12 Easy, Healthy Snacks for Toddlers

toddler peeking through a hole in whole-grain breadToddlers have small stomachs, yet they never seem to get full. It’s normal for toddlers to eat 4 or 5 small meals a day. Keeping them supplied with healthy food is a challenge for parents.

When planning snacks, it doesn’t usually matter whether you spoil a toddler’s appetite for the next meal as long as you’re offering healthy food. Within a couple of months or years the child will naturally fall into the family’s regular meal routine. In the meantime kids have a lot of growing to do. And nothing upsets a family’s equilibrium more than a hungry toddler.

But because they have small stomachs, it’s important to make every calorie count. Don’t let one of their mini-meals consist of processed food.

The thing to keep in mind is that you don’t need “snack” foods for your toddler. We’ve been conditioned to think that a snack has to be something that comes in a package. But those snacks cost a lot, and they are likely to contain ingredients that our toddlers don’t need. If we keep them out of the house, the kids won’t think of processed snacks as part of their daily diet.

Anything you serve as a snack, should be good to serve at a meal as well.

Safety note: Children should eat while sitting upright, and toddlers still need supervision while eating. Choking is silent.

Here are ten snack ideas for a busy toddler.

  1. Frozen peas.
  2. Tortillas with peanut butter.*
  3. Rice cakes with cottage cheese.
  4. Sliced vegetables with chumus dip.
  5. Cooked vegetables, like sweet potatoes.
  6. Hard-boiled or scrambled eggs.
  7. Chunks of chicken (why not?)
  8. Whole-wheat toast with sesame paste.
  9. Fruit salad or plain fruit, like bananas.
  10. Frozen fruit.
  11. Homemade muffins, pancakes, pattiescrustless quiche, and so on. You can even make your own crackers. These take advance planning but they are easy to pull out of the freezer and defrost quickly, especially if you need something for  an outing.
  12. Leftovers from dinner or breakfast.

One final note: Toddlers are notorious for being picky. And for not eating even when you are sure they ought to be hungry (and vice versa). If you’re offering healthy foods and they are gaining weight, you can be sure they get what they need.  So stay patient and remember that this stage will pass.

What snacks work well for your toddler? Please share in the comments.

*Ask your doctor about the safety of adding allergenic foods to your toddler’s diet. I’ve read that it’s no longer a concern–in other words, waiting longer than four months to introduce a new food won’t increase the chance that the child will develop an allergy. Parents still need to look out for allergic reactions when trying new foods, of course.

You may also enjoy:

10 Kid-Friendly Foods Using Leftovers

Make Your Own Convenience Foods for Your Baby

School Lunch Ideas

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  1. Great suggestions–and great ideas about staying calm about what your kid eats. As a young mom, I had Dr. Brazelton’s book in which he had the minimum a kid could eat in a day & be healthy. This was a great way of reducing stress and avoiding food battles. My daughter often ate the bulk of her daily food intake by noon and then had some fruit and a very small dinner. I think I’ll go make one of these snacks for my grown up self now.

  2. dried fruit worked well for us

  3. We really have to make a point of staying in front of our toddler’s eating because he doesn’t eat a lot with our main meals but does want to continue to eat throughout the day. Healthy snacks are a key to his nutrition.

  4. I highly recommend raw vegetables as a toddler snack. Thinly sliced cauliflower and broccoli are very popular with my 2.5 year old, as are celery and carrots, sliced in thin, easy-to-grasp shapes. She also likes raw mushrooms (though I am told you should not, in general, eat large quantities of uncooked mushrooms. We have never had a problem, though.)

    My daughter likes to help when I cook, and she tastes everything…that’s how I learned she likes to munch on raw cauliflower and broccoli. (I think she mimics my behavior when I cook.)

    We also get a lot of mileage from cashews, peanuts and roasted almonds (raw almonds are a little hard for her to chew.)

    • Ms.Krieger, great idea about the raw vegetables. I’ve been meaning to look into the raw mushroom thing. I thought nuts were a choking hazard for toddlers.

  5. ..and, oh yeah, the toast suggestion (from the list) is a good one in my experience. Toddlers love toasters going “ping”! I usually use thinly slicked whole-wheat or whole-rye sourdough bread, with a topping. My daughter likes almond butter, or cheese, or sometimes dairy butter and jam.