During the first year of life, babies grow and develop much faster than at any time afterward. To provide fuel for such rapid growth and development they need enough energy and nutrients. It is well-known that we obtain energy from the food we eat but when it comes to babies, their little tummies are too small to help them get enough energy and all the necessary nutrients at the same time.
That is why snacks between breast milk or formula can be a great solution for an active toddler. Keep reading to learn more about different healthy mini-meals or snacks that you can offer your little one!
What is a healthy baby snack?
The consensus of different specialists’ opinions is that a snack should be safe, nutritious (a.k.a contain wholesome ingredients), and tasty. All sorts of baby snacks could be divided into two groups – homemade and commercial baby snacks (mini meals from the store). Each group of snacks has its pros and cons, which we’ll walk you through.
Although a lot of moms and dads prefer homemade snacks (such as yogurt) in such snacks, it can be difficult to control the level of toxic and potentially harmful chemicals. This is because foods at home may be subject to different safety testing and quality standards than commercial baby foods are. And of course, to prepare healthy snacks which provide nutrients from core food groups parents have to spend a lot of time both researching meals and preparing food.
Particularly time-consuming is the process of preparing for kids without teeth because you have to pay a great deal of attention to the texture of food.
Commercial baby foods (which parents can order through the internet or buy in a store) go through strict quality controls all the time and oftentimes a group of specialists works on their preparation to make sure that the quality of the snacks is extremely high. Most parents opt to mix both commercial and home made snacks for both convivence and quality assurance.
Reasons for snacking
Snacks for kids are considered a significant part of daily nutrition. Snacks can support the high nutritional requirements of toddlers. These mid-meals help to ‘top-up’ daily intake and as a result, meet the increasing nutritional needs of a child.
Besides the nutritional reasons, they can be valuable teaching tools. Snacking is a great opportunity to practice basic eating skills and to explore a new texture and taste (including a naturally sweet taste).
Moreover, snack time can be a key component for helping your child to learn about food and spend quality bonding time with parents. Furthermore, healthy baby snacks can help to cultivate healthy eating habits, and a healthy diet can help to reduce the risk of medical problems in the future.
Best snack time
Depending on the age of the toddler and their eating routine, it can be a good idea to plan re-fueling pitstops in-between structured meals. The best place for such a snack break with an apple or puffs is of course in the kitchen to help your child associate it as a place for eating.
But to avoid confusion about structured meals vs snacks, it’s best to make these pitstops short. Moreover, for young eaters, it is important to be sat upright and to have a supported position that provides necessary safety and comfort.
Volume and serving
It’s important to understand that snacks are a kind of mini-meal and you should be conscious of the volume and amounts of foods given to your little one. It’s good practice to start small and move on gradually. Nutritionists emphasize that each snack should be a source of nutrients from at least two different food groups, for example, a banana or an apple with yogurt as a good source of protein and puffs. Further, parents should pay particular attention to the intake of carbs and keep them within the recommended range for your child’s age.
As for the texture of the mid-meal finger foods, boiled or steamed veggies are widely considered the best option, and divided plates created especially for baby snacks can help to provide variety and to teach your little one how to make choices and appreciate food diversity.
Best healthy snacks
Snacks can be a good addition to structured meals and food and be used as a means of boosting vitamin and mineral intake as well as providing much needed energy for a baby. It’s important to provide your toddler with recipes that use ingredients from core food groups, so that while snacking they can eat fruit (an apple or banana), cereal, dairy products (yogurt, milk), lean meat and poultry, veggies, and alternative protein like eggs or legumes.
Carefully planning a well-balanced diet that includes breast milk or baby formula and baby snacks can be a good strategy to give your little one proper nutrition. Among the best snacks for kids are fruits and veggies. However, a plain yogurt with an apple or banana puree, steamed green peas, and whole grains are not only delicious but also very nutritious.
Safety as the priority
Speaking about babies’ snacks, it is necessary to emphasize that safety is the main priority. Healthy snacks should be safe for the health of kids and toddlers and they should always be age appropriate.
Store-provided baby snacks, like all baby food, are subject to strict regulation and control. However, some parents may feel as though organic snacks are best for their child. The ideal safe baby snacks should be easily digested, low sugar, gluten-free (if under 6 months of age), without added salt, and free of preservatives or potentially harmful chemicals.
Food to avoid
Different foods can be dangerous to your baby’s health depending on their age. According to the CDC before 12 months, it is important to avoid the following foods and drinks in your infants diet.
- caffeinated beverages
- 100% juice
- cow’s milk
- sugar-sweetened drinks
- foods that are high in salt
- products with added sugar
As all ingredients in a baby’s diet contain natural salt and sugar, there is no need to add these additives intentionally.
Learn more: How to Prevent the Development of Food Allergies in Babies?
Toxic ingredients in baby’s snacks
Toddlers should be protected from ingesting toxins in their diet. The problem is that even homemade yummy baby snacks aren’t always 100 percent safe as some of the main ingredients may can contain a certain level of toxins and heavy metals which babies are vulnerable to. That’s why we recommend taking actions to minimize the risk of your baby’s exposure to different toxins and heavy metals in their food…
…here are some of the main tips:
- use clean water when preparing food or drinks for your baby
- provide babies with a wide variety of natural food preferably those having natural colors
- limit rice products because arsenic is naturally found in them
- try to vary the cereal and grains to limit the possible intake of heavy metals (ex. choose a variety pack in a store)
- stay clear of long-living or predatory fish because they can contain a threatening amounts of mercury
- supervise snacking and structured daily meals
EU Organic snacks are tested for a variety of chemicals and potential toxins beginning with the selection of raw ingredients prior to the manufacturing process and continuing through the retailing of finished products.
