Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nutritious Snacks for Toddlers and Preschoolers

As Talmage grew into a toddler I quickly realized that the snacks he loved to eat really didn't have much nutritional value. Like most toddlers, his favorites were things like goldfish, graham crackers, pretzels, and fruit snacks. And since they were so convenient and it was so easy to get him to eat them, I found myself inclined to give in to his desires. But as he became more and more picky about what he would eat, I became increasingly concerned about whether or not he was getting the nutrients he needed.

So I began brainstorming other snacks that would still be appealing, easy to prepare, and convenient to grab, but with a greatly increased nutritional value. While the snacks listed below are not 100% healthful (a little chocolate goes a long way!), I feel good about offering these to my kids on a regular basis. And I've found that even with their picky palates, these are some they will still gobble right up!

I find that I generally spend some time actually making a snack a few times a week, but the rest of the times I'm able to grab ones previously prepared since I make a large batch at a time to store. And yes, sometimes we still eat crackers and fruit snacks--I don't think they're evil! :) I'm always on the hunt for additional ideas, so if you have some please share!

(click pictures for recipes where applicable)

Trail Mix
I love to whip up a batch of trail mix and divide it into snack-sized ziploc bags with 1/2 c. serving in each one. Then I just keep them in a gallon-sized slider bag in the pantry for easy access. Feel free to include whatever suits you, but here are some ideas:
-Honey-Nut Cheerios, banana chips, peanuts, peanut butter chips
-Plain Cheerios, pomegranate-flavored Craisins, sliced almonds, chocolate chips
-Dried mangoes, dried pineapple, sliced almonds, white chocolate chips

Didn't you love Jell-O jigglers as a kid? As long as you use 100% fruit juice, these jigglers are a great nutritious alternative! They are essentially just thickened fruit juice. Cutting them into shapes with cookie cutters makes for a fun presentation!

Apples with Peanut Butter
Certainly the apple/peanut butter combination is nothing new, but my kids are about ten times more likely to eat it if I prepare it this way. I slice the apples very thin (I generally slice each small apple into 24+ slices), spoon some peanut butter into a baggie and pop it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, snip off the corner, and squirt it all over the apples. The thin size of the apple slices makes them much easier for kid mouths to handle, and I find they don't choke on them much when they are sliced that way. And the peanut butter squirted all over them makes such a pretty presentation!

Meat-and-Cheese Roll-Ups
My kids absolutely love cheese. Slicing a chunk and wrapping some lunch meat around it is a great way to add some more protein to their snack! I like the all-natural lunch meats made by Oscar Mayer and Hormel.

My kids love, love, love these popsicles. I typically make a batch of 28 at a time (7 bananas) and keep them in the freezer. For that many popsicles, I use about 1/2 c. chocolate chips, which translates into less than 1/3 of a serving of chocolate chips per banana pop. (Like I said, a little chocolate goes a long way!)

Sweet Potato Fries
Getting my kids to eat vegetables is sometimes quite the conundrum at our house. But they gobble them up in fry form! These sweet potato fries are simple to prepare--you just need to plan ahead a little so they'll have time to bake. If you make a big batch, you can easily store leftovers in the fridge to reheat and serve later. And since they're baked instead of deep-fried, you don't have to worry as much about soggy fries when re-heated!

Mini Muffins
I love making mini muffins for the kids! The small size keeps the crumb-mess to a minimum and 1-2 paired with some sliced fruit or a cheesestick makes the perfect sized snack. I make a whole bunch and keep them in the freezer so I can just pop them in the microwave for a few seconds when I'm ready to serve them. While most muffin recipes are not really nutritious, there are certainly plenty out there. We particularly love this one and this one. (Whole Wheat Banana Muffins pictured)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Hummus
The chickpea/peanut butter base of this yummy hummus provides plenty of protein, and when paired with fruit this makes a great snack choice. It stores well in the fridge (I actually like it best chilled, as the chickpea flavor mellows), so it's easy to keep on hand. I'm seeing a trend here...can you tell we love peanut butter?

Smoothies and Popsicles
As I've said before, my kids are smoothie fanatics! I love whipping up smoothies with just about any variety of fruit and some milk, ice, vanilla, and a little orange juice concentrate, honey, or sugar if extra sweetness is desired. Two recipes we love are here and here. If there are leftovers, it's fun to pour it into a popsicle mold and have popsicles later on!

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips
Go easy on the sugar on the tortilla chips, and this fruit salsa is a great option! I loved the fact that when my kids were babies, I could feed them the fruit salsa straight as baby food. Somehow dipping makes everything more fun, right?

Homemade Granola Bars
These granola bars are so quick to whip up, and you can vary the nutritional content a lot based on your preferences with the optional add-ins. They have a fabulous texture and my kids love it when I make them!

What are some of your favorite snacks to serve young children?


  1. Too bad I have a nut and peanut butter hater. But I like slicing apples in thin rounds, then sprinkling them with cinnamon. Thin rounds are the way to go with apples - just core them with a corer first to save time. Also great with slices of cheese.

    1. Which of your kids doesn't like peanut butter??? I seriously think that's about half my kids' calorie consumption...


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