Snacks are a wonderful and under-utilised resource by parents. We spoke to Kath Megaw, a Clinical Paediatric dietitian about the best types of snacks to give your baby and toddler.
"Babies and toddlers have such small appetites that to meet all their dietary needs in three meals a day is impossible. This is where healthy snacks come in," she says.
She adds that snacks need to be seen as part of the day's intake and should have the following characteristics:
1. They should include at least two food groups e.g. a protein food and a fruit.
2. They should be simple to prepare and easy to eat e.g. a yogurt and a banana.
3. They should be served in between mealtimes.
4. Snacks should be transportable i.e. they should be able to be packed in a container and taken to granny's house, the shops or a doctor's appointment.
5. They should be nutritious and as fresh as possible.
6. They should be weather appropriate e.g. a Fruit Icy is lovely for the warm summer months but not appropriate in cold weather.
7. They can be homemade and do not need to cost a lot of money.
"Snacks are also lovely opportunities for babies and toddlers to learn to self-feed and also try new textures. Use snack times to introduce your baby to new foods and allow them to eat with their fingers," says Megaw.
When to serve a snack
She advises that you can serve up to three snacks per day such as mid morning, mid afternoon and a 'last kitchen call' snack - which she says is very helpful for the mom that has a fussy eater or when your toddler is in the fussy eater stage.
"You can offer dinner and relax knowing that you will offer a small nutritious snack half an hour before bed. This avoids the “I am hungry” moment before bed."
Healthy snack ideas
Choose any two of these foods from the following groups to make up a healthy snack time as well as a liquid:
(organic and low salt)
- cookie cutter
Fresh fruit cut up
Bite sized Frozen veg, steamed
Eg: carrots, peas and corn
Homemade ice tea
Peanut or other nut butter
Crushed nuts (age appropriate)
So how much should you give your child? Megaw says you should offer your toddler a handful each from the two food groups you have chosen above.
Reference: Kath Megaw, Clinical Paediatric dietitian. Visit www.nutripaeds.co.za for more information.
(Amy Froneman, Helath24, May 2012)