Are you giving your toddler the same snacks every day? My mega list of healthy toddler snack ideas will offer you fresh inspiration for healthy snacks, while adding new flavors, textures and nutrients to the diet of your growing toddler.
I’ve worked with a lot of toddlers over the years in my private practice. One thing that comes up in conversation is snacking.
Parents are confused about snacks. Do toddlers need snacks? How many each day? Should they be sit down snacks or is it okay to eat them on the go? How about eating snacks in the stroller?
As a pediatric nutritionist, I view toddler snacks through the lens of nutrition, growth and development. I think about a toddler’s tummy: its size, digestion abilities, and the speed of which food contents move through.
I consider the high nutrient requirements of the toddler and the limited space (the tummy) to hold them. I also know how important it is to develop healthy flavor preferences, good eating habits early on, and a sense of adventure with trying new foods.
I view toddler snacks through the lens of nutrition, growth and development.~Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Do Toddlers Need Snacks?
Yes, they do and here’s why:
Small tummies mean that toddlers can’t (and wont’) eat large portions of food in one sitting. They need an eating schedule that offers frequent eating sessions throughout the day. I typically recommend 3 meals and 3 snacks during the day, spaced out every 2 to 3 hours.
Snacks should be just as nutritious, interesting, and flavorful as meals. In fact, I want you to think of toddler snacks as a ‘mini meal.’
Just a smaller number of food groups (2 or 3) and small portions.
Need a refresher on portion sizes for toddlers? Read: A Guide to Portion Sizes for Kids
I also want you to consider snack time as an opportunity for your toddler to try new foods, become exposed to different flavors, and experience new textures. Oh, and don’t forget it’s a time to practice independent food exploration and self-feeding!
There’s a lot of potential good stuff happening with snacking. So, yes, toddlers benefit in many ways from healthy toddler snacks.
Watch Out for Choking Hazards
Even though there will be more adventure with eating as you offer your toddler new foods, you still should be cautious about choking hazards.
Remember, eating skills are developing.
Never leave your young child alone while he’s eating, and for very young toddlers, stay attuned to their developing eating capabilities.
Always modify texture and size of food to match your toddler’s eating skills.
Avoid the following foods as they are a danger for choking:
- Candy and chewing gum (these are the most common culprits of choking in young children)
- Small, hard pieces of food (raw, hard vegetables like carrots)
- Large pieces of food (these can block the airway if not chewed thoroughly)
- Round, cylindrical shapes such as whole grapes, hot dogs, string cheese, and meat sticks (quarter or cut smaller before serving)
- Slippery or smooth foods such as large pieces of fruit with skin on, whole pieces of canned fruit, fruit with membranes like oranges
- Dry or hard foods may be challenging to chew such as popcorn, nuts and seeds, chips, and pretzels
- Sticky or tough foods such as nut butters, tough meat, dried fruit, and chewy candy
Snack Ideas for Toddlers
It can be so easy to pull out the same orange cheesy crackers and milk every day at snack time, but you’d be missing a golden opportunity in feeding your toddler.
I’ve compiled this list to inspire your creativity with toddler snacks, while simultaneously creating opportunities for more nutrition and flavor.
Want a printable list of these snacks? Download it here.
Fruit Snacks for Toddlers
There are lots of fruit options for toddlers. From fresh to freeze-dried, add some of these in your snack rotation.
Fresh Fruit Snack Ideas
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries)
- Sliced apples (Peel the skin as needed)
- Sliced peaches, nectarines and apricots (stone fruits – peel the skin as needed)
- Grapes (quartered or cut into 1/8ths)
- Clementine and oranges (peel and separate; cut each section into halves or thirds)
- Cubed melon (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew)
Packaged Fruit Snack Options
- Applesauce cups
- Applesauce pouches
- Fruit cups like mandarin oranges or mixed fruit cocktail (in natural, or own, juices)
- Fruit puree blends in pouches
Dried Fruit Snacks
- Craisins (dried cranberries)
- 100% Fruit leather
- Dried clementine, apricots, prunes (cut into smaller pieces)
- Freeze-dried fruit “chips”
Veggie Snacks for Toddlers
Blanch raw veggies so they are tender and easier to chew. Also, slice, cube or chop veggies into small pieces for ease of eating.
