I never gave much thought about healthy snacks for my kids when they were toddler and preschool age – until my son was diagnosed with a food intolerance issue.
Although it wasn’t technically a food allergy, it wasn’t fun. Any time he ate something he shouldn’t have it would come back up within hours – or days. Sometimes he’d have a reaction right away, sometimes it would take a few days.
It took awhile to figure out what the exact source of the intolerance was, which meant lots of elimination diets and lots of clean up.
The answer – when we finally found it – wasn’t so simple: Sam was “intolerant” of MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup, and a variety of other food colorings and additives.
This threw my kitchen and meal prep plan into a tailspin, and I was forced to start meticulously reading ingredient labels and start coming up with healthy snacks for my toddler, who had just turned two.
The good news is that he’s outgrown most of his intolerance issues (in reality, his body just got used to digesting these oft-used food chemicals). The other good news is that he still prefers healthy snacks and foods, whilst my three daughters would be perfectly happy on a diet of Pop Tarts and Ho-Ho’s if I would allow it.
Healthy Snack Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Here is a list of some of the health snack ideas I started using to please my kids’ young palates while still avoiding most of the additives that would upset my son’s delicate digestive system. And many of these ideas are great on-the-go snacks, which can help you save money by avoiding unplanned drive-thru runs for hungry kids.
Everyone has a sweet tooth, don’t they? Fortunately, cravings for sweets don’t necessarily have to be satisfied by processed, sugary snacks. Here are some healthy choices for sweet snacks.
1. Yogurt or Cottage Cheese with Fruit
The great thing about serving your kids yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit is that there are so many combinations to choose from.
As far as yogurt goes, we tend to choose organic yogurts with relatively few ingredients. Organic Valley and Stonyfield are two of our favorites, and between the two brands you’ll find they’re generally sold in three flavor options: Plain, Vanilla and Strawberry.
I tend to go for the Vanilla or Strawberry, as it feels like more of a treat to the kids, but if you can start them early they may learn to prefer the plain yogurt.
Organic cottage cheeses are on the market too these days with brands such as Organic Valley and Horizon.
Any number of fruits can be paired with yogurt or cottage cheese. Here are some options.
- Apple slices
- Strawberries, blueberries or raspberries
- Melons such as cantaloupe or honeydew
And more. Just match your child’s fruit preference to their favorite yogurt flavor or cottage cheese and you’ve got yourself a quick and healthy snack that tastes great.
2. Granola Mix or a Granola Bar with Apple Slices
The great thing about granola bars or granola mixes is that they’re usually available in a variety of flavors, or you can make your own. When feeding toddlers, it’s often nice to stick with the bars instead of the mix just to help avoid some of the mess toddlers tend to make when eating.
And pairing some apple slices with granola is a great way to get a fresh fruit into their diets, as well as provide a nice complimentary taste.
FYI: Not all granola bars are healthy: be sure to read the ingredient lists when you’re choosing granola bars for your family.
3. Cheese with Fruit Slices
Serving cheese with fruit slices is a great way to get some protein and calcium into your child’s diet. Bonus: there are so many cheese varieties to choose from, such as Colby, Cheddar, Swiss and more.
And cheese slices go great with a variety of different fruits such as apples, grapes (be sure to cut them the long way to help avoid choking hazards), melons, kiwi and more.
This is a snack that you can use to help introduce your child to higher quality cheeses too, before they get used to the processed cheeses that are so commonly found in snacks these days.
4. Homemade Trail Mix
We love making homemade trail mix at our house. As long as you’re not dealing with some type of nut allergy in your home, you can make a variety of healthy trail mix flavors to satisfy your little one’s snack cravings. Some ideas for homemade trail mix ingredients include:
- Raisins or other dried fruits such as bananas, apples or dried mango
- A variety of nuts such as peanuts, almonds, cashews or sunflower nuts
- Healthy grains such as whole grain cereals
- Sweet add-ins such as carob chips, chocolate covered nuts, or yogurt covered raisins
- Miscellaneous add-ins such as air-popped popcorn, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds or coconut flakes
You can design your homemade trail mix to fit your little one’s taste preferences or to fit the nutritional values you want to include in their diet.
5. Dry Whole Grain Cereals with a Carton of Milk
Cereal with milk is often reserved for breakfast time, but if you put dry whole grain cereals in a small storage container or baggie, and serve it with a carton of milk (like the kind we had in school) or milk in their sippy cup, you can use milk and cereal as an on-the-go snack.
To keep the milk fresh if you’re out for a long day, simply keep the milk a lunch tote with a reusable ice pack in it.
If you’re storing the milk in a sippy cup that doesn’t have a leakproof top, put a piece of plastic storage wrap over the cup before you put the top on.
6. Rice Cakes with Peanut Butter
Rice cakes are another good option for healthy, on-the-go snacks. They are available in a variety of flavors such as plain, lightly salted, apple cinnamon and more.
And when you add peanut butter in the mix you’re feeding your kids a good source of protein. To cut down on the mess, you may want to use mini rice cakes and make sort of a sandwich, with the peanut butter in between.
Or you could add the peanut butter to the regular sized rice cakes and put a mess-reducing barrier on top, such as a thin slice of your child’s favorite cheese or a sprinkling of raisins pressed into the peanut butter topping.
