M.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200
Andie is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Lactation Consultant, and Certified Personal Trainer who thinks of nutrition counseling as equal parts science and sensitivity. She specializes in lactation, sports nutrition, exercise fitness, and weight loss programs.
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With your baby growing fast, snack time is an opportunity to introduce your child to more varied and healthy foods, increase the amount of vitamins and nutrients in his diet, and keep up his energy so he can play, explore and learn. Beginning at approximately nine months, your baby should eat two to three nutritious snacks (in addition to three well-balanced meals) each day.
Remember that when it comes to snacks, quality matters. Just because a packaged food item claims to be for kids or has your child’s favorite character on the box, doesn’t mean that it’s nutritious. So-called “toddler foods” are often loaded with excess salt and sugar as well as highly refined carbohydrates. Consuming such highly processed snacks or beverages can set up a preference for these types of foods.
Choose snacks that are high quality wholesome foods
Rather than falling for the trend that snacks are an invitation to eat junk (highly processed food), use snack time to incorporate a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein he needs. Focus on providing snacks to be chewed, rather than sipped (unless, of course, your child is not feeling well and not able to eat as he normally would), because calories from drinks are often void of nutrients and fiber and loaded with sugar, additives and caffeine. The exception would be whole fruit and vegetable smoothies because they do contain fiber, vitamins and minerals.
For packaged convenience/on the go snacks, look for foods that have no added sugar.
Keep it safe
Perishable foods should be refrigerated or kept on ice in a cooler. And supervise your little one while he eats, making sure to offer foods that are appropriate in terms of texture, size and shape for your child’s abilities. Avoid having your child eat while crawling, walking, running, or sitting in a moving stroller or car-seat, which could pose as a choking hazard. Instead, sit down to enjoy a snack together!
Cultivate healthy snacking habits
To encourage healthy snacking, avoid eating in front of a screen or while distracted by other activities. And develop an eating schedule (with flexibility) to manage your child’s expectations about when food will be available rather than creating an environment in which eating is an all-the-time activity. Remember that kids should eat roughly every three hours (or five to six times each day) and while parents should determine the what, when, and where of feeding, in order to have a healthy relationship with food, children should be the ones to decide whether and how much to eat.
To ensure you have healthy snack choices at your disposal, keep your child’s favorite healthy foods stocked at home, and always pack snacks while out and about as well as, if necessary, for daycare. Cut up foods as needed so that they don’t pose a choking hazard.
Favorite snack ideas for babies and toddlers include:
Older toddlers can enjoy all of the above foods for snacks, as well as:
For more information on picky eating, please visit our Picky Eating Hub.
Fox, MK, E Condon, RR Briefel, KC Reidy, and DM Deming. “Food consumption patterns of young preschoolers: are they starting off on the right path?” J Am Diet Assoc. Volume 110. Issue 12 (2010): pages S52-9. Cogswell, Mary E, Janelle P Gunn, Keming Yuan, Sohyun Park, and Robert Merritt. “Sodium and Sugar in Complementary Infant and Toddler Foods Sold in the United States.” The American Academy of Pediatrics. Date accessed Feb. 2015.