- Blanched carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, etc
- Thawed peas
- Cubed or thinly sliced “fingers” of cucumber (peel skin as needed)
- Thinly sliced sweet peppers (red, yellow, green)
- Cherry tomatoes (quartered)
- Thawed edamame
- Low sodium canned green beans, artichoke hearts (drained)
- Cubed avocado
Try to incorporate seasonal fruit and vegetables. Take a look at these winter fruits and vegetables.
Fun Dips for Toddler Snack Time
Toddlers love to feed themselves and experience food. You’ll hear “Me do it!” more and more as your toddler gains independence and confidence with eating.
Dips are a perfect way to hand over some independence and autonomy to your little one.
- Guacamole/mashed avocado
- Salsa (red or green)
- Low fat cream cheese (try flavored versions like strawberry, chive, vegetable, etc)
- Nut butter (peanut, cashew, almond, etc)
- Salad dressing (Ranch, Italian, French, Bleu Cheese, etc)
- Yogurt (try plain yogurt mixed with a little bit of sriracha or salsa for a savory, spicy dip)
- Applesauce, peach sauce, or other fruit purees
- Maple syrup
Want a printable list of these snacks? Download it here.
Muffins for Toddlers
Muffins are a vehicle for all sorts of nutrient “goodies.” Try making the ‘mini’ versions of these muffin recipes so your toddler can easily hold them.
- Fresh Raspberry Muffins
- Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (you can easily omit the chocolate chips)
- Pancake Muffins with Raspberry Chia Jam
- Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chunks
For more healthy muffin ideas for kids, read 23 healthy muffin recipes for kids.
Whole Grain Snack Ideas for the Toddler
A taste and preference for whole grains is important to establish in early childhood, especially as toddlers expand their diets.
Fiber in food can also be very helpful as toddlers learn to toilet train.
- Triscuit crackers
- Whole wheat pretzels
- Whole wheat mini pitas (soft version)
- Brown rice crackers and brown rice cakes
- Whole wheat toast triangles (spread nut butter or melt a slice of cheese on top)
- Graham crackers
- Quinoa puffs
- Whole grain waffle (mini or regular size)
- Whole wheat macaroni (cooked)
- Whole grain sandwich sticks (make a sandwich and cut into “fingers”)
- Other healthy finger food for little eaters
Crunchy Toddler Snacks
Toddlers love crunchy foods. Take care to look for items that boast some good nutrients and choose those containing lower sodium levels (children aged 1 to 3 years should get no more than 1500 milligrams per day).
- Veggie chips or sticks
- Low sugar cereals (Cheerios, Kix, Chex, Puffins, etc)
- Quinoa chips
- Snap pea crisps
- Mini brown rice cakes
Not sure which cereals would be best for your child? Read Best Cereals for Kids.
Dairy-based Snack Ideas
Dairy foods offer a punch of nutrients including protein, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, phosphorus, and more. Don’t get stuck on only offering cheese…step it up with a variety of dairy options.
- Full fat yogurt (plain or low sugar varieties)
- Drinkable yogurt or smoothies
- Yogurt sticks
- Kefir (unflavored or flavored)
- Cottage cheese
- Sliced or cubed cheese
- Glass of milk
- Homemade smoothie
Protein Snacks for Toddlers (Meat/Beans/Nuts/Egg)
While some of these protein foods may seem more like lunch items, they can be served as part of a healthy snack for toddlers, too.
- Hard-boiled egg (sliced or cubed)
- Cubed turkey, low sodium ham, or chicken
- Tuna fish salad (use as a dip or spread)
- Canned beans (black beans, chick peas; rinse before serving)
- Deli meat roll-ups (sliced/chop as needed)
- Nut butters (use as a spread or dip)
- Chopped nuts (cashews, walnuts)
- Black bean dip
Feeling inspired with fresh ideas? I hope so! You can download this mega list of toddler snacks here and post it somewhere to remind you to keep rotating and using these toddler snack ideas as an opportunity to build nutrition into your toddler’s diet.