It is nerve wracking feeding a toddler
Meal and snack planning are never ending, and to make it even more challenging, those little developing palates can completely change overnight. One minute they are signing and whining for “more” of something and the next they are shaking their head and pushing it away or throwing it on the floor.
It can be very tempting to just give crackers and cereal 24/7
Please don’t! There are so many alternatives to sugary or wheat-y snacks, and even some that you can just buy off the shelf. Let’s get this straight – you are not a bad mom if you turn to bunny shaped cheese crackers or pouches of fruit and veggie purees once in a while, but it is good to have grain free and added sugar free snacks in the repetoire. This will go a long way in helping them develop their palates, provide a diverse set of nutrients and support their growth and immunity.
It does not have to be complicated – fruit is a simple solution
Fruits are a default snack in our household. Yes, fruit is sweet but it has the fiber to help the body process the sugar so that your little one does not crash and burn. What is great is that there is a ton of variety so while you may give your toddler fruit everyday, it could be a different one each time. We try to keep it seasonal in our house just because fruit tastes better that way. We also get organic whenever possible, budget and availability permitting, especially the thin skinned fruit – apples, peaches (and other stone fruit), kiwi, pears, berries and grapes.
Making snacks does not have to be a lot of work either
A couple of snacks that you can easily make at home are smoothies and two ingredient pancakes.
I am not going to bore you with smoothie recipes because chances are you know how to use a blender and have made a smoothie before. (I’ll work on a roundup of yummy smoothie recipes soon!) My only recommendation is to add a handful of organic greens like spinach, Swiss chard, parsley (great with smoothies with pineapple), or salad mix, to your smoothie to get an extra nutritional boost. I promise – it does not affect the flavor too much unless you add half a container of arugula like I did to a smoothis this past summer. If you think you don’t have the time, here is a tip that a fellow Super Mom shared with me: pre-pack your smoothie ingredients and store them in the freezer. This makes making smoothies super easy and entails emptying the bag’s contents into a blender, adding liquid and blending. Take a look here for a tutorial on pre-packing smoothies for a week from MOMables.
Now, onto two ingredient pancakes. Let me tell you, they have been my saving snack grace since I discovered them about 5 months ago. They are so easy to make and very versatile. I have given them as a part of the three meals as well as a snack. The gist of the recipe is to mix 1/4 cup mashed banana and 1 egg well and make them on a griddle or pan just as you would silver dollar pancakes. You can get creative and instead of banana, use pumpkin or sweet potato (our fave). A combo of two or all three would also work. You can also add cinnamon or vanilla. I usually add a tablespoon of arrowroot powder, teaspoon of organic cornstarch, and 1/8 teaspoon of aluminum free baking powder to give it a little body and fluffiness. This makes a great gluten free pancake option as well for adults. You can see a recipe with some ideas for adaptations here at Top with Cinnamon.
Think outside the box for nutrient packed snacks
While I’d love to be a domestic goddess, I don’t have the time or energy to make everything from scratch. There are pre-packaged snacks that are minimally processed and pack a nutritional punch. Here are three different toddler snack ideas that is approved by the little one in my house. Let me warn you – you may attract some strange looks on the playground or at least inquisitive questions when you give these to your kids because they are a bit unusual.
GimMe Health Foods Organic Roasted Seaweed Snacks
Seaweed is my daughter’s latest snack love. She was eating them at the playground this week and a concerned mother approached me to tell me that my daughter was eating a leaf. I had to chuckle and share that it was seaweed. She really did not know what to say in response and the conversation ended there.
My daughter doesn’t get too many crunchy and salty snacks aside from the occasional tortilla chip, and these really hit the spot. I think she craves the minerals that naturally occur in seaweed. Packed with antioxidants, calcium, iodine and a number of vitamins and minerals, seaweed should be in every kid’s lunchbox.
GimMe’s Seaweed Snacks only have three ingredients: organic seaweed, organic sunflower oil and sea salt. They are tasty enough to be given plain from the package. If you wanted to get adventurous, you could crumble a couple of sheets on top of rice or make some mini sushi.
Super Good For You Foods Organic Raw Goji Berries
If you have done any reading on health and wellness in the past 5 years, you have likely come across information on dried goji berries. In Western culture, they are considered a “superfood” – an extremely nutrient dense food. Goji berries contain all essential amino acids, the only fruit that does so, and are jampacked with antioxidants and vitamin C, contributing to a better immune system. They also are said to improve eyesight and help bones, tendons and joints.
It is no wonder my daughter loves them! When she first started eating solids, I would include rehydrated goji berries into a mix of other fruit as a snack or as part of her breakfast. At six month’s old, she would intentionally pick them out and eat them first before the other fruit. Now that she is a toddler, I will occassionally give her a small handful to eat and recently, I cut them in small pieces along with cut up dried prunes and shaved coconut to add to her afternoon snack of yogurt (whole fat, no sugar added).
Wild Planet Canned Sardines
Alright, you can officially look at me like I am crazy. Fish is not the first, second or twentieth thing you think of when coming up with snack solutions, but stay with me here. Canned sardines are easy. You can store them in your cupboard until whenever you are in a snack bind. If you have an open minded toddler, you can simply take them out of the can, break them down into small pieces and let them at it with a spoon. You can also mix them with a little mayo or make a spread and put them on crackers. Just be sure to purchase sardines canned in water or olive oil and not any other refined oil like soybean or vegetable.
Sardines are a perfect food nutrionally for toddlers. First, sardines are small fish which means they are a sustainable choice and have very little mercury unlike tuna which a report from the Mercury Policy Project recommends to be limited to one serving a month for children under 55 pounds due to its high level of mercury. I personally have chosen to stay away from tuna entirely for myself and my daughter. Sardines from the can come whole but the bones are soft and edible. Before you turn your nose to eating sardine bones, I should share the bones give the sardines texture and a little bit of a nutty flavor. Also, the bones provide an enormous amount of calcium, essential for your toddler’s growing teeth and bones. On top of that, sardines are extremely rich in Omega 3’s (for little one’s brain development), vitamin B12 (vital for energy levels), selenium (an important mineral supporting detoxification), phosphorus (works with calcium for teeth and bones), protein (builds and maintains tissues), and vitamin D (helps absorption of calcium and phosphorous and supports immune system). Sardines are a nutritional powerhouse and definitely worth a try.
What are your toddler snack struggles? What solutions have worked for you? Do you have any unconventional snacks to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!
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