Healthy (plastic free) snacks for toddlers

Homemade energy balls are easy to make and healthier than store-bought versions.

Homemade energy balls are easy to make and healthier than store-bought versions.

If there is one group of people who need (hell, deserve!) convenience, it’s mothers… particularly mothers of toddlers, right?

Supermarkets are bursting with so-called convenient snacks for toddlers – squeezy yoghurt pouches, muesli bars, cheese sticks and fruit tubs are all heavily marketed to mums and kids alike, with bright colours and cartoons featured on their packaging.

But not only are many of these snacks for toddlers filled with hidden sugars and preservatives, they’re also completely packaged in single use plastic.

While at first it may seem daunting to part with your tried-and-tested supermarket snacks, serving up plastic free snacks will not only be better for your child’s health, you’ll also be doing the planet a huge favour.

Here are a few of my favourite plastic free snacks for toddlers that I give to my own two-year-old son.

Chopped up fruit

This one, of course, is a no-brainer. Fruit is one of the easiest plastic free snacks available – as long as you avoid the supermarket’s plastic wrapped fruit that is.

Depending on what’s in season, my son regularly has apples, bananas, tangelos, oranges, avocados, watermelon, cantaloupe and kiwi fruit.

Unfortunately, as I’m yet to find berries in anything other than plastic punnets he rarely has strawberries, raspberries or blueberries, but come berry season we’ll take a day trip to a fruit-picking farm.

Finding plastic free berries is tricky but not impossible.

Finding plastic free berries is tricky but not impossible.

Veggies

Much like fruit, veggies are an easy plastic free win… the challenge will be in getting the veggies into your child!

Favourites in our house include corn on the cob, carrot sticks dipped in homemade hummus and kale chips. My son also loves cucumber sprinkled with cinnamon for added flavour – try it, trust me!

Homemade trail mix

Supermarket bought trail mix is often high in sugar and additives so I prefer to make my own so that I can control the ingredients and thus the sugar content.

I stick to just a few simple ingredients as my son has nuts and seeds in his morning Bircher muesli so I don’t want to overdo it. For the full recipe click here but feel free to mix it up with your own combinations.

Greek yoghurt

I opt for Greek or natural yoghurt, and add cinnamon or nutmeg.

I’ve found two brands at my local market in Melbourne that sells yoghurt in glass jars – Marrook Farm (one of only a few bio-dynamic/organic yoghurt producers in Australia) and Butterfly Factory, a boutique micro dairy that accepts their glass jars back for sterilisation and reuse.

plastic free snacks.jpg

Chia seed pudding

Another simple snack to whip up, to make chia seed pudding simply add 3-4 tablespoons of chia seeds to one cup of milk (plant-based or dairy) and stir. Let it sit for five minutes then stir for a further five minutes (so the chia seeds don’t all clump up), cover and pop in the fridge overnight.

While chia seed pudding on it’s own is rather bland, adding half a teaspoon of honey, chopped up fruit, cocao powder or vanilla extract will make it more flavoursome. Or you could add some maple syrup for chia seed pudding dessert.

Energy balls

Full of healthy fats, fibre, protein, magnesium and vitamin E, my homemade energy balls are quite filling for a little one and super easy to make. For the full recipe click here.

Popcorn (butter and salt free)

I have an embarrassing confession to make. Brought up on the virtues of microwave popcorn, until very recently I had no idea how easy it is to make homemade popcorn.

Set aside 1/3 cup of corn kernels. Add two teaspoons of coconut oil to a saucepan on medium heat and add two corn kernels, cover. Wait until they pop, then add the remaining kernels, tipping the lid a little to let some steam out. Wait until you hear regularly popping, checking to see the pot doesn’t overflow. Have a large bowl ready and waiting.

You can add melted butter and salt if you wish but my son is happy to have it without.

Fermented foods

I’ll never forget the first time I gave my son sauerkraut to try. He took a huge tablespoon’s worth of beetroot and ginger kraut, shoveled it in and… loved it! Just goes to show that it’s worth letting little ones sample all types of foods, even when you think they’ll find the taste too strong.

Sauerkraut I buy from the market in a glass jar (I’m a fan of Kehoe’s) and it lasts for ages. Kefir I also buy in glass from the market, but pickles I ferment myself.

Bulk foods stores stock plenty of healthy snacks like nuts, seeds, veggie chips and dried fruit.

Bulk foods stores stock plenty of healthy snacks like nuts, seeds, veggie chips and dried fruit.

Where to buy plastic free snacks for toddlers?

The fruit and vegetables can be purchased from a supermarket, farmers’ market or through a fresh produce delivery service.

Ingredients for the trail mix and energy balls, chia seed pudding and popcorn kernels can be bought from a bulk foods store.

The fermented foods and yoghurt you can either make yourself at home or check to see if your local market sells these in glass jars/bottles.