As my daughter’s food vocabulary has grown, I look back and marvel at the variety of food choice she has available to her in this day and age. We are so lucky to be able to source amazing quality foods to give to our kids to support their growth and development.
So here’s 5 of my go-to toddler snacks. These feature in my house on a regular rotation, amongst fresh fruit, cheese, nuts and dips. Generally, these are the things I pack in the bag for forest playgroup, or have in my handbag for round the clock readiness.
As a guide, these snack ideas would suit most kids upward of 2 years old, however always be aware of your child’s individual developmental and nutritional needs and make choices accordingly.
The quintessential ‘little person’ snack food. I don’t remember a day in preschool where I, myself didn’t have a packet of these in my hand. These are great for pincer-grip practice and are full of antioxidant compounds, natural dietary fibre and minerals. What’s not to love?
What most people don’t know is that dried fruit, including sultanas, are relatively low G.I. This means they won’t cause a spike in blood sugar, which is good news for sweet-loving littleys. Sultanas are also known to help regulate appetite and satiety by influencing the body’s hunger signal, helping to promote a feeling of fullness. Great for growing bodies!
As I’ve written in my dried fruit article, I tend to avoid preservatives wherever possible and especially stick to this when it comes to baby and kids foods. Reducing the chemical load on the liver will help digestion, the immune system and the skin. This means a growing body will be happier overall. Preservative or sulphite sensitivity can present in children as headaches, asthma, skin flushing, eczema and rashes around the mouth and chest. So if you notice any of these symptoms in your little one, double check the labels on any foods they’re eating or consult your health care provider for advice if needed.
Sultana health benefits
- High in natural fibre
- High in polyphenols
- Improves fullness
- Regulates blood sugar levels
- Good source of magnesium
Mango is known as the ‘king of fruits’ and as a local Queenslander, of course my bias is strong here. Mangoes have more diverse nutrients than you’d think. These include a range of polyphenols which support cell integrity and fight inflammation. They’re naturally high in beta-carotene and zinc. They are high in pectin, which is also found in apples. Pectin is a fantastic prebiotic and can help settle upset tummies and promotes beneficial gut bacteria growth. Some of the amino acids in mango include cysteine, valine, arginine and methionine. All of these can help with tissue repair, cell regeneration and help antioxidant processes in the body.
Did you also know that mango contains omega 3 and 6? Well now you do. Adding to its skin healing and anti-inflammatory qualities. A unique component of mango is a plant compound called mangiferin, which is abundant in dried mango as well. It has natural antioxidant and hypoglycaemic properties. This means mango is also a great way to help balance sugar cravings while stabilising any blood glucose dips throughout the day. A recent Swiss study from 2021 found the constituents in mango as improving cognitive function and supporting the gut-brain axis function. Well if it's good for my kid, it’s good for me too!
Tropical fruits like mango are important to introduce early on in your child’s diet to detect any allergy symptoms and also to develop tolerance. Dried peach, pineapple and pawpaw would also be delicious and are another option for introducing tropical fruits. Because fresh mangoes are seasonal during summer months, sometimes it’s difficult to find a window to introduce them. So dried mango is the way to go, and who doesn’t want to be reminded of a Queensland summer year-round?
Mango health benefits
- Helps regulate blood sugar levels
- High in beta-carotene and zinc
- Improves digestive health
- Supports cardiovascular health
- Anti-inflammatory properties
Staying with the tropical theme for a moment, I wanted to honour coconut as a wonderful toddler food. Whether it’s munching on coconut flakes themselves, enjoying them toasted with cinnamon (our favourite!) or blitzing them with some coconut cream and a dash of maple syrup to make coconut bites, there’s truly so many ways to include coconut in your toddler’s snack repertoire (check out our article on coconut flakes here).
The other thing I love about coconut flakes is that they’re usually suitable for a range of different dietary needs amongst little people. Coconut is a gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and grain free food that is full of natural fats, dietary fibre and minerals. While cooking with coconut oil and coconut flour can be expensive, I think just simply making use of desiccated coconut or coconut flakes is a great way to enjoy the health benefits for you and your family.
Coconut health benefits
- Improves fullness
- Supports healthy microbiome
- Enhances brain function
- Stabilised blood glucose levels
- Nut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free
Seaweed Rice Crackers
My daughter loves seaweed. I don’t know how this happened, but it has, and I’m happy about it. She is a fiend for Japanese food in general and would easily ask me to get sushi twice a week. The fact that the words ‘wagyu beef’ come out of her mouth are a sure sign that she’s not only a child of this modern era of food abundance, but also that she’s truly my child!
Roasted nori, seaweed, wakame, dulce flakes. They are all different types of seaweed products, all delicious and very healthy too. These Japanese seaweed rice crackers are a great way to introduce seaweed in an easy-grip snack that’s slightly sweet and salty all in one. Nutritionally, I love seaweed. If you struggle to get green veggies into your child’s diet, give a snack such as this a go.
A review article by Brown et al. (2014) mentions seaweed as gaining growing evidence in its varying health benefits. Some of these reported benefits include helping with cardiovascular health, diabetes and protecting against some cancers. Seaweed is a natural plant source of iodine, and has small amounts of vitamin A and iron. All these nutrients help to support immune health, hormone and brain development for your kids. Seaweed also contains polyunsaturated fats, calcium, copper, selenium and zinc.
Seaweed health benefits
- Balances blood sugar levels
- Supports brain and immune system
- Prebiotic for digestive health
- Antiviral properties
- Anti-inflammatory properties
A firm favourite of my mothers, mine and my daughters are sesame squares. You can make your own or buy some ready to go. With just a few simple ingredients, they travel well and hit the spot when you need a yummy snack. Naturally sweetened with honey, they are a lovely sweet treat that has a decent nutrient profile too. Sesame seeds have around 60% polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, high in calcium and zinc and have dietary fibre, making them full of goodness for growing bodies. A heap of research demonstrates that the lignan (outer fibre) component in sesame seeds has a wealth of health benefits. Sesame seeds are a prebiotic food for digestive health and help to support brain and hormone health as well. Have a look at my sesame seed article for more on their health benefits.
Sesame health benefits
- Supports digestive health
- Brain health
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- High mineral content
- High in essential fatty acids
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