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Healthy snack ideas

Healthy snacks can be a great opportunity to provide your child with the key nutrients they need for general health and development. Try to focus on giving snacks from the main food groups:

  • Fruit and Vegetables
  • Carbohydrates – bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other cereals
  • Protein – meat, fish, eggs and beans
  • Milk and dairy foods

We know that children in Wales are not eating enough foods from the fruit and vegetable food group. Snack are a great opportunity to give these foods either alone or in combination with another food group for example, you could try adding some fruit to their yogurt or adding vegetables to a rice cake. You could also try our Fruity Faces recipe.

Carbohydrates provide children with the energy they need to be active therefore these can be a great snack idea. But remember to make sure they do not have added fat, sugar or salt. Some carbohydrate snacks could include rice cakes, oat cakes, mini wrap or toast. You can also add some fruit or vegetables to these to boost the vitamin and minerals.

We know that protein foods can make children feel fuller for longer, while also providing a good source of iron. Some snacks could include nut butters, egg and hummus.

Milk and dairy provide children with calcium and protein, which is important for strong bones and teeth. Snacking on these foods can help ensure they are getting enough of these nutrients. You could try giving a plain yogurt with added fruit or cheese on crackers.

Less healthy snack options can often provide children with high amounts of fat, sugar and salt. Try to limit foods such as crisps, chocolate, cakes, sweets, biscuits and ice cream.

It is also important to consider how much of these our child is eating. Too many snacks can fill them up, making it less likely they will eat their main meal. As a guide you can offer 2 healthy snacks every day. Children love to be involved in preparing healthy snacks, so try getting them to spread foods and support them to chop foods.

Here are some snack ideas which include some of the main food groups:

TIP – Remember to check the label of your child’s snacks to ensure it is a healthy choice!

Sardines on toast with celery

Crumpets with soft cheese and pepper slices

Mini avocado and tomato salsa sandwiches

Oatcakes with Brazil nut butter and satsumas

Sugar in snacks and drinks video

Favourite snacks animation

The NYLO team talk about their favourite snacks.

Managing fussy eating

Happy mealtimes animation

The NYLO team show us how they get ready and enjoy mealtimes together.

Faddy eating in young children

Understanding food labels

Reading and understanding food labels can really help to ensure we are giving children healthy food. The quickest place to look if you want a snapshot of the nutrition information is the front of the pack. Most products display a traffic light label. This uses colours to demonstrate the amounts of that nutrient present in the item. It can be useful to compare similar products and to help you make healthier food choices.

More nutrition information can be found on the back of the pack such as ingredients, allergens, nutrition per 100g, nutrition per serving/portion and number of servings per pack.

Tips for cooking with children

The benefits of cooking with children

Cooking with your child from a young age can offer a wide range of valuable learning opportunities. Giving children the chance to explore food in a safe and fun way outside of meal times may help reduce anxiety around food. Children are much more likely to try new foods if they have seen where it comes from and helped with the preparation. Having repeated positive experiences during food activities can increase a child’s confidence around food, and help to ensure healthy eating habits in later life.

Cooking can help to develop many skills

  • Coordination – chopping stirring, squeezing, mashing, mixing, tearing
  • Fine motor skills – sprinkling, spooning, spreading, cutting, kneading
  • Independence – carrying out tasks on their own, weighing out and washing fruit and vegetables
  • Cognitive development – thinking, problem-solving, and creativity
  • Cause and effect
  • Language and Numeracy

Remember cooking together with your little one can also be a lot of fun!

Recipes for cooking with children

Healthy snack recipes

Fruit faces animation

Nancy Nectarine talks about her favourite food activity and snack.

Activity ideas

Your toddlers will love playing with uncooked rice, it is a versatile ingredient you can use in lots of different ways – time and time again. You can use the rice as it is, or you can colour it different colours of the rainbow, or even add different scents – which will help develop your child’s imagination and sensory experience even further!

What you’ll need:

  • Large bag of rice
  • Resealable plastic bags
  • Food colouring in a variety of different colours
  • Vinegar (optional)
  • Tray
  • Large tub/container

How to dye your rice

  1. Divide the rice between the sealable bags
  2. Add a few drops of each colour you are using into each bag of rice.
  3. Seal the bag and shake to distribute the colour. This is something your child will enjoy doing!
  4. You can add a spoonful of vinegar, as this can help the colour last longer.
  5. Spread the rice out on a tray to dry – it should be dry within a few hours.
  6. Once the rice is dry, pour into a large tub/ container or a shallow dish and try these different activities! If you are using a smaller tub then it may be best to use a sheet or play mat underneath to help contain the rice!

Activities for 12 months – 2 years

  • If you are using different colours you could arrange it in a pattern or mix the colours together.
  • Scoop and pour the rice using different utensils such as smaller bowls, funnels, spoons, tubes, or ice cube trays to scoop. Your child will love seeing the rice ‘move’ and flow.
  • Encourage your child to stick their hands into the rice to feel the different shapes and textures of the rice.
  • Hide puzzle or alphabet pieces in the rice for your child to find, this will make putting the puzzle together more fun.
  • Have a rice-tea party! – add the rice to a toy teapot and pour into cups as part of a tea party with other toys.
  • Add toy animals, dinosaurs or any other creatures to the rice – either hide for your child to search through the rice and find or just to play on.
  • Use your children’s mini diggers or trucks to dig the rice up and pretend it’s a building site.
  • The rice can also be kept in the bags for your child to play – they will love being able to feel the rice through the bag.
  • You could also add a scent to the rice. A lemon or orange squeezed in with the rice as well as the food colouring, or a natural essence or even herbs could be used.

Activities for 2 years – 5 years

  • Craft with your rainbow rice – grab some plain and coloured card or paper and some glue – use these to make colourful rainbows with each colour rice, or make rice monsters or creatures.

Hints and Tips

  • Why not use dry pasta to play with instead? This can be a good way to start introducing your child to different textures.
  • Use different shaped pasta such as penne (tubes), fusilli (spirals), conchiglie (shells), farfalle (bows) add it to a medium/ large sized container.
  • To make things a bit more challenging, you could hide small objects in the pasta for your little one to find, like small toys or puzzles.
  • Once your child has finished playing with the pasta it can be stored in a container to use again.
  • When your child is comfortable with dry textures, like pasta and rice, they can start moving on to wetter textures – such as cooked spaghetti, wet oats.
  • Some pastas come in different colours which you could also try, or see our pasta threading film on how to colour pasta different colours!

Food Activity Videos

Active Play Ideas

Benefits of Being Active

Getting Started with Solid Foods

Suitable foods and textures

Keeping your Baby Safe

Introducing Allergens

Progressing to Family Meals

NYLO is a free family nutrition programme that can help you feel more confident to provide a balanced diet for your child.

Developed by Cardiff & Vale UHB Public Health Dietitians, NYLO is open to all families with children aged 5 years and under, living in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

To find out more about this free programme

Email: [email protected] Call/text: 07972 732614