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Amy Umble writes about family issues and kid-friendly events.

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Beyond the baby aisle: Snacks for babies and toddlers

I first wrote about baby snacks here (recipe included).

As the little eater in my house gets a little older, I’m still working to develop a dependable repertoire of healthy snacks that we can easily take on the go, but that are minimally processed and offer some kind of nutritional benefit.

There are so many products marketed to babies and toddlers right now…and they aren’t cheap!

One packaged item I do like for convenience are the pouches of fruit or fruit-and-yogurt or fruit-and-grain purees. I buy these when I have coupons, or when I find a sale. I have tried a few brands, but the key is to scan the ingredients list to make sure there’s nothing in there you don’t recognize. Baby can suck them right out of the pouch, but watch out, because once they figure out how the container works, they can also have a finger-painting party all over the car seat.

But there’s really not much need to be shopping the baby aisle when you’re feeding a toddler. Keep your focus on whole foods, and avoid packages that make specific health claims–you pay more for these and they aren’t necessarily that healthy. And don’t forget that “organic” and “healthy” aren’t the same thing, especially if you’re looking at a box of cookies with a lot of sugar. Here are some of my go-to snacks:

- Cheese – I buy the individually-wrapped snack sticks of cheese, or string cheese. It takes zero work to take one out of the fridge and pop it in a diaper bag.

- Pineapple and mandarin orange cups – Just make sure they’re packed in 100 percent juice instead of sugar syrup. Someone in my family usually drinks off the juice before we start doling them out on the snack tray.

- Pancakes – If you’re making a batch for breakfast, double the recipe, cook everything and freeze them. These beat store-bought toaster waffles on price and ingredients (You can add fruits, whole-grain flours, etc., to your recipe. It’s a great use for leftover jarred baby food.), and they’re just as easy to prepare. I use these for both breakfast and on-the-go snacking (for baby and Mom).

- Bagged frozen vegetables – It’s more economical to buy organic veggies this way, and with small vegetables like green peas, all you need to do is run them in a collander under some hot tap water to get them ready.

- Hard-boiled eggs - If you can keep them reasonably cool on the go, they’re very portable, and a good source of protein.

- Smoothies – If I’m making one for myself, I make a little extra for my daughter. Pour a little into a sippy straw-cup and pop it in the fridge for when baby wakes. My usual mix (for sharing with a baby) is whole-milk yogurt, low-fat milk, frozen blueberries, a few mandarin oranges, banana, flax seed or wheat germ and a few leaves of spinach or kale.

When it comes down to it, though, the best snack to feed your toddler is a snack your toddler will eat, and sometimes that’s a standard that changes by the day. I often find myself cutting up toddler food thinking, “Gee, I wonder how this will look on my dining-room floor?” All you can do is keep trying, keep offering a variety of good food and know that you’re not alone when they throw it back at you or feed it to the dog.

What are some toddler snack foods that have worked well in your house?

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