized in nutrition and wellness coaching for the Edmonton area.

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