While parents may think that “no snacking between meals” is a healthy goal, it’s been shown that snacking may actually be healthier. Preschoolers and toddlers are said to especially benefit from snacking – their smaller stomachs and growing bodies mean that they need to eat frequently to meet their nutritional needs.
Of course, healthy snacks are the sort of snacks that are beneficial. Hurried parents may just get pre-made, packaged snacks and go with that, and some store-bought snacks are fairly healthy. But for a little effort, you can make your own snacks, too. Here are some ideas for smart snacking for preschoolers.
Whole Grain Crackers
You can buy or make these. If you’re buying them, look for crackers with as few ingredients as possible. Health experts agree that hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives should be avoided.
Crackers that are multi-grain are fine, but make sure the manufacturer didn’t just throw some whole grains into a white flour product. Truly whole grain crackers are made with entirely whole grains and whole grain flours.
Making your own crackers is surprisingly easy. Look online for cracker recipes, or scan your family-friendly cookbooks for ideas.
Wheat- or Gluten-Free
If you prefer that your child not be exposed to wheat or gluten (or if this is a necessity for you), you can look for nut-based crackers that contain no wheat or no grains.
Fresh fruit is always a healthy snack and preschoolers tend to love it. Keep fruit on hand and in sight to motivate your little ones. Puree fruit and freeze it into popsicles, and/or let your preschooler eat frozen fruit out of hand. Some fruits can be cut up ahead of time without turning brown, such as kiwi, and others are naturally bite-sized, like berries. Fruits that preschoolers tend to like include:
* Bananas (dried or frozen slices are yummy, too)
* Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
* Avocado (chunks or as a spread/dip)
Vegetable crudités and dip are a classic snack, and many preschoolers enjoy them. You can also stuff celery with peanut butter and raisins or cream cheese. Cucumbers can be hollowed out into “boats” and stuffed, too. Bell pepper strips are good with just a little kosher salt. Most vegetables can be cut up and stored in the fridge for easy snacking.
Eggs and Cheese
Hard boiled eggs can make great snacks, and keep for a long time in the fridge. Cheese cubes and slices are healthy, too, and easily stored in bite-sized portions in the fridge.
Whole Wheat Bagels
Preschoolers can make all kinds of “faces” using hummus, cream cheese, nut butter, etc. and various fruits and veggies on a bagel. Olive slices or berries can make eyes, slices of red bell pepper make great mouths, and a carrot stick tucked into the bagel’s hole can be a nose.