Toddlers and preschoolers need a variety of nutrients to support their growing bodies. However, it can be difficult to get children to eat enough during mealtimes. Adding in healthy snacks throughout the day can help ensure they get all the nutrients they need.
Nutrient-dense foods are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. Examples of nutrient-dense foods are fruits and vegetables, whole grains in bread and pastas, dairy products, lean meats, eggs, peas, beans, and nuts. To add more nutrient-dense foods into your child’s day, you can try adding a snack at any of these times: between breakfast and lunch, between lunch and dinner, and after dinner. If your child isn’t ready to try one of the foods listed below, that’s OK. Some caregivers find that it takes a few tries to get their child to give it a taste.
Plain yogurt with whole grain animal crackers: Plain yogurt is a great source of calcium and protein for growing bodies. Children get important fiber, carbohydrates, and protein from the whole grains in animal crackers.
Celery with peanut butter and raisins: Not only is this “ants on a log” snack fun for kids, but it’s also packed with important carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for your growing child. If your child can’t eat peanut butter, this snack also works great with tree nut butters: soy nut butter, sunflower seed butter, and other peanut-free substitutes.
Make your own trail mix: DIY trail mix is a great way to get your child involved in preparing their own snacks. If possible, give them the opportunity to pick what they’d like to add to the mix, including banana chips, dehydrated pineapple, peanuts, almonds, whole wheat cereal like plain Cheerios, raisins, or craisins. Nuts are high in healthy fats, along with fiber and antioxidants. However, they can be a choking hazard for some children. It’s recommended that caregivers keep an eye on children when first trying nuts to make sure they’re able to handle the hard texture.
Fruit smoothie: You can pack your child’s favorite fruits—and other healthy options like kale and spinach—into a delicious smoothie. A bag of frozen fruit, light fruit juice or milk, and some ice cubes are all you need for a healthy, delicious smoothie. Fruit is an important source of vitamin C, which supports healthy immune systems, and it also contains fiber and other vitamins that support growing bodies.
String cheese: This hands-on snack is a kid favorite, and it provides children with calcium to support strong bones.
Baked sweet potato fries: This twist on traditional french fries is packed with vitamin A, which helps promote healthy eyes and skin. You only need a sweet potato, olive oil, and salt for delicious sweet potato fries. Peel and thinly slice the sweet potato. Then, toss with a teaspoon of olive oil and salt. Finally, bake on a cookie sheet at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
Peanut butter and banana whole wheat quesadilla: Filled with protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates, this snack is both delicious and healthy. Spread a thin layer of peanut butter (or a peanut butter substitute) on the tortilla, and add sliced banana. You can either roll it up or fold over in fourths.