Snacks are foods in between meals. That’s important because sometimes snacks become replacements for meals but that’s not what they are for. Ideally snacks are given at set times of day between meals (usually 90 minutes minimum between feeding times) rather than constantly available.
Why is it important to have set times?
Because it allows toddlers to know what the routine is. Toddlers like routine. It helps parents to say no when they constantly ask for snacks too. “It’s not snack time” is an easy response rather than “You have had enough”. The former is fact, the latter is up for debate and the toddler might not actually have had enough.
Having set times also helps avoid grazing – constantly eating – which is not good for teeth, digestion or feeling hungry for the next meal. It can lead to an increase in fussy eating too which nobody wants.
Do babies need snacks?
No. Baby’s shouldn’t have snacks. They need space for their milk. They should be offered milk between meals but not other foods.
Do toddlers need snacks?
Although every child is different, toddlers have quite small stomachs so in order to get the variety of food they need, and the amount, it is best to have snacks.
How many snacks does a toddler need?
2. One between breakfast and lunch and one between lunch and dinner.
What can I give as a snack?
Think of the snack as a mini meal. It doesn’t need to include all the components of a meal but it is an extension of meals in order to help children get the 5 portions of starchy carbohydrate, 5 portions of vegetables/fruit, 3 portions of dairy (or alternatives) and 2 portions of protein foods (or 3 if they are vegetarian/vegan).
Examples of snacks include:
- Vegetable sticks and homous
- Fruit – avoid dried fruit for snacks
- Crumpets or wraps
- Breadsticks (beware of the salt content)
- Cheese cubes
- Pitta bread and homous or cream cheese
- Crackers (beware of salt content)
- Toast and peanut butter
- Rice cakes with cream cheese or peanut butter on them
- Raisin bread (beware of added sugar content)
- Yoghurt – ideally plain yoghurt as fruit yoghurts can be high in sugar
- Plain popcorn – only for competent eaters – not very young toddlers
- No added sugar flapjack – recipe on request
How much should I give as a snack?
Every child is different but I would recommend offering a small snack and then seeing what the impact on the next meal is. If your child doesn’t eat much because they are too full still, the snack was too big. If your child can’t last until their next meal, try increasing the snack size and seeing if that helps.
Disclaimer – this does not provide individualised advice. Please seek individual advice from a Registered Nutritionist or dietitian or from your Health Visitor or GP.