Planning satisfying snacks for children

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

Milk

Yoghurt

Cheese

Hard-boiled eggs

Ham/turkey

Meat/fish

Baked beans

Peanut butter

Hummus dip

Yoghurt based dip

 

Carbohydrate - choose one or more

Toast or bread

Raisin bread

Breakfast cereal

Dry biscuits

Fruit – fresh or canned

Cake, muffins, biscuits

Vegetables

 

Fat - choose if you want

Dips

Margarine/butter

Cream cheese

Avocado

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 whichever adult is present.

 

Happy eating!

 

Kathleen Perrone

Paediatric & Maternal Dietitian – 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 Perrone is a Paediatric & Maternal Dietitian 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 that offers clinic consultations, in-home consultations as well as phone consultations.

You can connect with Kathleen via her website or follow Healthy Start Nutrition on Facebook and Instagram.

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