Snacks and Toddlers
Snacks are important for toddlers (toddlers meaning young children from about 12 to 36 months). Why? Toddlers have really small tummies. They fill up quickly at meals. Snacks help your child get the foods he needs to grow. Up to 1/4 of all the calories and nutrients (the vitamins and minerals) a toddler needs can come from snacks.
This article is all about planning snacks for your family.

Snacks have a bad name!! That is because when we think of snacks we often think of "junk food" like sweets or chips. Snacks can be healthy and taste good too. Teaching your child to enjoy healthy snacking can lead to good lifelong health.

How often should I feed my child snacks?
  • Mid-morning
  • Afternoon
  • Bedtime

Try to offer food only at meals and snack times. That way your child will know when to expect meals and snacks and won’t eat all day long. Eating only at meals and snack times helps your child have a better appetite. Snack time doesn’t need to be long - 10 minutes is perfect. Sitting down to eat a meal or snack can help avoid choking or spills.

Snack serving for a toddler

How much should I be giving my child? What is one serving of a food? Think of it this way: A serving is about 1 tablespoon of food for each year of your child’s age. If you have a one-year old, start with 1 tablespoon of applesauce for a snack. If you have a three-year old, give them about 3 tablespoons for a serving. Your child will let you know if they want more.

Snack Checklist
  • Does it look and taste good?
  • Can fingers be used to eat the snacks?
  • Can the snacks be chewed and swallowed easily?
  • Will there be a choking problem?

Think of a snack as a mini-meal rather than something you just grab like chips. This will help you plan for the snack and make it healthier.

Snack Ideas for Young Children

  • Try giving your toddler water in an open cup or a sippy cup for a snack.
  • Milk and 100% juice can be a simple snack idea too.

Remember, after about 10 minutes put the cup in the refrigerator. Sipping on a sippy cup or bottle all day may ruin your child’s appetite at snack and mealtime.


  • Toddlers love dipping!! They may use salad dressings, ketchup, applesauce, or yogurt to dip their food in. The dips are fun and they help keep the food moist and easy to chew for the toddler.
  • Fruits can be a great choice for snacks. Try bananas, peaches, pears, melon, apples, and more.
  • Vegetables such as cucumber slices, and green and red pepper strips are great snacks. Other veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower are good but may need to be slightly cooked so that they are not so hard.
  • Breads, cereals, and crackers can be a ready-to-eat snack.
  • Dairy foods like drinks of milk, slices of cheese, string cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese are good choices. These foods are packed with calcium and protein.
  • Don’t forget about hard cooked egg wedges, mini-pizza (on a English muffin), or 1/2 or 1/4 of a sandwich.

Snacks on the go: Running errands with a happy toddler

Sometimes it is hard to predict how long running errands may take. When you go out with your toddler, try throwing some snacks in your bag for those times when your child gets hungry. He will be a much happier toddler for you!

Here are some suggestions:
  • Pack a baggie full of cheerios or a similar cereal that can be a finger food.
  • Pack a small water bottle. Milk can spoil.
  • Pack a lunch can (with the pull-top lid) of fruit packed in
  • water or light syrup.
  • Pack a banana or crackers.
Are vegetable and fruit puffs a healthy snack?

Yes, they are a healthy snack. However, they are mostly cereal with small amounts of fruits and vegetables for flavor.

Are jellied fruit snacks a healthy snack?

No, they are not a healthy snack. Fruit snacks are mostly sugar with very little fruit juice in them.

The Chokers
Do not give to children under age two:
  • Hard to chew foods like nougat candy, nuts, peanuts, or popcorn
  • Slippery and smooth foods like hard candy or whole grapes
  • Coin-shaped foods like sliced carrots or hot dogs

Early Head Start

Nutrition News: July 2007

From your nutritionist,