Preschoolers are so active, it's no wonder they get hungry between meals and need a snack. They need to eat a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein foods to fuel their movement, growth, and development.
That's can be easier said than done. Preschoolers can be picky at mealtimes. They may push away their vegetables and choose to eat only favorite foods. Kids may be missing out on important nutrients, like calcium, fiber, and protein. Healthy and well-timed snacks can help fill in these nutritional gaps.
Most preschoolers do well with three meals and two scheduled snacks a day.
What Snacks Are Good for Preschoolers?
Preschoolers are anything but boring, so why should their snacks be? Be creative when it comes to expanding the snack menu and it doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming.
Here are a few fun snack suggestions:
- Cut it! Use a cookie cutter to cut cheese, fruit, veggies, and sandwiches into fun, irresistible shapes.
- Dip it! Pair slices of fruit, veggies, or whole-wheat crackers with a side of dip. Whether it's peanut butter, low-fat ranch dressing, guacamole, salsa, applesauce, or yogurt, everyone loves to dip.
- Create it! Make art out of food. Try apple-wedge flower petals around a kiwi slice for some flower art. Or maybe fun food faces with berry eyes and a banana mouth.
- Sip it! Who says you have to eat a healthy snack? Fruit smoothies made with low-fat yogurt or milk and fresh or frozen fruit are a great way for kids to drink up important nutrients.
- Play it! Turn healthy snacking into a game. For example, make a "food rainbow" on a plate and let your child decide which colors to eat first. Next time, you can do the same with different shapes. Which will it be — squares or triangles?
Make Healthy Snacking a Habit
Preschoolers will ask for what they know is in the cabinet. So stock up on healthy snacks and avoid snacks that are high in sugar, salt, and fat.
Here are some tips to help turn your preschooler into a smart snacker:
- Keep healthy snacks in your refrigerator or pantry. Let kids choose their own snacks from a couple of healthy options.
- Make sweets, chips, and other treats the exception rather than the rule. An occasional treat is fine, but serve healthy snacks most of the time.
- Have a schedule for meals and snacks. Kids who graze throughout the day may not notice when they are hungry or full and are more likely to overeat. And if they choose not to eat, they will know they have another chance at the next scheduled time.
- Serve snacks and meals at the table. Don't let kids eat in front of the TV or other screens.
- Let your preschooler help prepare healthy snacks with you. They may be more willing to try something new if they helped make it.
- Be a role model and share a healthy snack with your child.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2021