What should I offer my child for snacks?
From around one year of age children need to be offered the opportunity to eat every 2-3 hours. For most families that looks like breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. It’s important for children to be offered food frequently, but not to graze over the day. Plan sit-down snacks between meals – whether you are at home or you are out. Between snacks and meals offer only water – this allows your child to come to the next meal hungry.
Remember it is your decision what to provide your child at meal and snack times (parents provide, children decide) so don’t ask what they would like to eat. Young children don’t know and aren’t mature enough to even think about it. They are also too busy to know if they are even hungry until they are starving (and fall in a heap) so waiting for your child to ask for food is too late – plan snack times so they can come to the next meal hungry but not starving.
To keep your child satisfied until the next meal a snack needs two or three foods and include protein, fat and carbohydrate. Your child might not eat everything you have offered but it is your job to give them the chance to eat what they need to satisfy their appetite.
The first list below has examples of protein and fat foods, the second has carbohydrate foods and the third has fat foods. Choose one or more foods from the first two lists and choose from the third list if you want.
Protein and fat - choose one or more
Yoghurt based dip
Carbohydrate - choose one or more
Toast or bread
Fruit – fresh or canned
Cake, muffins, biscuits
Fat - choose if you want
Below are some simple but satisfying snack ideas
Fruit and cup of milk
Fruit and yoghurt
Fresh or tinned fruit with custard
Fruit smoothie made with yoghurt/milk and fruit
Cheese on toast
Toast/bread with peanut butter
Toast/bread with avocado and milk
Biscuits and cheese
Raisin toast and milk or yoghurt
Biscuits with hummus/yoghurt based dip
Boiled egg, biscuits and vegetable sticks
Celery with peanut butter and cup of milk
Mini pizzas on English muffins
Baked beans on toast
Scones/pikelets with milk
Leftovers like pasta/rice and a cup of milk
Muffin/cake with milk
You don’t need to offer fancy meals or snacks for young children – keep it simple and easy.
Offer ‘sometimes’ foods at snacks occasionally – 1-2 times a week. Put out a plate of chocolate biscuits for example. Enough so there are some left over. Your child needs the opportunity to eat as many as they want. At first they may eat a lot, but the newness will wear off and they won’t eat so many. Restricting these foods sets your child up to overeat them when they get the chance. Instead make sometimes foods a routine part of family meals and snacks.
In my house the go to snacks each day are mostly: piece of fruit and milk, fruit and yoghurt, toast with peanut butter or cheese and biscuits and cheese. Most days I usually do a plate that includes dry biscuits, cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and fruit (usually fresh but sometimes some dried fruit). This is then shared between my kids and the adult that is present.
Paediatric Dietitian & Lactation Consultant – Healthy Start Nutrition
This website and information on this blog post is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant or intended to replace Dietetic assessment/ management or medical care for a child. It is recommended that you discuss any concerns or questions you might have about your child’s feeding/nutrition with Kathleen individually and develop an individualised plan specifically for your child.
About the author of this blog post
Kathleen Halliday is a Paediatric Dietitian & Lactation Consultant with extensive experience working with children and their families – especially around fussy eating, stressful mealtimes, growth concerns and nutritional management of many medical conditions.
Healthy Start Nutrition is a private practice based in Melbourne, Victoria.