The little engine of a toddler is constantly burning fuel, and your toddler will benefit from small meals spaced out during the day. Healthy, fun snacks will provide toddlers with energy to burn.
One year olds
So many different tastes, textures and colours of foods to discover! A one year old is often more willing to try out new tastes than a two year old, so offer him or her a wide selection of snack foods.
Here are some ideas:
- Chopped banana
- Avocado on toast fingers
- Hummus on small pieces of Lebanese bread
- Small cubes of watermelon and cheese - a striking combination!
- Mango and yoghurt smoothie
- Warm brown rice mixed with grated cheese
- Sweet potato made into chips
- Apple and celery puree - mushy but yummy
- Steamed peas and broccoli - yes as a snack on their own!
Two to three year olds
For some frustrated parents, their two year old will seem to exist on nothing but cheese sandwiches and arrowroot biscuits. Two year olds may want lots of different foods one day, and refuse those same foods the next day. Three year olds will often have firm food preferences, and may protest indignantly if a 'yukky' food is placed before them.
It's important to allow your toddler to decide how much they eat over the space of a day. Offer a selection of nutritious foods: if the foods are rejected try presenting them in different and more interesting ways. Try these suggestions:
- Mini-pizzas: halved English muffins topped with tomato, grated carrot and cheese, and grilled
- Honeydew melon, mint and ice blended together - a summer sensation!
- Crackers with cheese and vegemite
- Berries and orange juice in a high-speed blender make a fun sorbet
- Fruit & yoghurt pops (mix bananas or strawberries together with yoghurt & freeze)
- Frozen seedless grapes are a cool treat (cut in half first as whole grapes could be a choking hazard)
- Baked beans on 'boats' (the boats are halved boiled eggs with the yolk taken out.)
- Fruit skewer: pineapple pieces, strawberries, orange slices and all kinds of fruit on a skewer (let them do it themselves - supervise carefully!)
- Cooked chickpeas and sweet potato
- blended together makes a yummy dip
- for crackers
- Bubble and squeak: leftover mashed potato, eggs and whatever else is handy cooked into patties. Just don't tell your toddler it's called 'bubble and squeak' or he or she may be expecting it to be a whole lot more exciting!
Chat with other parents of 12-24 month olds in the EB forums!
Your older toddler may enjoy:
- Helping to mix and bake things like carrot muffins, pikelets and banana bread
- Cutting sandwiches with fun cookie cutter shapes
- making 'veggie' people: celery legs, long cucumber section for a body, round piece of carrot for a face, alfalfa 'hair' let your toddler get wildly creative!
- Growing some alfalfa, mint, parsley, cherry tomatoes, strawberries - these can all be grown in small pots and are fun to pick and eat! Parents, offer healthy foods often to your toddler, but allow your toddler to decide how much they eat. Toddlers know when they are full or not hungry.
It may also be possible that they are too distracted by play, or too tired to eat. It helps to ensure that all main meals are at the table, with no toys and distractions, and not too close to sleep times. Offer water as a drink, and offer food before drinks of milk. Fruit juice is not necessary for toddlers.
Making spinach and cheese pinwheels. Spread the filling over a length of puff pastry, then roll up into a log. Cut the log crossways to make 'wheels'. Cook the wheels in the oven.
Spin the colour game: set out six or more different coloured, nutritious foods (such as avocado, cooked egg, strawberries, lightly steamed carrot) and play spin the colour, with a spinner that has six different colours on it. (spinners can often be found in children's board games, or make your own!) Whichever colour you spin, you have a spoonful or bite of a food of the matching colour food..
Involve your toddler in food preparation where possible, teaching them things about healthy eating along the way. Get them tasting and trying different foods. Plan to start when they are babies: slowly introduce your baby to a wide range of healthy foods in the months after they start on solids - by the time they reach toddlerhood the task of feeding them the same meals as the rest of the family often becomes much easier.
Super tips from our EB members
The big hit has been the little mini-muffins I make for him. Banana, apple cinnamon or berries. I bake a big batch, freeze them and then stick them in the microwave for 10 seconds to defrost when I need them.
Leeann (Mitchy's Mum)
Crackers - cruskits and breadsticks are a great alternative to biscuits.
My daughter is a semi-fussy eater, so sometimes I have to resort to tricks to get her to eat healthy foods. She has little 'throw away' containers that she loves eating from. I put in a pack of sultanas and she'll sit there happily eating them one by one, where as if I give them to her in the packet she tips it on herself.
You can buy puffed corn in the health food section of most major supermarkets for a couple of dollars and it is my daughter's 'popcorn'. This is a hit with every toddler I have ever come across! Anything that can become a game, so dips (hummus, babaganouj, tzatziki) with crackers are good fun. You can also buy marinated tofu for vegetarian toddlers (like mine!) which, when cut up into strips, make great high protein, easy to hold, non-messy snacks.
Cinnamon apples recipe:
Cut up apple into small finger pieces and have your toddler put them into a small sealable plastic bag. Add a 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder. Seal bag and let the kids shake to coat the apple. You can also use Milo or similar. Its gets them involved and makes it fun.
Weetbix split in half with a bit of butter and jam or vegemite.
Freeze some ice cubes or small ice blocks (of diluted juice) with fruit pieces.
- Frozen mandarin segments
- Cold steamed corncob
- Mixed seeds and fruit (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sultanas, currants, apricots)
- Rice crackers and sliced low fat tasty cheese
- Mixed dry cereal
- Homemade popcorn
- Antipasto platter (ham, cheese, boiled egg, olives, salami, cherry tomatoes)
- Cold marinated chicken wings