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When it comes to feeding toddlers, today’s parents need foods that are both nutritious and quick to prepare. Fortunately, there are many healthy toddler snacks available that don’t require hours of prep time. Offering a broad variety of food choices can provide the vitamins and minerals that a growing toddler needs. The time that a child is considered to be a toddler is generally between one to three years of age. Since significant developmental progress occurs during these years, introduce progressive mealtime and snack time options that are appropriate for each age.

Toddlers are natural mimics and therefore develop their eating habits based on their family. Having a baby in the family creates a great opportunity to examine and improve family feeding behaviors such as sitting down together at mealtimes. As soon as babies are able to sit up, they should be provided with an appropriate seat at the family meal table. Long before the child can respond in kind, talking to them about the food being prepared and consumed can also lay the foundation for healthy family meal experiences. Choose foods that encourage independent feeding and provide finger foods in a size that encourages the practice of fine motor skills in regards to picking up food and self-feeding.

When it comes to snacking, it might be helpful to consider snacks as a great way to meet the toddler’s need to eat as often as six times a day. The snack is a perfect mini-meal that can satisfy the overall nutritional needs of the toddler. A little preparation can also help parents avoid the trap of grabbing whatever is available at the convenience store or local fast food establishment. Although it is likely that your toddler will eventually eat chips and candy, planning healthy alternatives will make it easier to provide healthy snacking options. Many healthy toddler snacks are also delicious and nutritious for the whole family as most start with a trip to a local farmer’s market or produce stand.

Below are some snack ideas for toddlers.

Vegetables – Fresh vegetables lay the foundation for healthy eating. Cooked carrots, green beans, roasted kale, steamed broccoli or cauliflower are all nutritious snack options. Additionally, carrots and sweet potatoes make excellent baked “chips”.

Fruits – These sweet and delicious foods pack a powerhouse of nutrition that includes vitamins, minerals and fiber. They also require the least amount of prep time as cutting them to size and removing any rinds, stems, and pits is sufficient of most fruits. Choosing locally sourced produce during the appropriate growing season contributes in many positive ways as well. The toddler can be exposed to the sights and sounds of the farmer’s market, buying local contributes to the health of small businesses, and the carbon footprint is minimized. Fresh berries, orange sections, sliced apples, and melons are just a few of the delicious, toddler-appropriate snack foods in the fruit category.

Eggs – Packed with protein, eggs are also simple to prepare. Eggs are one of the few foods that offer Vitamin D, which is essential to the absorption of calcium. Scrambled eggs are an easy option for morning meals. Simply boil some additional eggs on the weekend to have them available for weekday snacks. The versatility of the egg makes it a great option for any meal at any time of the day.

Dips – The use of healthy dips is a fun way for toddlers to practice their fine motor skills. Provide some cut up whole grain pita bread, vegetables, or fruit with a couple of tablespoons of hummus or nut butter as a healthy snack option.

Smoothies – Use fruits, soy or almond milk, Greek yogurt, and other delicious options to create a wide variety of smoothie treats. The trick is to make your smoothie at home instead of buying the more expensive and sugar filled pre-made versions.

Whole Grains – Introducing whole grains into a toddler’s diet is a great way to increase fiber. Whole grains also help sustain blood sugar levels and positively impact cholesterol levels.

Getting toddlers involved with shopping and preparing foods increases the likelihood that they will be willing to try new foods. Even very young toddlers can participate in the process and should be encouraged to do so. Healthy eating patterns established in the early years lay the foundation for a lifetime of good feeding habits.