They are sneaky those little ones! They live for snacks. They can finish a giant meal, refusing to eat one more bite and then you drop the word 'snack' and they are ready for more. Or they insist they aren't hungry, push dinner away and two minutes after you've cleaned up, are asking for a snack. Until I became the mom of a hungry and growing little man, I didn't realize how real the snack struggle is. The toddler and child snack game is hard! I am proud to say, however, that so far I am winning the game. One point for mom! At least this week. (Update: lost last night! 😆)
I recognize this could all be turned upside down and inside out with the next leap in his development, but for now it's working. Basically, I limit snacks. I realized very quickly that snacks are my son's meal of choice, but if he's snacking all the time, he's not sitting and having a meal with us, and that was making our meals more stressful and chaotic. Eating together is a non-negotiable commitment in our family. He doesn't usually sit as long as us (though often he does, and eats way slower than the rest of us), but he knows the habit and knows to let us know when he's done and would like to leave the table.
We all have to do what works for our families and this is what works for ours.
The Key To Good Snacking
One of the key things we need to remember when planning and preparing for the snack game is that snacks, like meals, need to contain the all-important fiber, fat and protein. This is what will give kids (and adults) actual blood sugar-stabilizing fuel that will get them calmly to the next feeding with less likelihood of a meltdown.
It's a balancing act. A blood sugar balancing act. We know that when our son gets hungry, he might not always say something. He might not even know it. Instead he shows it by getting hyper, irritable, being disagreeable, crying easily, or a delightful mix of all of the above. Again, it's no different with adults.
Every snack we offer, we aim for it to work as a mini-meal that provides actual satiation of hunger, not just a form of entertainment. We also aim to balance savoury snacks with sweet snacks so that a 'snack' isn't synonymous with 'a treat'.
Simple Toddler & Kid-Friendly Snack Ideas For Morning, Afternoon or Bedtime
- Coconut kefir and a sprinkle of granola
- Banana dipped in hemp seeds and bee pollen "sprinkles"
- Homemade jello
- Green smoothie
- Green smoothie popsicles (the smoothie from yesterday you froze because your child wouldn't drink it)
- Muffin with nut butter, coconut butter or ghee
- Fruit with nut, seed or coconut butter
- Ultimate Super Toddler Cookies (recipe below)
- Veggie tots
- Hummus and veggies
- Sweet potato fries and hummus or dip
- Pesto and crackers
- Cheese (fermented cashew cheese or dairy cheese if your child can tolerate it) and whole ingredient crackers
- Avocado boats (half an avocado sprinkled with salt, served with a spoon)
- Mixed nuts/ trail mix
- Cup of soup
- Seaweed snacks
- Kale chips
Our Meal Schedule
As I write this, our son is two and a half years old, and we aim to eat as many meals with him as possible. It's so important to us that we've organized our schedules to accommodate his. I recognize this isn't possible for everyone but on the days that it is, like weekends, we work to make the family meal a priority.
- 6:30–7:00 AM: Wake up
- 7:30 AM: Breakfast
- 10:30 AM: Morning snack (usually a savoury snack)
- 12:00 PM: Lunch
- 1:00–2:30 PM: Nap
- 3:00 PM: Afternoon snack (usually a sweeter option for no other reason that he's more agreeable to it)
- 5:30–6:00 PM: Dinner (if we're later than 6 PM it becomes a bit of an unpredictable gong show. 5:15 PM is optimal, but not doable during weekdays)
What About Bedtime Snacks?
It can be hard to know whether a bedtime snack is a legitimate hunger, or a bedtime delay tactic. We played around with a bedtime snack (usually some nuts and seeds, or some apple and sunbutter). We gave it a try when he was waking in the middle of the night, but I wasn't keen on the habit and worked to change up his routine to eliminate it. He stayed on sleeping through the night and stopped asking for the snack.
If you are going to offer a bedtime snack, my recommendation is to avoid easy foods like bananas and other sweet fruits. Will a toddler ever deny a banana? Make it a bit of what we call work – cucumber slices, red pepper and hummus, plain nuts and/or seeds. It might help you know if they're truly feeling hungry.
My Snack Solution
Here is my recipe for one of my favourite go-to snacks. I love it because it is super fat-rich, protein-rich and fiber-rich. The sweetness in the whole batch comes from just six dates, but the presence of coconut and coconut oil helps it to taste sweeter without the added sugar content. See the notes in the recipe for a nut-free version.
Yield: 16 small cookies
- 1 cup walnuts (see notes for nut-free version)
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- 6 medjool dates
- ⅓ cup coconut oil
- 2 Tbsp Goji berries
- 2 Tbsp collagen
- ½ cup cacao or Elixir (very optional)
- 2-3 Tbsp each of goji berries and flax seeds, ground in coffee grinder AND/OR
- ¼ cup shredded coconut
- Place all ingredients into your food processor with the S-blade and mix until well-combined. You'll have to scrape down the sides a few times and keep mixing until dough is well-combined, everything is in small crumb-size uniform pieces and mix holds together when you pinch it.
- Using about 2 Tbsp of the mix, form small round balls and then press them flat into cookie shapes. If using a topping for decoration, press the ball flat into the topping so it sticks well. Omit this step if you want to reduce mess.
- Once you are done the full batter, transfer to the fridge to harden and set.
- Serve cold from the fridge. Will keep in an airtight container for 2 weeks, or freeze for up to 3 months.
Swap the walnuts for ½ cup of tahini (sesame paste) and ½ cup sunflower seeds.