Congratulations! You’ve made it through the first year of parenthood. This is a huge milestone, as you’ve graduated from having an itty-bitty baby to a scooting, crawling, maybe even walking explorer who amazes you and grows every day! As they progress from milk and baby food to “real food,” many parents worry about ways to pack their precious youngster with nutrition in healthy and safe ways, so they grow into a healthy, happy kid.
Variety is the Spice of Toddler Snacking
Starting your little one with healthy snacks early on can really set a foundation for their food choices and preferences as they grow. It is during this critical time that you can foster a love for natural and healthy foods, before they enter the tempting world of drive-thru's, kids’ meals, and vending machines. By exposing your one-year-old to a variety of different food groups, you can help to expand their palate and equip them with the nutrients needed for their growing minds and bodies.
Healthy Eating for Picky Eaters
Some kids are picky eaters, and regardless of their parents’ good intentions, they are just harder to convince to eat healthy foods. Parenting magazine suggests a few helpful tips for parents to establish healthy eating in picky eaters:
Make a schedule
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, kids need to eat every three to four hours, broken down into three meals, a few snacks and plenty of fluids every day. When kids get on a schedule, they will be hungry at certain time and more willing to eat what is placed in front of them.
Don’t make separate dinners
Plenty of parents say they won’t be that parent that makes dinner for the whole family and then a different dinner for the “baby,” but in desperation, many end up making two meals to ensure their little one gets something to eat. Try to avoid this, and remember that kids mimic their parents’ behavior, so when they see you eating and trying healthy foods, they will be more likely to do the same.
Get in the good stuff in the mornings
Many families are so busy in the mornings getting ready for work and school that fast, easy breakfasts are their go-to meal choice. Take advantage of breakfast by packing it with healthy foods that will jump-start your toddler’s busy day. Grain-free orange zucchini muffins, whole grain pancakes (you can make them the night before and warm them up in the mornings) oatmeal, fresh fruit, and smoothies are all great ways to start your child’s day and sneak in nutrients from the beginning.
10 Healthy Snacks for 1-Year-Olds and Up
Next time you want to offer your kiddie a healthy, sweet breakfast treat, experiment with a carrot smoothie! Add 2 cups of carrot juice, ½ cup of natural apple juice, 6 ounces of yogurt and a banana to a blender, and blend. There are many different combinations of fruits and veggies that can be mixed together to create a smoothie if your child would rather drink their nutrients than munch on them.
Hummus is an easy-to-transport snack that works well with sliced, raw vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers, or as a spread on its own. You can make hummus at home, too: simply combine one can of drained and rinsed chickpeas with three tablespoons of tahini or plain Greek yogurt. You can add spices and lemon juice as well, and making hummus at home allows you to control how much salt the hummus contains.
3. Roasted veggies
Fresh veggies are great, but roasted vegetables are a great alternative for picky eaters. Roasted vegetables provide the same great nutrients are fresh vegetables, but allow your child to explore the different texture that roasting them develops. They also tend to be sweeter, which could go over well with your little one.
4. Soft granola bars
Soft granola bars are a perfect make-ahead toddler snack. This healthy granola bar recipe from Erin Lives Whole are made with oats, are egg-free and have healthy fats and complex carbs, providing balanced energy for your kids. You can add dried or fruit and nuts for more texture and flavor.
Yogurt is a great source of calcium, protein, and gut-healthy probiotics. Whole milk yogurt provides the most benefits for your kiddo, but if they’ve got a milk allergy or intolerance, there are many different dairy-free yogurt options available, like coconut milk and soy milk. Be sure to check for hidden sugars before serving!
6. Dry cereal
Dry cereal can be a quick and easy snack to serve your child, but make sure they’re low in added sugars. When choosing cereal from the store, you’ll want to look for one that includes whole grains, fiber, protein, and less than five grams of added sugar.
Letting your kids eat your leftovers is a great way to introduce them to new foods and flavors. As long as they don’t have any allergies to what you’re eating at dinner, serve them small portions and let them explore these new foods for snack-time, instead of for dinner.
Are your kids gluten-free? Try serving (cooled) oatmeal for snack time. Oatmeal is naturally gluten-free, plus a great source of fiber. You can mix up how you serve oats and oatmeal by adding different toppings like fruit and nut butters.
9. Fresh fruit
Fresh fruit is often a go-to for snack time, and with good reason. Depending on the fruit, it can provide dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and folate, all things to help your children grow. Buying seasonal fruit can also be pretty inexpensive, depending on where you live and the time of year. Fruit’s natural sweetness is also a big win with kids.
10. Scrambled eggs
Scrambled eggs aren’t just for breakfast. Eggs (scrambled or otherwise), are full of protein, vitamins, and minerals. They’re easy and quick to prepare, and if they aren’t a fan of scrambled eggs, there’s many ways to prepare them instead. You can also add cheese and many different vegetables to the scramble for bonus nutrients.
Why It's Important to Eat Healthy Starting Young
Having a one-year-old is an adventure, and starting them off with a solid foundation and appreciation of natural and wholesome foods is essential to their future health and happiness. Finding creative ways to present healthy food can be half the battle, but incorporating options and variety is a foolproof way to help your little one learn to enjoy and appreciate healthy snack options.