Palos Pediatric Dentistry

What Makes a Healthy Snack for My Toddler?

toddler holding apple and toothbrush | Children's Dentist in Palos Heights IL | Dr Richard Facko

Toddlers consume a lot of calories – to support both their high level of activity and their growing bodies.  This is also the age that many children become pickier eaters, and selecting food that is nutritious and accepted by your toddler can be a challenge.  In many busy families, there seems to be a trend of more snacking and fewer “family meals”.  When it comes to keeping your toddler’s teeth cavity-free, snacking can be a real challenge.

One of the main factors regarding cavity formation in toddlers is “length of exposure”, meaning how long each day are a toddler’s teeth covered with sugar?  My classic examples of this are fruit juice in a sippy cup or a bowl of goldfish crackers in front of the TV.  Both of these habits result in long-term exposure to simple and complex carbohydrates, which can lead to cavity formation.  The best way to avoid cavities in toddlers is to reduce their “length of exposure” by offering two time-limited snacks per day and to reduce the amount of processed foods they eat.

Processed foods can be more likely to cause cavities than whole foods.  Apples are a great example of this.  A whole apple, such as that picked off a tree, is a healthy and nutritious snack.  Apple sauce has been processed, and is more likely to cause cavities.  Finally, apple juice is the most processed, and it is also a bigger challenge to our kids’ teeth.  When choosing snacks for your toddler, less processing is always better.

Here’s some nutritious snack ideas to help keep your hungry toddler healthy and happy.

Healthy Snack Options for Toddlers:

Fresh Fruits:

  • Apples, bananas, peaches, nectarines, pears (thinly sliced for safety)
  • Cherries, grapes, plums (sliced or smushed and pitted)
  • Orange or grapefruit sections (cut into pieces)
  • Strawberries

Dried Fruits:

  • Apples, apricots, peaches, pears (cut up)
  • Dates, prunes (pitted, cut up)
  • Raisins or cranberries


  • Carrots, green beans (well cooked, diced)
  • Steamed cauliflower, broccoli
  • Yams or sweet potatoes (cooked and diced)
  • Peas (mashed for safety; a child can inhale whole peas)
  • Steamed, pureed spinach or greens
  • Avocado slices or small cubes

Dairy Products:

  • Cheese (grated or diced)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt, fresh or frozen (try the unflavored variety and add your own fresh fruit)
  • Milk, including non-dairy milk alternatives

Breads and Cereals:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole grain tortilla, pita, or bagels cut into small pieces
  • Whole grain dry cereals
  • Rice cakes (for older toddlers)

Lean Proteins:

  • Fish (canned tuna, salmon, sardines, whitefish)
  • Peanut butter or other nut butters (smooth, spread thinly on whole grain bread or crackers)
  • Edamame beans or chickpeas (steamed or mashed) or hummus spreads
  • Cooked tofu cubes or tofu dip
  • Hard boiled eggs

Contact Our Children's Dentist Office in Palos Heights, IL

I hope these suggestions are helpful when choosing snacks for your toddler.  If you have questions about your child’s diet and how it could impact his dental health, please don’t hesitate to contact our office!

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