I don’t know about your house, but we are right in the thick of the “I don’t want that…I want something else” phase of toddler eating. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a snack or meal ready in the past few months, only to hear “I don’t like that, I want cereal”. This takes a toll on my desire to prepare healthy food for my 3-year-old. No one likes doing a job that goes unappreciated.
What can we do? In accordance with Ellyn Satter’s separation of responsibility, we don’t want to give in to constant cereal demands. You, the food preparer, are in charge of what, when, and where food is served. How do we compromise? How do we find a balance of healthy meals and snacks and also a happy toddler?
Enter: snack trios. Snack trios have saved my sanity on countless occasions. Snack Trios is a simple concept that can make a huge difference at mealtime. The bonus is that your children will be exposed to and have the opportunity to eat a larger variety of food. The main benefit in my life right now is that it gives my toddler a stronger sense of control over what she chooses to eat. With a new baby in the house and a busier mom, she is looking for all the control she can get. Food is no different. This is part of why she will shovel down 4 scrambled eggs one day, then claim “I don’t like eggs” the next.
Snack Trios is also more visually appealing for toddlers. Seeing a variety of colors helps fuel their appetite and makes them more open to trying new foods.
To use the Snack Trio concept, offer snacks from three different food groups. This may seem like a lot more work, but stay with me. This framework will save you so many unpleasant debates with your tiny humans.
I have developed a chart with my favorite options from each food group, but remember, toddlers are pretty random. Feel free to mix and match combos that you have on hand, even if they seem “weird” to you. The point is to give them options, not necessarily to make a plate of snacks that taste good together. We’re not making a charcuterie board here people.
You’ll notice I include differently prepared, ready-to-eat options such as canned and dried fruit. Snack time should be quick and easy, you are not preparing another meal. I also include a variety of options when it comes to how the food item is cut, for instance, zucchini noodles or shredded carrots. Your toddler may be more open to a different texture of food or might like the variety. Something as simple as cutting a meatball in half one day and leaving it whole the next can be variety to a toddler.
|Yogurt||Apple slices||Snap Peas||Crackers||Beans|
|Mozzarella||Blackberry||Red Bell Pepper Slices||Muffin from freezer||Peanut Butter|
|Cottage Cheese||Canned Pears||Broccoli||Baked oatmeal squares||Almond Butter|
|Milk||Dried Cranberries||Zucchini Noodles||Leftover frozen pancakes||Leftover chicken|
|Cheddar||Frozen Mango||Shredded Carrot||Popcorn||Meatballs from freezer|
|Simple Smoothie||Clementines||Leftover Roasted Vegetables||Cheerios||Lunch meat|
|Strawberries||Black Beans||Bread||Canned tuna/salmon|
Likely, you already have many of these handy snack foods at home. It’s simply grabbing them and offering them at the same time to give a sense of control to our power-seeking overlords…I mean children.