Organizations that certify baby food and baby products pay exceptional attention to the risks of toxins and heavy metal exposure. The label of ‘EU organic’ can help bring peace of mind to parents that their baby’s food has passed strict quality checks and safety controls before making it’s way to their child.
Baby fruit snacks
For us adults, tasty and yummy food is often sweet or salty. It’s not uncommon for us to pick up some bad eating habits but it’s important that we do better for our children. Many nutritionists say that fruit contains enough natural sugar already and that children from all age groups do not need added sugar in their food. Not only is it unnecessary but it can even be harmful.
Packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other essential nutrients, fruit as a snack can be a great addition to a well-balanced baby diet. Consuming healthy amounts of fruit and veggies can help to maintain a steady level of blood glucose so active babies and toddlers don’t run out of energy!
To satisfy young tots in their exploration of different food textures and shapes parents can offer bite-size chunks of slice seasonal fruit. Recipes for veggies and fruit mixtures are widely available and leftovers should be stored and packed properly to protect it from oxygen in the air.
Thinking about fruit and veggies recipes it’s important to be aware of choking hazards which can be caused by hard fruit or raw vegetables. So again, the key thing for safe snacking is to supervise a baby with each snack time or mini meal break.
Learn more: Best Baby Food Pouches
Baby puff snacks
A pack of dry O-shaped cereal is one of the most popular types of baby snacks and finger foods out there. Organic puffs and O-shaped snacks give great opportunities to perfect the pincer grasp. They also mix well with the baby’s saliva which can improve safety and avoid choking hazards.
But as a reminder, puffs made of rice and rice in general can potentially be contaminated with arsenic and other heavy metals. So be sure to limit your little one’s exposure by varying the grains they consume.
What snacks can I give my 6-month-old?
Once your baby show signs of food readiness such as starting to chew on their gums, or if your baby shows interest in adult food and tries to eat it themself it might be ready for snack time. However, the general medical consensus is that baby’s aren’t ready for solids until 6 months and you should consult your pediatrician first to see if your child is ready for snacks. In general, it is recommended that at first, snacks should only be offered once a day. However, the amount of food should be increased gradually as your baby grow’s and so too does their energy demands.
When it comes to finger foods, it is necessary to mention that allowing your child to explore more advanced texture should only be done once your toddler achieves higher motor skills including:
- using fingers to grasp foods
- using hands to move food towards their mouth
- sitting up straight during the meal
An ideal introduction to finger foods is cooked vegetable sticks and added sugar-free and gluten-free baby rusks.
The rule of thumb is to introduce only one new type of snack at a time. It can help identify if your baby is allergic to a particular food so that you can eliminate it from their diet and avoid causing harm to the health of your baby.
Around 9 months, the kids’ snack menu can usually be enlarged and diversified.
What are good snacks for a 1-year-old?
According to the specialists from Michigan State University, a key component of healthy eating for a 1-year-old kid is keeping foods on hand from each food group. My Plate has a great break down of the different food groups for your reference!
The list below contains suitable snack for children starting from 12 months:
- sweet potato or sweet potato powder
- baby puffs (don’t forget about variety pack)
- whole-grain bread with cream cheese (to combine carbs with protein)
- steamed green beans
- shredded cheese (a great source of protein)
- low fat and sugar-free yogurt
- low-fat dairy products if there is no need for dairy-free diet
- shakes with low-fat milk
When you travel together, keep snacking healthy
Traveling with a baby can be great adventure and fun but it often takes a lot of planning and preparing beforehand.
Whether the baby is breastfeeding or his main meals consists of baby formula, it’s important to find the right snacks for on the go and to not let convenience override nutrition.
Although homemade snacks are usually unavailable, sugar-free baby yogurt and a banana can be bought in almost every local store. If your options for homemade snacks are limited by travel, it may help to throw some organic baby rusks in the diaper bag. Other quick healthy snacks we recommend are fruity rings, several fruit and vegetable bars, and of course a few favorite pouches!
Summing it all up
A nutritious snack for a baby is not only a great way to implement healthy eating habits it can also be a good strategy to introduce your little one to new solid foods!
It’s very important to make sure you consult your pediatrician before feeding your baby with solid foods. Once you get the go ahead from your doctor, always supervise your toddler when offering homemade or store-bought snacks!
Planning and preparing solid food snacks in advance can save time and create an opportunity to ensure a wide range of nutrients including vitamins and minerals in the baby’s everyday diet.
Snacking should be a joy and an opportunity for your baby to spend quality time with the family around the table. Our favorite finger foods are organic snacks with no added sugar, like puffs, alongside some veggies and fruits, perhaps a banana. Happy snacking!
Please be aware that this information is based on general trends evidenced in babies and toddlers, it is in no way medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice to make choices related to your child’s diet. Always consult your pediatrician prior to taking any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.
Disclaimer: Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby, because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.