Ahh, the toddler phase, some kids at this age may seem too busy exploring the world to slow down and eat. Others may be fickle about food or refuse to eat what’s served at mealtime, parents of toddlers often wonder if their kids are getting enough to eat. It’s an understandable concern, and offering healthy snacks can help ensure that the answer is yes. Toddlers need about 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day, but often don’t eat a lot at one sitting. That’s where snacks come in. But think of snacks as an prelude to a meal. Please don’t buy those prepackaged snacks! Offer a healthy snack is easier than you think. Most toddlers do well with three mini meals and two or three snacks a day.

Start Them On the Healthy Path of Eating

The influence you have on your child’s eating patterns may never be stronger than it is right now. Toddlers can’t run out to the store for candy and chips. They’ll eat what’s served to them and ask for what they know is in the cabinet. Take this opportunity to set the stage right.

Stock up on healthy treats, you boost the intake of nutrients your toddler needs to be healthy when you serve fruits, veggies, whole grains, protein, and calcium-rich foods. Choose fresh foods that are high in nutrients (vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber) and try to avoid prepackaged, processed ones, which tend to be high in sugar, salt, and fat. If your child goes to childcare, ask what kinds of snacks are served there. If you don’t approve, consider suggesting a healthier snack menu. If your suggestion isn’t welcomed, send in your own snacks for your child, even if it means a bit of extra planning the night before.

Think small portions, too. Adults tend to overestimate the amount of food kids need to eat, but the recommended serving size for a toddler’s snack is actually quite small: ½ cup (118 ml) dry cereal and ½ cup (118 ml) milk (serve low-fat if your child is over 2 years old) make a fine mid-morning snack, just as a banana and ½ cup (118 ml) milk are great in the mid-afternoon.

Not only are small portions less overwhelming for a picky eater, but they also help prevent an avid eater from overdoing it at snack time.

Stick to a Snack Schedule

Kids do better with routine, so try to serve snacks and meals at approximately the same time every day. That way your child will always know what to expect.

Feeling the sensation of being full and then hungry again a few hours later teaches kids to respond to internal hunger cues — and knowing when to eat and, more important, when to stop is vital to maintaining a healthy weight. If allowed to graze all day without a schedule, kids may lose the ability to detect their own hunger and fullness, which can make them more likely to overeat.

Letting kids carry around a juice box all day can lead to diarrhea in some and contribute to weight gain in others. Juice — even 100% fruit juice — contains about the same amount of calories as soda. And juice drinks have excessive amounts of added sugar.

Limit your toddler’s juice intake to no more than 4 oz. (120 ml) a day. When your child is thirsty, water and milk are the best choices. If your child is a juice fanatic, offer fruit rather than juice, because whole fruits contain important vitamins and fiber.

Though it may be tempting, resist the urge to feed only foods that your child likes. (This is especially hard for parents of picky eaters who just want their kids to eat something!) Perhaps pair something your child likes with a new food at snack time. Even if the new foods are rejected, continue offering them. Remember that it may take several tries before a child is receptive to eating something new.

Don’t make a big deal of an uncleaned plate, even if means your child skips a snack or meal. But also don’t allow kids to pick alternate foods or decide when meals and snacks should be served. You want them to learn that meals and snacks are available only at certain times and that they may choose from among the foods you present.

Things to Avoid

Most parents have bribed their child by promising some tasty treat, but this isn’t a good strategy. Using sweets as a bribe creates the impression that they’re more valuable or better than other, more healthy foods — plus kids quickly learn to use them as a bargaining chip.

As for sweets, there’s really no reason, nutritionally, for young kids to have them. You don’t have to deprive your child of birthday cake, though, or other occasional treats. But don’t let these empty-calorie items become part of the regular snack menu.

Make sweets the exception rather than the rule and your child won’t feel entitled to them or too surprised when you say no. If you keep less-nutritious snacks at home, keep them out of view. If they’re out of sight — and reach — your toddler will be less likely to beg you for them.Never give young toddlers hard fruit or veggies such as apples or carrots. Pieces can break off and create a choking hazard. Grate or cook (to soften) the fruit or vegetable as an alternative.

Here are some healthy choices for snacks.

Fruit. Think presentation like a fruit kebob or slice of strawberries with a yogurt dip.

Peanut Butter with celery and raisins on top.

Homemade baked muffins and cookies. Look in our recipe files for heathier versions.

Whole grain cereals.

Hummus and pita bread toss in some grated carrots and cucumbers. Check out our video on homemade hummus, it only takes 10 minutes to make.

Trail Mix: Think dried fruit, nuts, cereals, popcorn, chocolate chips. Be creative, allow your toddler help you mix items together.

Whole grain waffles with peanut better,or nutella, or jelly.

The key to healthy snacking is being prepared. Create your own list of healthy snack items, be sure to include any ingredients you may need on your shopping list for the week. Write donw on a dry erase board what the snack de jour is for today!

reference: Health magazine. 2012

parenting magazine 2012