Nutritious, low-sugar snacks play a key role in your growing child’s diet. These easy ideas will help your little one develop a love of healthy food and get them get into good eating habits from the start
Introducing healthy snacks into your little one’s diet has many benefits. For your weaning baby, as well as getting them used to new tastes and textures, learning to feed themselves finger foods encourages them to develop important motor skills and helps them learn to chew. For older babies and toddlers on the move, snacks provide extra energy to help busy little people keep going.
Your baby not does not need sugary snacks or drinks and these should be avoided. They can upset your child’s natural appetite and give them unpleasant blood-sugar highs and lows, and in the long-term, excessive sugar consumption is associated with health risks such as tooth decay, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
According to safefood.eu 1 in 4 children in Ireland is overweight or obese, with one fifth of their energy intake coming from sugary drinks, cakes and sweets. The World Health Organization recommends that children reduce their consumption of ‘free sugars’ to less than 10% of their total energy intake. Free sugars are defined as ‘sugars added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates’. These are typically found in sugary drinks, snacks and other processed foods.
Encouraging healthy habits for life
If you’re a busy parent, bewildered by the array of so-called ‘healthy foods’ aimed at your child, this may sound quite worrying. But the good news is there are simple ways to help your little one avoid too much sugar. Aim to stick to simple, natural ingredients wherever possible, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. When choosing pre-packed snacks for your child, look for low-sugar varieties such as the Heavenly Tasty Organics range. All of their baby and toddler snacks now bear the ‘Sugarwise’ logo, which means they have been stringently tested and proven to be low in free sugars.
Snack ideas for the early days
From around 6-9 months you can try your baby with the following finger foods:
- Well-cooked pasta shapes
- sticks of cheese or raw cucumber
- small pieces of soft fruit such as banana, melon or apple
- breadsticks, toast or pitta bread cut into strips
- soft-cooked vegetables such as carrot sticks or broccoli florets
- strips of freshly cooked chicken or meat
At this stage, Heavenly Coconut Squishes make a lovely fruity snack.
Snacking tips for babies of 9-12 months
From around 9 months you can include firmer and crunchier foods such as crackers and rice cakes, plus chopped fruit such as cherry tomatoes or grapes cut in half, satsuma segments and pieces of soft dried fruits such as apricots.
As your child moves on to a wider range of foods, don’t shy away from trying them out with strong, bold flavours such as hummus or mild salsa dips. At this stage, little ones moving onto bolder taste adventures will love the crunch of Pumpkin & Banana Heavenly Yummy Wafer Wisps.
Snacking tips for toddlers of 12 months+
By the time your baby is a year old they should be eating much the same food as the rest of the family. Continue to offer new flavours and encourage them to try things.
Keep your fruit bowl stocked up where your little one can see it. Your toddler is much more likely to ask for a shiny red apple or some fresh green grapes if these are on display.
Most parents would agree that snacks are an essential part of a day out. They keep little ones going and can help avert meltdowns when energy levels run low. Packing your own snacks will help you avoid the temptation of unhealthy sweets and treats that always seem to be on show. Pop a pack of Heavenly Mini Italian Bread Sticks in your bag for a quick boost of energy on the go.
A few golden rules
Never leave your baby or toddler unattended while they are eating
Always stay positive when introducing new flavours
Keep trying – it can take up to ten tries for a baby to accept a new taste, so do persevere, even if it feels hard at times!