Happy National Nutrition Month!
Nutrition can be overwhelming, especially when you have to think about it for you and your little one. This month, we are spotlighting some “snack hacks” to give your #mombrain a break. Registered Dietician Nutritionist, Hilary McMahon (RDN, LDN) has some helpful tips - and some fun, simple and healthy snack ideas - to help keep your snack-game strong.
Take Charge with Protein + Fiber-Filled Carbs
Easy is great, but don't fall short on nutrition. When it comes to snacking, we often think ‘convenience’ or ‘what’s easy’ but we also need to keep in mind that little bodies don’t have a lot of room for ‘filler’ (neither do adults but baby steps right?). When our kids aren’t eating large quantities to begin with, we want to ensure that what they do eat has value. When choosing snack options think protein + fiber-filled carbohydrates (carbs)! The snack ideas below are some of my go-to staples:
Apple slices (fiber-filled carb) + plain yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon (protein)
Peppers, cucumbers & whole wheat crackers (fiber-filled carb) + hummus (protein).
Strawberries (fiber-filled carb) + Puffworks peanut butter puffs (protein). For an easy protein option, opt for Puffworks' crunchier puffs like Original for a no-added sugar option or Strawberry PB&J for a slightly sweeter one. If your little one is under two years of age, their Puffworks baby Puffs in either peanut or almond are great, as they dissolve easily, are low in sodium and have no added sugar. My daughter Ainsley loved them as a baby - and enjoys eating the crunchier ones now that she's older!
The Power of Two
Allowing kids to choose between two different options makes them feel in control. Offering three choices can be too overwhelming, so I usually recommend two. It can sound something like this: “We’re having hummus for a snack today! Do you want carrots or cucumbers with your hummus?”
Snacks and Meals Should Be Created Equally
A snack doesn’t have to be a “snack food” or “junk food.” I recommend keeping foods neutral – if you’d serve it as part of a meal, it can also be a snack. In the same token, if you’d serve it for a snack, it can also be part of a meal. This helps our kids view food simply as food, rather than thinking of specific foods being forbidden or off limits. Did you make cookies for a special occasion? Serve it as a side dish to dinner, rather than talking it up as a ‘special treat’. Make meatballs for dinner last night? Offer one as a snack with some veggie sticks!
Babies Don’t Need Snacks
When baby is starting out with solids/Baby-Led-Weaning, I typically recommend starting with one-two meals/day, gradually working up to three (by 9-10 months) and incorporating snacks closer to the one-year mark. Why? Babies under 12 months of age should still be getting plenty of breastmilk/formula, and snacks (especially ones without any nutritional benefit) can displace the valuable nutrition baby gets from breastmilk/formula. Earlier on, offering a snack from time-to-time is ok, but it’s important not to make it habit. If you’re offering what you would consider ‘snacky’ type foods, incorporate it as part of a meal so it’s not viewed as a ‘special treat’.
Hilary specializes in baby-led weaning and toddler nutrition. When her daughter was born, she became more aware of the true challenges that moms face when it comes to starting solids, navigating mealtime daily, and providing proper nutrition for their little ones. She founded First Foods Academy, to help families find success in this area, and to also have the proper support they need to navigate what can be such a challenging journey. Follow her on Instagram at @nutrition.mamma or at nutritionmamma.com.