Even though I’ve been on a gluten-free, refined sugar-free diet for almost 10 years, when Nate and I both had to go dairy-free it threw me for a HUGE loop. Not only was I trying to feed myself, but I had to feed Nate nutritious food he would happily eat. Couple that with the fact that he’s a nosher, and it was enough to make my eyes cross.
I had to rethink how I did things. I had to look for other solutions. I had to really slow down and plan how we ate differently.
It’s gotten much easier, and the learning curve for this dietary change was so much smaller than the first time.
I’ve found some go-to snacks that always work from him. Some are more portable than others, but they’re all nutritious, whole foods. Here are the six I always keep on hand:
Did you know that toddlers should get 40 – 50% of their calories from fat? Avocados are the perfect food for them. They’re filled with healthy fats, and fiber, too. Firmer avocados are better as finger foods, but softer avocados are delicious mashed and dipped in steamed veggies or in green smoothies.
Yes, beans! They’re filled with fiber and help with digestion. Nate loves beans. Plus, they’re the perfect size for picking up and eating. At first, I smashed each bean with my fingers before letting him eat it just in case he tried to swallow it whole. Now, he can chew whole beans by himself. We pack them in a little cooler and he snacks on them while we’re out and about. Sometimes people look at me like I have three heads but their kids are eating Goldfish and Rainbow Sprinkle Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Be careful with berries because not all toddlers tolerate them well. Nate could eat his weight in blackberries and raspberries. Though he doesn’t have a visible reaction to strawberries, they cause some digestive distress so we steer clear of them. I strip Nate down to his diaper and put a towel on his lap to minimize clean-up. Berry stains are the worst.
A variation on beans, hummus has been my saving grace. Nate will eat it right off his fingers, on steamed veggies, and now that he’s got lots of teeth he likes to chop on a raw carrot covered in hummus. When I buy it already prepared, I look for hummus without preservatives. I usually get the original hummus without lots of garlic or other flavors.
5. Nuts and Seeds
Your pediatrician will recommend an appropriate time to introduce nuts to your toddler. Once Nate hit one year, I was all over nut butters and nut milks. Thick nut butters may need to be thinned with dairy-free milk. Nate also snacks on seeds. He loves sunflower seeds and pepitas. At first, I smashed them up a bit and watched him very carefully. Now, he can chew them with no problem.
6. Green Smoothies
Nate gets some of my green smoothie daily. He gets so excited when he sees the VitaMix come out! Smoothies are the perfect place to pack fat, fiber, and nutrients into one easy-to-eat food. At first, I fed it to him on a spoon. Now, I put it in a refillable food pouch. He loves to eat his green smoothie all by himself.
NOTE: ALWAYS consult a medical professional about what foods work for your child’s diet. NEVER leave your child alone when eating. Take special care to serve food that your child can eat without choking. Strawberries can be highly allergenic for children, and can nuts and certain seeds. Always introduce new foods one a time, with 4 days between each new food so that you can detect any allergic reaction.
What nutritious, whole-foods snacks do you feed your kids?
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