Feeding kids—especially toddlers—is no small feat. Once kids learn to talk, they don’t normally stop, and smaller kids especially tend not to be shy about voicing their opinions. This independence, assertiveness (and occasional sassiness!) is adorable and encouraged on most occasions, but it’s when kids become choosy about their food that the cuteness levels take a slight dip.
Everyone wants their kids to be independent and healthy, so how do you encourage good nutrition habits in your toddler without stifling their opinions and choices when all they want are chicken nuggets? The answer is simple: provide healthy options that have kid-appeal at the same time. This solution may seem easier said than done, but with a little creativity and some patience, it’s possible to find some healthy food options that both you and your child can agree upon. Try these healthy, toddler-approved snacks the next time your child reaches for the cookie jar; they’re the perfect balance of nutritious, delicious and—most importantly—appealing to kids:
Fruit with Yogurt Dip
Everyone knows that fruit is one of the best things kids can put in their tummies, but the problem with feeding kids fruit is that it can sometimes look less enticing than a candy bar. To make fruit seem a little more fun, try whipping up an easy yogurt dip using Greek or vanilla yogurt, honey and cinnamon. Serve this dip alongside apple slices or grapes and watch your kids go to town; for some reason, food is ten times more delicious when it’s dip-able!
In a lot of households, beef jerky is typically thought of as a road trip treat, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work its way into your usual snack rotation. Jerky is incredibly high in protein, meaning that it will keep hungry toddlers full for longer. When kids are full, they will be less likely to beg for cookies, candies and other sugary sweets, which will result in healthier and more nutritious diets. Plus, fun names like “meat sticks” and “beef and cheese sticks” are guaranteed to hold toddler appeal.
English Muffin Pizzas
Nothing says “kid-friendly” like pizza, so toddlers are sure to gobble up these English Muffin Pizzas without even realizing that they‘re eating something healthy. These mini pizza snacks couldn’t be easier to make, either; just choose whole-grain or multi-grain English muffins for a dose of fiber, top the muffin halves with tomato sauce, low-fat mozzarella cheese and veggies or turkey pepperoni and pop them under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Arranging the pepperonis and veggies into a smiley face will make little kids even more excited about these cheesy snacks.
Hard boiled eggs have always been a favorite among the younger crowd, and deviled eggs take this snack to a new level of fun. Like beef jerky, eggs are packed with protein that’s perfect for holding toddlers over between meals. Use Greek yogurt or avocado in place of the mayonnaise for better nutrition; the avocado substitution has the added bonus of being just like green eggs and ham! Kids will love peeling the eggs and mashing up the yolks with the avocado or yogurt, so go ahead and let them help make this easy snack.
Trail mix is another wonderful snack option for toddlers because it’s easy to customize it to your child’s taste and even easier to sneak in healthy ingredients. Whole wheat pretzels and bagel chips are great sources of fiber, while nuts add protein. Dark chocolate chips and dried fruit can help make the mix more kid-friendly but will also provide key vitamins and antioxidants. Toss some trail mix in a plastic baggie so kids are free to munch on the go.
Healthy snacking doesn’t have to mean serving kids a veggie platter or a fruit salad! Snacks that use fun serving ideas or eating methods, combined with wholesome ingredients, are much more likely to get eaten by kids than are snacks that are so “obviously” healthy. These easy ideas will let your child have a say in his or her snacking without making you feel guilty about what you serve.