At his age, your toddler needs two or three nutritious snacks a day in addition to meals. Try these:
- Unsalted pretzels
- Ripe bananas -- either cut into pieces or offered whole (more fun for him, more mess for you.)
- Toast -- the ultimate toddler food. Try spreading it with a thin coating of creamy peanut butter or cream cheese to give it more nutritional wallop.
- String cheese, slices of American cheese, cubes of cheddar -- whatever works. If you find a cheese your toddler likes, let him have it.
- Smooth peanut butter and crackers are usually a hit. Spread the peanut butter thinly, however, to prevent your child from choking.
- Cereal bits -- stick some in a cup for an afternoon snack. Part of the appeal for a toddler is picking them up one by one.
- Unsalted rice cakes -- big and fun for little hands to hold. These crunchy snacks melt in his mouth. They're even better if you thinly spread them with cream cheese or creamy peanut butter.
- Plain bagels -- These are a wonderful vehicle for healthy snacking. Cut them into manageable bits or just in half to gnaw on. Add cream cheese, melted and cooled cheese, or fruit puree.
Watch your child's diet to make sure he's getting enough important nutrients such as iron, calcium, B vitamins, and protein. With his picky appetite these days, it's hard to know whether he's getting what he needs every day. Here are some nutrient-packed foods that make great, munchable snacks for your tot.
- Scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs -- these are a great source of iron and protein. Make mini-omelets and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
- String cheese sticks, cheese slices and cubes -- a clever way of getting your tot to eat his calcium and protein.
- Fish sticks -- a dinner favorite and good source of calcium. Combine with yummy mashed potatoes for carbohydrates, and you've got a meal!
- Unsalted bread sticks, unsalted rice cakes, toast -- any grain product is a good source of B vitamins, and toddlers generally go for their relative blandness. Try spreading half a bagel with a bit of cream cheese for a healthy combination that's high in protein and carbohydrates.
- Apple slices, peach slices, plums, orange slices -- you can't go wrong with fresh fruit.
- Dried fruit -- cut into bits. Make sure you remove the pits from any prunes or dates you use. Toddlers will love picking minced dried fruit out of their favorite cup.
- "Little trees" -- steamed pieces of broccoli and cauliflower, stood upright in mashed potatoes. If introduced early, these can become favorite snacks.
- Mini-pizzas -- Use half of an English muffin or bagel, spread with tomato sauce, top with cheese, and put it in the oven to melt. Cool and serve, and hear him say "Mama mia!"