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Once your baby starts eating solid foods—around 6 months—having snacks on hand is an important survival hack for busy parents. Not only can it help pacify your hangry little one when you’re on the go, healthy snacking is also a key part of your child’s growth.
“Your child’s brain goes through massive development from birth to age 3 and nutrition plays a huge role in this development,” notes Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, of City Kids Nutrition in New York City. “On average, toddlers need about 1,000-1,400 calories a day.”
Nutrients like protein, fiber, and healthy fats all work together to give your child the energy they need. Fortunately, feeding your baby or toddler healthy snacks on the go is easy and affordable. Here are a few of our top picks.
1. Apples and pears
Remove the peel, then steam or roast these fruits to help your baby meet their daily fiber requirement. Toddlers can typically handle slices or even whole fruit.
2. Cheese sticks
These simple snacks are a great source of protein, which is essential for your child’s growth. “Protein serves as the building blocks of the body and helps body tissues and muscles grow,” Malkoff-Cohen says. Note that cheese sticks are a choking hazard for new eaters, so they’re best for older babies; break apart the cheese before serving.
3. A good food pouch
Go for an easy-squeeze pouch that combines the benefits of healthy fats from avocado, potassium from bananas, and fiber from apples.
While toddlers can pair hummus with whole grain pretzels or thinly sliced veggies, babies could try the fiber-rich snack with steamed carrots.
5. Nut butter
Reach for plain almond butter, cashew butter, or sunflower seed butter to reap the benefits of these healthy fats. Spread it thinly on a piece of toast then cut the bread into small sticks for your baby. “Fat is such a significant nutrient during the first two years of life,” Malkoff-Cohen says. “Fifty percent of your baby’s calories should be coming from a fat source… because their brain is developing so rapidly and relies on fat as a fuel and growth source.”
6. Full-fat plain yogurt
Packed with healthy carbs, calcium, protein, and healthy fats, yogurt can help baby’s body absorb crucial vitamins and nutrients that are key in building their central nervous systems.
7. Whole-grain graham crackers
Ideal for nut- or dairy-free kids, graham crackers are a crowd-pleasing alternative to more sugary cookies.
8. Hard-boiled eggs
Perhaps best suited for a trip to the park (or somewhere outdoors), these stinky snacks deliver some serious protein.
Help your kid meet their daily iron requirement by offering thinly sliced turkey paired with cheese.