7. Homemade Fruit Smoothies
We make homemade fruit smoothies a lot at our house. Start with a great smoothie blender (Check out the Nutra Bullet. It’s reasonably priced and has good reviews.), add in your favorite fresh or frozen fruits, some 100% juice, and if you’d like, some organic plain or flavored yogurt.
Some of the fruit choices we’ve added to our smoothies include bananas, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.
Blend well and serve it fresh for best results. I’ve found that fruit smoothies are a great satisfier for my kids’ sweet tooth cravings, and they have fun making them too. Smoothies are also a nice refreshing snack for hot summer days or on-the-go breakfasts.
8. Ants on a Log
This old classic snack is still as healthy and as delicious as it was when you were a kid. Simply wash and dry some celery sticks (cut off the ends first), spread peanut butter in the middle (you could use almond butter as well), and cover the peanut butter with raisins.
If you use enough raisins you can avoid most of the peanut butter mess in the storage container if you’re making them for on-the-go purposes.
9. Healthy Homemade Baked Goods
One of the changes we had to make in our home when my son was diagnosed with food intolerances is that I started making baked goods from scratch with primarily organic ingredients.
For instance, the wheat that makes most store-bought flour is sprayed with dangerous pesticides. By purchasing organic flour, I can avoid allowing our family to avoid ingesting many of those pesticides.
I use organic flour, sugar, and butter in all of our baked goods, and I make many of the items we previously purchased at the store homemade from scratch.
I’ll make home-baked cookies, bars, cakes and other baked treats that can suffice as semi-healthy snacks – at least a lot healthier than I’d find in the processed snack food aisle at the local grocery store.
I also make homemade flour tortillas, biscuits, buns, cinnamon rolls and other items that I’d normally buy pre-made from the store.
And the stuff I make doesn’t necessarily have to be laden with sugar. As an example I’ll make homemade oatmeal raisin muffins or cookies and just add less sugar than what the recipe calls for.
Hint: I purchase my organic flour, sugar and butter from Costco – their prices on these items match or beat the non-organic prices at regular grocery stores.
Another tip: divide the baked goods into serving size portions, put them in baggies and freeze them for longevity and just grab them out of the freezer when you need them. Great for on-the-go snacking.
10. Fruit Salad
There’s nothing like a fresh fruit salad to satisfy a sweet tooth. Simply cut up your child’s favorite fruits into safe, bite-size pieces, and combine them in a bowl for a tasty and healthy snack.
Fruit salad combinations can include any of the fruits your family loves: peaches and pears, apples, bananas, berries, melons and more.
11. Fruit and Nut Combos
Another common snack in our house is a serving of fruit and nuts. This might encompass a cup of sunflower nuts and raisins, or an apple and some chopped walnuts.
We’ll even do grapes (halved the long way for safe eating) and a spoonful of peanut butter or almond butter.
Experiment with various fruit and nut combinations until you find something your little one enjoys.
If you would rather have a savory snack than a sweet snack, consider the options below.
12. Hummus or Yogurt with Veggies
We love hummus! Hummus (basically it’s mashed chickpeas), can come plain or in a variety of flavors such as garlic or roasted red pepper. I think of hummus as the healthiest of dips for veggies and other snacks.
Just set out a bowl of hummus (you can make it homemade or purchase it store bought) with some carrot sticks or celery sticks and you’re ready to go.
Plain yogurt is another commonly used dip for veggies, but many toddlers frown at the taste. You could spice it up a bit with some garlic powder, pepper and salt to make it more palatable.
13. Hummus with Whole Grain Crackers
Hummus also makes a great dip for whole grain crackers. Simply shop online or at the store for your favorite healthy whole grain cracker choice and serve it with plain or flavored hummus.
14. Veggies with Homemade Ranch Dip
My homemade ranch dip is another concoction that was the result of having to work around my son’s intolerance to MSG and other food additives.
Most store-bought ranch dips are laden with chemical additives that Sam couldn’t eat. So I started making this dip to serve with plain potato chips or veggies. By the way; it’s great for parties too – our extended family loves it!
I don’t have a recipe per say, but here’s what I estimate I use – you can adjust to your taste.
- 1 cup Daisy Sour Cream (pure with no additives)
- ½ cup real mayo
- 1 t. garlic powder
- ½ t. salt
- ½ t. pepper
- 1 t. parsley flakes
- ½ t. dill flakes (optional)
Mix and chill until served. It takes about three minutes to whip up and is delicious and healthier than store bought versions.
Hint: I also make homemade taco seasoning void of chemical preservatives by mixing cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.
15. Turkey Slices with Accompaniments
Another great snack for little ones? Turkey slices with just about anything. You can serve them with sliced fruit, baby carrots, nuts and more. Be creative and just throw some fruit or veggies in a bag, along with another bag of turkey slices.
16. Hard-Boiled Eggs
If your little one likes hard-boiled eggs, this is a good option for a healthy snack. Just boil them according to cookbook directions, slice in half and add a bit of salt and pepper. Keep them whole if you want them for on-the-go snacking. You can keep restaurant salt and pepper packets in the car for them if need be.
17. Cheese Sticks and Whole Grain Crackers
Cheese sticks are another popular healthy snack for kids and they come in a variety of cheese choices such as Mozzarella and Colby Jack. Serve them with whole grain crackers, and bring a 100% juice juice-box to drink.
Do you have anything to add? What are your favorite healthy snacks for serving to toddlers?