Snacks for children aged 1 to 4 years

Children aged 1 to 4 need healthy snacks. It is a very important part of their diet. Healthy snacks give them energy, protein and other nutrients.

Give snacks 2 to 3 times a day between meals. These snacks need to be nourishing.

Healthy snack options include fresh fruit, vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or milk.

Try not to use foods high in fat, sugar or salt as a reward or to comfort your child. Find other ways to reward them such as stickers, playing a game or a hug.

Light snacks for between meals

When your child needs a light snack between meals, give them a healthy one. Healthy snacks include:

  • small pieces of fruit - chopped into safe sizes that your child can manage
  • sliced cucumber sticks
  • small pot (47g) of plain or natural yogurt
  • breastfeed or a glass of milk - you can use a cup or a beaker
  • sliced, hard‑boiled egg
  • 1 to 2 crackers
  • 1 to 2 breadsticks
  • 1 plain rice cake (unsalted)

Limit raisins and other dried fruit

Limit dried fruit such as raisins and dried apricots to once a week. This is because dried fruit contains sugar and is not kind to teeth.

Filling snacks for between meals

Some days your child may be more hungry than others. They will need filling, healthy snacks between meals.

Here are some ideas:

  • cheese with 2 crackers
  • half a bagel with lightly spread smooth peanut butter – use one without added salt or sugar
  • 2 breadsticks with hummus
  • small slice of fruit loaf
  • slice of toast with mashed or chopped banana
  • small bowl of breakfast cereal and milk
  • half wholemeal scone with spread
  • small bowl homemade or readymade soup

Get advice on healthy snacks for children on makeastart.ie

Limit ‘treat' snacks

Try not to use foods high in fat, sugar or salt as a reward or to comfort your child. These food are not good for your child's health. They can be linked to children being overweight.

Having these foods and drinks spoils your child’s appetite for more nutritious food. Also, sugary foods and drinks are not good for your child’s teeth.

Foods high in fat, sugar or salt

These foods include:

  • chocolate
  • sweets
  • crisps
  • cakes
  • ice cream
  • biscuits

If you decide to give your child these foods, offer them in tiny amounts and only once a week.

Examples of a tiny amount:

  • 1 square of chocolate
  • 5 crisps
  • half a plain biscuit
  • 3 soft sweets

How to avoid giving 'treat' foods

Some tips on avoiding unhealthy snacks:

  • Limit buying unhealthy snack foods such as biscuits, chocolate and sweets. Don't have them in your cupboards.
  • Make changes as a family. For example, involve your children in choosing healthy snacks.
  • Make healthy foods and choices easily available. Keep chopped vegetables and fruit in your fridge or a bowl of fruit on the table for older children.
  • Offer vegetables, salad or fruit the snack of choice.
  • Use rewards instead of food treats. For example, like stickers or a colouring book. Or do a fun activity together such as a game, a bike ride or a trip to the playground or park.

Get more tips on how to tackle unhealthy treats at makeastart.ie.

Ready made bars

Ready made bars aimed at this age group can often be high in sugar. It’s always best to choose unprocessed snacks. For example, vegetables, salad and fruit.

Get tips on how to read food labels at makeastart.ie.

Page last reviewed: 30 September 2020
Next review due: 30 September 2023

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