Little ones have small tummies but need lots of energy to run around, learn and grow healthy. That’s why snacks come in really handy to refill their tummies in between main meals so they can carry on discovering the world around them.
But remember, a snack is a small meal to tie your child over till lunch or dinner. Yes, it has to be balanced but if it is too large it might sabotage their next meal, even if it is their favourite fish pie for dinner!
Balance is the key to healthy nutrition so when grabbing a snack check that it ticks the following boxes:
- contains some protein from nuts, hummus, cheese, yogurt for growth
- it is high in fibre from fruit, vegetables, wholegrains to avoid sugar highs and lows
- it has a little fat from olive oil, coconut oil, rapeseed oil, butter, cheese because growing kids need the extra calories!
- and not one bit of refined sugar!
As baby and toddler’s tummies are tiny (and sometimes so are their appetites!) we need to ensure every mouthful counts so load your snacks up with fresh fruit and veg. Look for seasonal, locally grown and, if possible, organic produce and try to avoid anything processed – or wrapped in plastic or foil because nature invented the best ever wrap – fruit and veg skins!
Ready to eat snacks
Rice cakes are so convenient but they are not balanced. If made with white rice, they are refined and contain little nutrients. And even if they are made with brown rice, they do not contain any protein and fat, so add a little hummus, maybe a little cheese and some chopped tomatoes and bingo…balanced snack ready to enjoy!
Dried fruit is one those snacks that parents think are healthy but they are loaded with sugar and little else other than gut-friendly fibre. The fruit has been dried, processed and sometimes preserved with sulphur dioxide, a sulphate that can cause respiratory problems if your child is sensitive to it or suffers from asthma.
Baby rusks can be made with refined white flours and may contain gluten and dairy that are not suitable for all weaning babies. Rusks might also be sweetened with concentrated fruit juice which is…just glucose and fructose (AKA sugar!) So read your labels, avoid fruit sweeteners and look for wholegrains.
Ready to eat foods can be low in nutrients (vitamin C for example degrades over time and is also heat sensitive), can be highly processed (which means no fibre) and high in unhealthy fats like oxidised and saturated fats. Also remember that some packaging may contain BPA or even aluminium from foil.
We like planning our snacks at the same time we plan our lunches and dinners, that way we can be sure everyone gets all the nutrients they need. For example, those days when breakfast is porridge and lunch is sandwiches, we feel we need a little more protein to round up the day so, we plan for some quinoa slices or a few apple slices with smooth peanut butter. For nut allergies during weaning please have a look at our allergies post.
And don’t forget to always make a double batch of the freezer-friendly snack of your choice, which means next week all you have to do is remember to take them out of the freezer.
Another great planning-hack is having a list of 10 snacks the family enjoys and rotate them on a weekly basis. Here is an example but try to come up with your 10-all-time faves:
Home-made popcorn and cocoa nibs
Dark chocolate covered strawberries
Hummus finger sandwiches on granary bread
Guacamole on corn cakes
Home-made smoothies you can carry in the
Cheesy omelette shapes
Make freezer-friendly snacks because no-one expects you to bake fresh muffins every day – unless you are Nigella, of course!
Ideas for no-cook balanced snacks:
apple and cheese
pitta and hummus
carrots and hummus
corn tortillas and smashed avocado
apple and smooth almond butter
edamame beans (from 12 months onwards)
popcorn (12 months on)
rice cakes with nut butter or hummus
Energy balls are a great way to make a snack in minutes, they are super easy to carry and keep in the fridge for a good week. They freeze really well, so you can stock up and defrost them as we need them – hassle free snack time!
Sugar, salt and additives
We know how busy life can get and sometimes it is unavoidable to reach for some ready to eat snacks. So, if that’s the case, our advice is to read the labels and give added-sugar foods a wide berth. If this is not possible avoid anything that contains more an 10% sugar and ensure that there is protein and fats with it to avoid blood sugar fluctuations. So if it has to be a croissant, have a little nut butter or a couple of walnuts and some low-sugar fruit (apples, berries) with it.
Sugary snacks can have an impact on teeth heath and affect blood sugar balance which has been linked to mood changes. Basically, the easiest tantrum prevention technique is balancing your snacks and avoiding refined sugar!
Check for additives and if the food in question has anything you cannot identify and you definitely do not have in your kitchen, put it back. Quickly.
Food additives have been linked to worsening of ADHD symptoms so for those children diagnosed with behavioural issues is advisable to avoid foods containing artificial colourings, flavourings and preservatives. Again, read the labels and avoid E numbers if in doubt.
If you do have to buy a snack, find an age appropriate one as babies under 6 months should not have salt at all. Salt maximum increases to 1g a day for babies aged 6-12 months and 2g for toddlers, so pretty low for little ones!
Stay tummy big safe:
The chances are you’ll be feeding your baby snacks on the go but make sure they are not perishable (milk, cut fruit, fresh smoothies) or carry them in a thermal bag like Béaba’s Isothermal Meal Pouch ® because bacteria replicate more quickly in warm weather and your baby’s digestive and immune system might not be mature enough to fight them off.
Written by Purple Carrot Nutrition: https://purplecarrotnutrition.co.uk/