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A growing child needs a balanced diet based on three meals a day plus regular nutritious snacks. Here’s how to make sure your toddler snacks the right way

Why do toddlers need to snack?

From around 12 months, you may find that your little one gets peckish between meals. Toddlers are busy little people, and their tummies only hold a small amount. They need two to three nutritious snacks too to top up their daily needs and keep up their energy levels. You’ll probably notice the tell-tale signs when they’re ready for a snack – are they getting clingy, a bit cranky, or do you feel a tantrum brewing? It could be that a quick snack will keep them going until their next meal.

Snacks also play an important role in adding variety to your little one’s diet with different tastes and textures. It’s a great opportunity to introduce new foods either at home or on the go and establish healthy food habits early on – provided you pick the right snacks.

What snacks should I give my toddler?

When it comes to choosing what to give your toddler, variety is key. From fresh fruit and yoghurt to rice cakes and pitta fingers, try giving your toddler a mix of different tastes, textures and shapes.

What ingredients should I look out for?

Whether you opt for sweeter treats or savoury snacks, make sure you give them in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Try to steer clear of snacks with added salt or sugar. The maximum recommended amount of salt for toddlers (one to three years) is just 2g a day, so watch out for salty snacks like crisps and biscuits. Try healthier, low-salt options including dried or chopped fresh fruit. Check the ingredients list on the back of packaged snacks if you are unsure.

Snacking at home

As with mealtimes, aim to teach healthy food habits by including plenty of fresh fruit and veg. Sticks of carrot, slices of cucumber and strips of pepper all make healthy, low-sugar snacks. There’s no need to shy away from bold flavours either, so liven things up with hummus or mild salsa for dipping. And keep your fruit bowl stocked up where your little one can see it. Your toddler is much more likely to ask for a fruit snack if the foods are on display.

Snacking on the go

Snacks are an essential part of getting out and about, which makes each trip a chance to try something new. Packing your own snacks can also help avoid the temptation of unhealthy sweets and treats that always seem to be on show, so stick a few wholesome nibbles in your bag when you’re setting off. They can help avert meltdowns when energy levels run low too. There’s a whole range of snacks that can travel easily, pop some dried fruit, crackers or biscuits in your bag for a tasty treat on the go.