Toddlers love to discover new things, and of course food is no exception. And in offering your tot a variety of snacks, you'll not only help her develop healthy eating habits, but also fuel her for all the adventures of toddlerhood. (Who knows, your kiddo may just add "delicious" and "nutritious" to her budding vocabulary!)
Kids ages 12 to 24 months need at least six servings of grainseach day, so snack time is definitely a prime opportunity to sneak some in. Cheerios and other low-sugar cereals are a great quick and easy option. Not only can toddlers feed themselves (a favorite "Watch me!" skill around this age), but cereal also makes a great "appetizer" to keep your little one busy while you prepare lunch or dinner.
Experts say it's the presentation that counts, especially when you have a picky eater on your hands. Arrange slices of his favorite fruits in a pinwheel or flower shape and put a dollop of fruit dip or yogurt in the middle for a little added sweetness. Or let your little one cut shapes out of thin slices of melon, apples, or pears using small cookie cutters.
Why choose between fruits and grains when you can get the best of both worlds? Just take diced bananas, peaches, avocado, cubed tofu, or other little nibbly foods and coat them with ground up Cheerios, graham crackers, or wheat germ. Voila: A tiny tot treat that's easy on moms and little fingers.
Frozen fruit pops are a perfect treat! Cut up strawberries, pineapple, bananas, or a medley of your family's favorites and stuff them into popsicle molds (little paper cups work, too). Fill with orange or other 100 percent juice, add popsicle sticks, and freeze for a refreshing treat full of nutrients your toddler needs.
Try this simple and scrumptious cool graham cracker treat recipe: Graham Goodies Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 0 minutes Ingredients: - Fruit-flavored yogurt - Graham crackers Directions: Spread your child's favorite fruity yogurt on a graham cracker square. Top this with another graham square, wrap it in plastic wrap, and freeze.
For a sweet treat, warm a whole wheat tortilla in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds and then spread with peanut butter and top with chopped banana. Or try cream cheese with jam. Or make a quesadilla. All it takes is 2 tablespoons of cheese sprinkled on half the tortilla, a quick fold down the middle, microwaving for 30 seconds. You can add a little variety by sprinkling with 1 teaspoon of chopped, cooked broccoli or carrots.
- 1 cup leftover cooked rice - 1 cup lowfat vanilla yogurt - 1 cup applesauce - 1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a large bowl, combine the rice and applesauce. Stir in the cinnamon and yogurt, mixing well. Spoon the pudding into dishes and serve (top with sugar-free jam, if you like). One serving is 1/2 cup. Serves six.
- 1 medium to large apple - Enough water to cover apple (in pot) - 1/2 teaspoon vanilla - A little sugar to sweeten
Wash, pee,l and core apple, then cut into small pieces. Add only a minimal amount of water and cook until tender. Drain. Add the vanilla and lightly sweeten to taste. Mash to desired consistency (if at all). Serve warm.
Veggies can be a hard sell for toddlers, but they don't need to be: Vegetables offer a world of textures for toddlers to explore (slick cucumber sticks, slightly softened mini-cut carrots). When it comes to green beans, broccoli, etc., remember the arranging and dipping tricks from the fruit food group. Toppings: think cheeses, salad dressings, hummus, tomato sauce, peanut butter, or salsa.
- 1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/2-inch sticks - 1/2 teaspoon salt - 1 cup oat bran - 1 egg, beaten lightly with 1 tablespoon water - 1 tablespoon oil - 1 tablespoon butter
Boil potatoess in salted water until tender. Drain. Put the oat bran in one bowl and egg mixture in another. Roll the sticks in oat bran, then in egg, then in cereal again. Brown quickly in hot oil and butter. Drain.
Doctors agree: Juice is not essential in a toddler's diet. (Experts say that ideally, kids should have none—but can on occasion have up to eight to 12 ounces a day.) If your little one is thirsty it's best to offer whole milk or water instead of juice. And make sure you are using sippy cups and have phased out the use of bottles.
OK, so your mother taught you to never play with your food. But now that you're a mom yourself, you know some rules are meant to be bent … sometimes. Your toddler will think snack time is twice the fun if you let him play a little. Have your budding Picasso paint with pudding. Serve cottage cheese in an ice cream cone instead of on a plate. Make sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters.
Remember when picking snacks for your tot that there are a whole lot of foods they aren't ready for, especially "choking foods". Steer clear of hot dogs, grapes, peanuts and other tree nuts, chunky peanut butter, cherry tomatoes, popcorn, and chewing gum until age four. You'll keep snack time healthy and safe.