Toddlers have tiny hands. They have tiny feet, and they have tiny tummies.
When it comes to healthy nutrition for toddlers, I’ve seen many moms completely forget the fact that their little one has a small stomach.
In an effort not to “ruin their appetite” for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, many moms who have weaned their child from regular breastfeeding forget this as they transition their toddler to solid foods.
With their small stomachs, it’s almost impossible for most toddlers to eat as much as they need to at meal times.
Add to that the fact that most children this age are more interested in playing than eating (seriously, I can’t get Jackson to sit still in his high chair for more than 2 minutes) and you’ve got a recipe for disaster if you’re counting on your child getting all the nourishment he or she needs from 3 meals/day.
So what’s the best nutrition plan for your toddler?
I have found that adding healthy snacks to Jackson’s regular meals helps keep his tummy full and just like mommy – balances his hunger, energy and blood sugar. (i.e. Less meltdowns!)
Instead of letting Jackson graze constantly throughout the day (think: carrying around those snack cups with “spill proof lids” filled with goldfish) I schedule a few healthy snack times throughout our day.
It’s a great time for us to sit down at the table to connect, and with food coming at set times, my hope is that it will help Jackson learn to recognize when he’s hungry and when he’s not.
Here’s our typical routine: after a healthy breakfast (see above), Jackson has a healthy snack mid-morning, lunch, another healthy snack in the afternoon, dinner, and depending on what time we eat, possibly a healthy snack in the evening before bed.
Ideally, healthy snacks served throughout the day for your child should consist a balance of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, proteins, and fruits/vegetables.
Need some healthy toddler snack ideas? Here are some of Jackson’s favorites:
– Ants on a log – spread peanut or almond butter butter on celery sticks and sprinkle them with raisins.
– Monkey bites – bananas sliced with peanut butter and topped with dark or sugar free chocolate
– Greek yogurt smoothie made with plain greek yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, ice, and any fruit (Jackson’s favorites include bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries)
– Oat bran made with unsweetened almond milk and mixed with 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or fresh picked berries and cinnamon + stevia
– Apple slices with homemade peanut butter (Jackson, like his mommy, is a major nut-butter lover!)
– Dip a banana in greek yogurt mixed with protein powder, roll it in oat bran, and freeze it for a tasty frozen snack
– Low carb tortilla made into homemade chips and topped with veggies, salsa, and shredded cheese, alongside homemade guacamole for (messy) dipping
– A small baked sweet potato with tiny chicken cubes and homemade salsa
– String cheese (our favorite is Frigo® Cheese Heads® Light String Cheese)
Note: While most of our favorite healthy toddler snacks are homemade, don’t be afraid of easy options like our favorite string cheese.
Snacks like this string cheese are quick (which mommy loves) and is still naturally nutritious with 7 grams of protein and only 50 calories. Creamy and delicious, stringy and fun it’s the perfect snack for the health-conscious family on-the-go!
By Contributing Author: Kate Horney, BeyondFit Mom