As moms of toddlers know, snacking and meals seem to be one of the same thing. I try hard as a registered dietitian to establish good eating patterns for my children by having 3 routine meals a day and offering a snack every 2-3 hours1.

By the end of the day it’s a blur of plastic, bright colored plates, sippy cups, and crumbs. I can only hope at least some of it made it into my toddler’s belly.

Here are my rules to break through the chaos for some snack time sanity:

1. Snacks Are Mini Meals:

Every time you give your child food, it’s an opportunity to fuel their growth and to get nutritious foods into their tummies. Make sure to include at least 2 different food groups in each snack. This ensures that your child is getting the variety of nutrients found in each food group.

Goldfish are a toddler’s favorite snack. Am I right? To make this a nutrient-rich snack I add small bites of cheese in the bowl. This gives the snack a protein and calcium kick!

2. Toddlers are Creatures of Habit:

My kids do NOT like trying new foods. To challenge their comfort zone, pair new food with old time favorites. Keep on giving it to them – repeated exposure is the key to developing a taste for new, healthy foods2.

Our go-to favorite snack is a smoothie. It’s a great blank canvas for including new and different foods. We always start with the same base and then add new fruits and vegetables to change the flavor. As an added bonus, it’s a great way to empty the fridge.

Here is the base of our smoothie. I’ve been known to add avocado, spinach, pineapple, raspberries, and ground flax seed to this smoothie to add new flavors.

3. Sweeten the Deal:

A little sweetness goes a long way to get kids to enjoy healthy foods3. I grew up having a bit of sugar on my cheerios and I carry that philosophy to my children’s overall diet. If a little sweetness increases their consumption of highly nutritious foods, I count that as a win!

Here are some new guidelines on adding sugar to make sure you’re adding the appropriate amount of sugar to your kid’s diet.

A yogurt parfait is a perfect way to get toddlers to eat healthy foods.

yogurt parfait with cheerios

This is our favorite parfait recipe:

Ingredients

  • ½ cup whole fat greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp Nutella
  • ¼ cup cheerios
  • chopped banana
  • Handful of raspberries

Directions

Mix Nutella and yogurt together. Add cheerios, banana, and raspberries. Serve.

What are some of the tricks you use to get the most out of snack time? Add your comments below! I look forward to adding my two cents.

Here are a few of the resources that helped me pull together my thoughts:

  1. 11 to 36 Months: Feeding Your Toddler. Ellyn Satter Institute. Available at: http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/htf/11to36months.php. Accessed on March 24, 2017
  2. Satter EM; Learning about new food. Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. Madison, WI: Kelcy Press; 1999:186.
  3. Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools. Council on School Health, Committee on Nutrition, Pediatrics Feb 2015, peds. 2015-3902; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2014-3902. Available at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2015/02/17/peds.2014-3902. Accessed on 3/24/2017