Here’s Why and When You Should Let Your Toddler Snack
Choosing healthy and nutritious snacks should begin early to lower health risks. See our feeding chart for nutritious toddler snack options!
Snacks help to maintain the sugar in the body to provide energy and nutrition for a toddler’s growth and development.
At this stage, toddlers are developing at a rapid speed in a multitude of ways including cognitive, psycho-motor and linguistic. They are increasingly more active and, hence, require constant energy to keep them going throughout the day.
But an unhealthy diet leads to future health problems and complications. So choosing healthy and nutritious snacks should begin early. With positive decision-making, health risks can be lowered and toddlers can learn about making healthy food choices, too.
When to Schedule Snacks
Toddlers generally consume about 1,000 to 1,400 calories daily. With lots of energy to burn, toddlers may need to snack two to three times a day. As such, offer snacks between the main meals of the day, namely breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Try offering your toddler a snack once in the morning and once or twice in the afternoon, with about two hours between meals and snacks. The key is to offer enough energy to burn without affecting their appetite for the main meals.
It’s ideal to avoid offering a snack before bedtime, especially once your toddler has brushed his teeth. But feeling hungry at bedtime can make it hard for toddlers to fall asleep, so snacking before bedtime is acceptable.
But bear in mind that the body should be focusing on resting and not digesting at the end of the day. A big meal before bedtime increases a child’s metabolic rate and body temperature, which can make it difficult for them to sleep.
If you must offer a snack to help your toddler sleep, make it a small one. A good bedtime snack combo is a small glass of milk with an oatmeal cookie, cracker, plain biscuit or rice cake. Avoid sugary snacks like fruit juice or you may just end up giving your toddler a boost of energy.
What’s a Healthy Snack?
Aside from monitoring the frequency and amount of snacking, ensure that you provide high-quality snacks. Here are a few key points to consider to determine a snack option’s health factor:
- Check food nutrition labels. Sugar, Calories, Sodium and Total Fat (includes Saturated Fat and Trans Fat) are some of the nutrition facts to look at. Because food labels are created mainly based on a 2000-calorie diet, do ensure that you lower the levels for toddler snacks
- Go for natural. A general rule of thumb is “fresh is always the best,” and that means food in its original form. But look for pasteurised options to ensure that any harmful bacteria has been removed from the food or beverage.
- Choose fruit juice over fruit drink. When choosing a healthy drink, look for labels that say “100% fruit juice” and not “fruit beverage,” “fruit drink” or “fruit cocktail” as these would contain added sugars, sodium and artificial colours.
- Does it make you thirsty after eating? That might indicate a high sodium content or even Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), which are commonly found in processed foods and commercially-ready snacks.
Toddler Snack Portions: What’s Appropriate?
See the chart below for a list of healthy toddler snack ideas in portion sizes. The amount of food is based on a toddler’s daily calorie needs.
|Food Group||Daily Serving
(1 to 2 years)
(3 to 4 years)
|Snack Ideas in Serving Size|
|Grains||2 to 3 ounces||3 to 4 ounces||1 ounce =
|Protein||1||3 to 4 ounces||1 ounce =
|Vegetables||1/2 cup||1 cup
*Use measuring cups to prepare the right amount.
To prevent choking, serve soft and well cooked veggies cut in small pieces.
|1/2 cup =
|Fruits||1/2 to 1 cup||1 cup
*Use measuring cups to prepare the right amount.
To prevent choking, cut fruits (including small fruits like grapes) into small pieces.
|1/2 cup =
|Milk||2||2 cups||1 cup of milk =
*choose low-fat cheese for ages 2 and older
|Healthy Oils||3 teaspoons||4 teaspoons||1 tbsp =
Healthy Toddler Snacks: How to make your child eat them!
Follow these six tried-and-tested tips on how you can help your child choose healthier toddler snacks:
#1: Bring your toddler grocery shopping and choose snacks together
This allows your child to take on a proactive and participative involvement when it comes to choosing toddler snacks. Take this chance to share with them what goes into that packet of chips or popcorns, and offer them nutritional information on healthy options such as fruits, nuts and milk.
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#2: Let your toddler choose his snacks during snack time
When it comes to snack time, allow your toddler to take the lead to choose what he wants to have from the healthy snacks that you have stocked up with.
A little freedom allows your tot to practice decision-making, and parents get to have the both worlds because your child gets to have what he has chosen from the healthy options available.
#3: Don’t force them to finish everything
Most Asian families practice the need to eat up everything that’s been offered, and this might sometimes backfire and cause the child to develop a negative association with mealtime.
Consider letting your child eat what he can, and accept that there are days that your toddler will have varying appetites.
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#4: Avoid using snacks as rewards
Snacks and treats such as sweets or your child’s favourite snacks are often used as carrots to reward a good behaviour, good action or good academic performance. Studies advise that food should not be used as rewards as that may affect a child’s long term eating habits.
#5: An occasional unhealthy treat is fine
There may be days your toddler may not want to go for these healthy toddler snacks. Or another adult offers your child an unhealthy treat which does not make the cut in your book.
Depending on the type of unhealthy treat, parents can take the stand to decide if it can be an odd exception just this time, by allowing your toddler to have it. Do remember that an occasional unhealthy treat may not do much harm, and always eat anything in moderation. Should your toddler bug you to buy that particular unhealthy snack for him after he eats it, explain to him why intake needs to be limited and it is because you care for his health, and therefore he should not be taking them often.
Do note that if your child has allergies, that needs to be taken care of to prevent any undue reactions after eating.
#6: Be a role model
Walking the talk is the best way of taking the lead. Toddlers are at an age where they are highly aware of their environment and learn the most from their parents. So if you wish for your child to choose healthy toddler snacks over the unhealthy ones, make sure you are doing the same yourself.
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Helping your toddler learn about healthy snacks need not be too challenging. With these handy tips to guide parents, having your child accept healthier toddler snacks can be done.
What toddler snacks do you offer your kids? Share some ideas with us in the Comment box below!