Snacks and treats can be a loaded subject for parents. Especially with news coming out about even seemingly ‘healthy’ kids snacks being laden with sugar, our impulse can be to restrict our children’s access to snacks – particularly of the packaged variety.
So what to do? We reached out to Sophie Baron, founder of Mamamade. Sophie launched Mamamade in 2019 after the birth of her daughter as she felt there was a gap in the market for convenience-based baby food that was nourishing, yet delicious! The Mamamade food delivery service of frozen, homemade quality meals are created by expert nutritionists & chefs – and they’re all prepped for you! From fabulous finger foods to mega breakfast bowls and ready meals for every stage.
Sophie, over to you…
One of the top questions we get asked at Mamamade is around snack ideas for babies and toddlers, so hopefully, this blog will help. My main goal with this blog is to reassure you – and empower you to feed your child in a way that is healthy for them but also keeps you sane.
First Thing’s First
As parents, our job is not only to help our children eat healthily – but also to have a healthy relationship with food as they grow up.
What is a healthy relationship with food, you ask? It means eating when you’re hungry, and not when you’re not. It means having a positive relationship with all foods – neither fearing foods nor putting others on a pedestal. Understanding that mealtime is also a social exercise, and being able to participate in that wholeheartedly.
This can greatly impact your little one’s mental health and confidence later on in life, so it really is worth putting the work in from infancy. And it’s never too late to start!
Ok, so why do we snack?
Right, so snacking can feel like a minefield. Officially, babies under 1 don’t need snacks – 3 meals and their usual milk is usually sufficient. From ages 1-5, we typically recommend small snacks between meals.
Snacks can be helpful for giving children (particularly fussy or small eaters) more opportunities to eat more nutrients. They can help prevent a child from getting too hungry between meals, or, simply, can keep a child occupied (we’re looking at you, traveling fams!).
And sometimes, a snack is just a snack – something fun and yummy that can be appreciated for being fun and yummy (a piece of cake, an ice lolly, etc!), and that’s also ok. I’ll go into that a bit more below.
So how do I keep my child from being a snack fiend?
There are a number of ways to ensure your child has a good relationship with snacks – I’ll start laying them out below. And don’t be alarmed. To adults like us, these may seem counter-intuitive and certainly may go against the ‘rules’ that we were taught as children. But have faith – it’s amazing to see in action how it works.
Don’t label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
This one’s hard. Of course, not all foods are ‘healthy’. As a mother, I know I’d definitely prefer my children to eat fruit or veg rather than a bag of crisps as a snack. But the bottom line is, your child shouldn’t have any baggage around enjoying less nutrient-dense food. They shouldn’t feel bad for eating something sweet, much like they shouldn’t feel like a hero for eating some broccoli. Repeat after me: food has no moral value. All foods are allowed, in moderation. Labeling can lead to overeating, eating in private, etc. Focusing on what foods do for us is a great way for them to understand how it fits together – for example, ‘Carrots help us see in the dark!’ and ‘it’s so fun to have an ice lolly on a sunny day!’
Avoid using food as a reward.
Similar to the above, putting foods on a pedestal (’you’ll get dessert if you finish your dinner’) can lead children to feel either good or bad about eating something. Ice creams and ice lollies needn’t be a reward for good behaviour or for listening – they can just be something for a child to enjoy. If you need a reward, try a small toy, gift, or special outing.
Respect their hunger level.
In other words, don’t force your child to finish what’s on their plate – much like you shouldn’t question if they’re really hungry for something. Our job as parents is to offer the food – it’s their role to decide how much. I find this one the hardest, personally. But I’m trying to empower my daughter to listen to her inner cues – reminding myself that she won’t go hungry, and if she overeats, she’ll learn her lesson about her limits.
What are good snacks to offer, then?
From a nutrition perspective, ideally, a snack will be like a mini-meal – made up of a starchy carb, a fruit or veg, and a protein/iron or dairy food. (We love our Mamamade finger foods for this reason – they’re all perfectly balanced whilst being delicious).
The Claudi & Fin lollies are also fab because they’re made of real yogurt, milk and fruit, and only a small amount of sugar. Pair with a wholegrain like an oatcake and – chef’s kiss – you’ve reached ‘perfection.’
Last food for thought
We know life is far from ideal, and life often gets in the way. The main takeaway is there’s no right or wrong – only doing what empowers you and your little one.
PS – enjoy your ice cream. It really is yummy!
PPS – Head over to the Mamamade website and enter code CLAUDIFIN10 to receive £10 off your first Mamamade box!