Toddlers use a lot of energy to grow and play, and their little stomachs can't hold enough food to keep them from getting hungry between meals. Many young children need both a morning and an afternoon snack. These should be timed so they will still be hungry for lunch and dinner.
Snacks should include a balance of healthy foods. Children often come to think of a "snack" as a time to eat highly processed foods. You can help avoid this trap by serving a variety of freshly prepared foods to your children—even at snack time.
Healthy snack options for toddlers
- Apples, bananas, peaches, nectarines, pears (thinly sliced for safety)
- Cherries, grapes, plums (sliced or smushed and pitted)
- Orange or grapefruit sections (cut into pieces)
- Apples, apricots, peaches, pears (cut up)
- Dates, prunes (pitted, cut up)
- Raisins or cranberries
- Carrots, green beans (well cooked, diced)
- Steamed cauliflower, broccoli
- Yams or sweet potatoes (cooked and diced)
- Peas (mashed for safety; a child can inhale whole peas)
- Steamed, pureed spinach or greens
- Avocado slices or small cubes
- Cheese (grated or diced)
- Cottage cheese
- Yogurt, fresh or frozen
- Milk, including non-dairy milk alternatives
Breads and cereals
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole grain tortilla, pita, or bagels cut into small pieces
- Crackers (graham, whole grain)
- Whole grain dry cereals
- Fish (canned tuna, salmon, sardines, whitefish)
- Peanut butter or other nut butters (smooth, spread thinly on whole grain bread or crackers)
- Edamame beans or chickpeas (steamed or mashed) or hummus spreads
- Cooked tofu cubes or tofu dip
- Hard boiled eggs
Snacks toddlers should avoid
Big chunks of any food are dangerous for children under than age 4 and pose serious choking hazards. For this reason, raw veggies and some fruits such as carrots, apples, whole cherry tomatoes, whole green beans, and celery should be cut into small pieces and/or cooked to minimize the choking risk. Nuts, peanuts, popcorn, and large amounts of sticky foods like peanut butter are also choking hazards. See Unsafe Foods for Toddlers for more examples.
Heavily processed foods should also be avoided; they tend to be low in nutritional value and high in salt and added sugar.