Would anyone out there disagree with me if I made the claim that toddlers and preschoolers almost unilaterally prefer snacks over meals? Maybe it’s their short attention span, or that it’s more fun to eat on a walk in the stroller, at the park, in their car seat, or sitting on the floor. Who knows!? But, in my experience, it’s just true. So the next few posts will be dedicated to my all-time favorite toddler snack recipes, and I’m excited to share these easy, whole-food, kid-approved snacks. Before I get started, I wanted to share my snack philosophy and acknowledge that truly the best snacks don’t need a recipe at all! So, here we go:
Capitalize on snack-time. I try to take advantage of the beloved snack time by using it to get a variety nutrients into my kids, especially the ones they are more likely to snub at dinner time. For instance, crackers are super convenient and my kids love them, but I certainly don’t have to worry about them finishing their carbs at dinner! Pasta, bread, rice – no problem. Veggies and protein? Those can be a little more difficult for us. So, as I think about what to offer for snacks, I start with vegetables and protein, knowing that the the fruits, starches and dairy will easily fill in throughout the day.
Keep it positive and keep trying. A surprising amount of research is out there on young children and food. For instance, it’s normal for kids to be wary of new foods, but they will grow to like them with repeated exposure. Furthermore, the exposure to these foods should be positive or neutral, without pressuring or forcing a child to eat. Pressure can actually have the opposite effect on children, causing more stubbornness and picky eating. Also, in my experience, getting the kids involved in the food process creates more buy-in on their part – perhaps picking in the garden, choosing foods from the grocery store, or helping to wash and cut up produce (with your guiding hand of course).
Crackers aren’t the only convenient finger food. Ideally, a snack food is easy and – can I get an AMEN – not a huge mess! So we opt for convenient finger foods like animal-shaped crackers, puffs of some sort, dry cereal, etc. Fruits are often another good go-to, but sometimes by the end of the day I feel like all my kids ate were bananas and raisins! So, here is a short list of snack foods that meet my requirements of easy (as in no recipe or prep outside of washing and maybe slicing) and clean, while also being outside of the grain and fruit food groups:
- Peas – buy frozen and thaw in fridge if you’re thinking ahead, at room temp if you’re bringing them to go and won’t be eating them right away, or on the spot by rinsing in warm water. Peas are sweet and therefore a favorite, but experiment! Your kid may love frozen broccoli!
- Grass-fed, uncured meat sticks like these – give them to your kids whole if they are good chewers, or slice up as a finger food.
- Cucumber spears – these are a soft vegetable, making it much easier for kids than the typical carrot stick. And even though they can be juicy, it’s basically just water!
- Cheese slices or sticks – Kerrygold is a great brand sold at Costco that uses milk from grass-fed cows to make their dairy products. Good stuff.
- Cashews – you have to make sure your child has the molars and motor skills for chewing these, but cashews are one of the softest nuts, making them a good option for little ones.
- Cherry tomatoes – admittedly, these can get juicy when bit into, but before that, they are perfectly contained and bite-sized!
- Hard-boiled eggs – slice or dice and serve. If you really need to keep things clean, save the yolks for another purpose and just stick to the whites. You can make these ahead or buy them pre-cooked (our local Costco recently started carrying cases of already boiled and peeled eggs! Another win for Costco).
Of course there are so many other options! Like I said, this is my elite list of snacks that are pretty mess-free and finger-food friendly. Stay tuned for upcoming posts featuring my favorite toddler [and up] snacks of all time!