If you’re reading this, you likely care a lot about what you’re putting into your child’s body. It can be really overwhelming to figure out how to nourish your baby while also not feeling stressed by the amount of time it takes to make everything from scratch.
The goal of this blog is to provide you with quick ideas for toddler snacks so that you can feel less overwhelmed by nourishing your child with more time to focus on being present with your child and taking care of yourself.
Why am I, a therapist, talking about nutrition for our kids?
Nutrition affects not only our physical body but our mind as well. Food affects our mood, our behavior, and our growth. What we put in our body matters, and it matters dramatically for our kids as their brains are rapidly developing and they are learning how to manage their emotions and communicate how they feel.
While nutrient dense food can’t prevent normal mood fluctuations, all tantrums, and can’t make up for the fact that your child’s brain isn’t fully developed until they have long past left your home (i.e., age 25), it can support stable blood sugar to reduce dramatic mood swings, mitigate hunger-induced outbursts, and significantly impact optimal brain development and overall intelligence.
You may be thinking…
I agree, food matters, but so does my mental health! I want my kid to be well-nourished but I have to stay sane!
I got you! Let’s get into some snack ideas that support stable blood sugar and provide the nutrients our little ones need for optimal growth and development. For that, we need to be sure that we are prioritizing nutrient dense and bioavailable (meaning the body can readily absorb it) proteins and fats.
What to prioritize with snacks: Pair any carb with a protein and/or fat source. Meaning, if you serve fruit, pair it with cheese or a meat stick. Fruit (a carb) alone will cause a blood sugar spike and can lead to sugar crashes and thus rapid mood fluctuation.
Keep in mind: you can’t force your child to eat anything, and it’s important not to get into a power struggle with them to try to get them to eat it. Place the snack down and then let them decide what they’ll eat and how much. It’ll be okay!
(Disclaimer: use your judgment as to what feels age and skill appropriate for your toddler. Honey is best avoided prior to age 1. For more on size and shape of food that is safe for eating, check out the Solid Starts website and Instagram account.)
Of course, we want to prioritize unprocessed or minimally processed foods whenever possible, but we also have to keep it practical and sometimes we just need any easy snack! These snacks below have minimal, recognizable ingredients without any seed oils.
Lesser Evil power curls – while most puffs are primarily carbs, I love that these have protein in the form of egg whites in them.
Serenity Kids pouches: they have both meat pouches and smoothie pouches. They use organic ingredients and their pouches all contain protein, even the smoothies.
Meat sticks (best for older toddlers as there’s an outer skin) – Paleo Valley is my favorite brand. I love both the beef sticks (garlic summer sausage flavor) and the pork sticks (maple bacon flavor).
Cottage cheese – alone or with fruit/drizzle of honey on top (Honey can be safely served only after age 1). My favorite cottage cheese brands are Good Culture and Green Valley.
Full-fat yogurt – top with flaxseed, fruit, honey, organic nuts (for older toddlers who can safely chew nuts). Favorite dairy brands are Green Valley and Nancy’s. For coconut yogurts, I like GT (these are flavored, but they use juice versus cane sugar), Cocojune (plain), and Culina (plain or bourdon vanilla which has maple syrup as the sweeter).
Cheese sticks – my preference is for any brand that offers full-fat cheese and is organic. Can pair this with fruit of choice.
Protein bars – Paleo Valley and Perfect bars are my top 2 recommendations. I love Paleo Valley bars because they are soft, chewable, and have bone broth in them for bioavailable protein (and collagen!). These are also smaller and have less calories so great for kids. Perfect bars are great too. They have whole egg powder in them and good fat from peanuts. They do come a kid size version but I haven’t seen those in stores. The regular/larger size is available at Costco or individual bars at places like Trader Joe’s and Sprouts.
(One note: if your child is sensitive to lactose, go with Paleo Valley as there is nonfat milk in the perfect bars.)
Leftovers: it’s okay to pull out anything you got in the fridge!
Smoothie: when I make a toddler smoothie, I always make sure there’s some protein in it so it’s not just a sugar bomb. I either use a bone broth protein or collagen. You can use a half or full scoop depending on the age of your child.
Here are several quick smoothie “recipes.” (I use quotes because I’m not giving exact measurements but more general ingredients.
-Chocolate banana: one scoop bone broth protein powder, whole dairy milk or coconut milk, 1/4-1/2 banana (room temp or frozen depending on how thick you want it), 1/2 tbsp flaxseed.
-Vanilla cherry: one scoop bone broth protein powder, whole dairy milk or coconut milk, frozen cherries, 1/2 tbsp flaxseed, GT raspberry coconut yogurt.
-Mixed berry: frozen mixed berries, 1/8-1/4 cup plain full-fat yogurt, milk of choice, 1 scoop collagen, 1/2 tbsp. chia seeds.
Hummus with chopped veggies or Siete cassava or corn chips – be sure to check labels to ensure that there aren’t seed oils present, ideally find one that uses extra virgin olive oil.
Sliced ham or turkey with cheese slices – if possible and your budget allows, buy organic ham and turkey and a grass-fed/organic cheese.
Sliced banana or strawberries with peanut, almond, or cashew butter (organic and single ingredient nut butter is best!)
Quesadilla: melt cheese in a Siete almond flour or cassava tortilla. Add ground beef if you already have some made. (for older toddlers who can chew melted cheese. For younger toddlers, ground beef, cheese, and avocado would be a great snack)
These require you to make ahead, but you can make a batch of any one of them and then use them throughout the week!
Peanut butter protein balls: best for older toddlers as these can be harder to chew for littler ones. Recipe is slightly modified from @rachaelsgoodeats
1/2 cup peanut butter (organic and single ingredient is best!)
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
2 scoops collagen
2 tbsp coconut flour
few shakes cinnamon
1-2 tbsp maple syrup or raw honey
1/4 cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
pinch of flakey sea salt
Combine all ingredients. Use either hands or a scooper (my preference) to form into balls. Chill for a couple hours.
Blueberry muffins: add butter or peanut butter
Chia seed pudding: combine 1/4 cup chia seeds with 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (adjust ratio as needs) and let “gel.” Eat just as it is or add optional toppings: fruit like berries, peanut or other nut butter, maple syrup or honey, nuts, or homemade whipped cream (use mixer to beat organic heavy cream, add splash of vanilla and maple syrup just as cream is thickening.
Final note: we are all doing our best in this whole parenting thing. You don’t have to be perfect in what you serve your child. We do our best, and we let the rest go!
* I am not a nutritionist, dietician, or physician. The content here is not intended to be medical or nutrition advice.