By Guest Blogger Sarah Hester, MS, RD

“Didn’t I just feed you?!” is the question that comes to my mind often as a mom of a busy toddler. Providing three healthy meals and one to two snacks a day can easily make my whole day feel like it revolves around what food my toddler does or does not eat. Can you relate?

Our children’s bodies are rapidly growing and with that speed of growth comes a high demand for good nutrition. As caregivers, we can do our part in trying to maximize our children’s meals to help them flourish. Try these tips for offering nourishing and exciting snacks to toddlers, and let’s face it… the mama that is eating behind them!

Build Upon the Basics

To increase the likelihood of your child accepting a new food, pair it with one that a child already accepts. Before offering a new ingredient or menu item, try to be intentional about including a favorite or “safe” food along with it. For example, if your child enjoys fresh blueberries and usually eats them when offered, pair a new food on their plate alongside those blueberries. The child may not accept the new food right away and that is OK! Research shows that it takes multiple “exposures” to new healthy foods until a child accepts them. So, use this method as a tool.

Encourage Healthy Exploration

Mealtimes are more than just nutrition! Help encourage lifelong healthy food habits by offering children a variety of foods with different textures, flavors and colors. Having a diet that is diverse in foods and food groups is one of the best ways to ensure good nutrition throughout the lifespan. Help set your child up for success now by offering foods that are fresh, canned, frozen or dried using different cooking methods (sautéed, air-fried, steamed). This is a great way to expand your child’s list of accepted foods.

Toddler Healthy Trail Mix

This is a great way to expose kids to new textures of foods. Alter common choking hazard ingredients based on your child’s age by chopping items such as nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
½-cup cereal or carbohydrate source (ex: Cheerios, pretzels, “puff” and /or “meltable” snacks, cubed rice cakes)
½-cup freeze dried fruit or vegetables (ex: snap pea crisps)

Yogurt – Based Ranch Dressing

Combine dried Ranch seasoning packets with plain, non-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt to create a condiment that offers not only a delicious taste but also essential nutrients like protein and calcium for growth and development. Enjoy with veggie strips or crackers for a delicious, toddler-friendly snack!
½ cup plain non-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt
¼ – ½ teaspoons dried ranch seasoning

Grilled Bean & Veggie Quesadilla

Children love hand-held foods, and these grilled quesadillas are sure to be a hit! Let children dip slices in their favorite salsa or top with sour cream and cheese for more fun.
1 large whole-grain tortilla
¼ cup cooked vegetables of choice (diced and sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, corn, etc.)
¼ cup canned beans of choice, drained
1-2 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp vegetable oil or butter
In a large skillet, melt the oil or butter on medium heat. Once melted, lay one of the tortillas on the pan to begin crisping. In a small bowl, combine the cooked veggies, beans and cheese. Spread veggie mixture on one side of tortilla. Fold the tortilla over the veggies in half and let cook until it is crispy and not burnt. Flip the quesadilla and let the other side crisp. Slice into hand-held pieces or strips and enjoy!

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Enjoy this recipe at home or make it for on the go!
1-cup strawberries, frozen
1 frozen banana, peeled
1 (5.3-ounce) container vanilla Greek yogurt
1⁄2 cup milk
Combine all ingredients in blender and process until smooth.

Watch your toddler light up with these fun (and secretly healthy) food options! Do you have recipes that your toddler loves? Share them with us in the comments.

Want to see more blogs like this and get notifications on local events and happenings? Subscribe to our free weekly newsletters here.