Toddlers are high-energy eating machines and snacking is an important way to boost their nutrition. Make sure your toddler doesn't develop a sugar snack habit by providing simple healthy nibble-anytime munchies that are as nourishing as they are tasty. Use kitchen staples, leftovers and vegetables to balance a toddler's diet and teach her to enjoy a variety of nutritious foods.
The simplest, fun snack is a dip-it-yourself plate that allows independent toddlers to make choices and feed themselves. Cut up crunchy veggies like carrots, sweet peppers, snow peas or sugar snap peas, colorful squash and raw or lightly steamed broccoli into bite-size pieces. Arrange a few of each on a plate, surrounding a small cup of creamy salad dressing -- pick your child's favorite dressing as a dip and watch those healthy vegetables disappear. Blend some low-fat cream cheese or Greek-style yogurt into the dressing for more body.
Balance sweet and savory in a quick fresh fruit snack that doesn't overwhelm with sugar. A sliced apple or pear, drizzled with lemon juice to keep it from browning, makes great finger food for small hands. Serve the fruit slices with a creamy blue cheese dip or low-fat yogurt mixed with a little creamy peanut butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Toddlers like the crunch and the mild blend of flavors, and they learn to appreciate tastes that don't cater to a sweet tooth.
Use your cookie cutters to slip some whole grains into your toddler's diet. Cut out favorite shapes from slices of whole grain or multigrain bread. Enlist some small, hungry helpers to make the shapes. Spread the bread with peanut butter and banana slices, all-fruit jam, egg salad or hummus. Put two slices together to make mini, mess-free sandwiches and serve as an afternoon snack. Add a glass of low-fat milk for extra calcium.
Snacks-on-a-stick are fun and fast to eat. Use skinny pretzel sticks to spear cheese chunks, cut-up melon or avocado, seedless grapes or cherry tomatoes. Be sure to cut the grapes and tomatoes into halves or quarters to reduce the risk of your toddler choking. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are budget-friendly and at their nutritional peak. If you have a garden, pick spear-friendly edibles with your little one and make the kabobs together. Make these kabobs even more fun by providing a small bowl of creamy dressing for dipping. Let toddlers graze on the high-nutrition sticks which provide fiber, calcium, vitamins and antioxidants disguised as crunchy, yummy snack food.
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