During the first year of life, babies grow and develop much faster than at any time afterward. To provide fuel for such rapid growth and development they need enough energy powered by proper nutrition.
Feeding healthy mini-meals or snacks to your little one in addition to breast milk or formula is a great solution for active babies and toddlers! In this article, we walk you through the basics of snacks and answer your most commonly asked questions.
Keep reading to learn about what counts as a healthy baby snack, the benefits that healthy snacks offer, how to safely introduce your little one to snacks, and some of our favorite organic baby snacks.
The consensus from different nutrition experts is that a snack should be safe in that it's age-appropriate for your little one, healthy (it should contain wholesome ingredients), and of course, tasty to your little one.
Baby snacks can be divided into two groups – homemade and commercial baby snacks (mini meals from the store). Each group of snacks has its pros and cons, which we will walk you through!
Homemade Baby Snacks
A lot of parents turn to homemade snacks, with the advantage of having complete control over the ingredients that go into them. However, homemade baby snacks are not subject to the same strict regulations and safety controls as commercial baby food.
This can make it difficult to regulate the amount of harmful chemicals present in your homemade food. Additionally, preparing healthy snacks can take a lot of time with all the research and preparation involved to ensure that the snacks are packed with nutrients.
Plus, it can be particularly time-consuming to get the texture just right each time, as young infants and children who are teething require their food to be blended or pureed for safety and comfort.
Commercial Baby Foods
Commercial baby food goes through strict quality controls, which often involve specialized testing to ensure the quality of the product. It can be a convenient way to provide your baby with nutrients, as many products are fortified with vitamins and minerals that are shown to have health benefits for infants.
Ultimately, both kinds of baby foods have their pros and their cons and one is not necessarily better than the other. Many parents opt to mix both commercial and homemade snacks into their little one's diets, for the sake of convenience and flexibility.
What Are The Benefits of Eating Baby Snacks?
Snacks are a significant part of a child's diet and can help them meet their nutritional needs. They can be given multiple times throughout the day between meals as a "pick me up" to provide your child with nutrients and fuel their energy.
They can also be a valuable tool for teaching your child about food and diet. Snacking is also a great opportunity to practice basic eating skills and explore new textures and tastes.
Snack time can help your child learn about food while spending quality bonding time with parents. Furthermore, nutritious baby snacks can help to cultivate healthy eating habits, and promote a healthy diet that can have long-lasting positive effects on their health and wellbeing.
Can I Give Snacks to My 6-Month-Old?
Think your little one might be ready for snacks? The good news is there are some tell-tale signs of food readiness that are easy to spot. These signs include the following...
Food Readiness Signs:
Your baby has good neck and head control and is able to sit upright when supported
Your baby is interested in food
When you offer your baby a spoon, they open their mouth
Your baby has begun reaching for your food
Most babies start to show these signs around 6 months, although this can vary. Talk to your pediatrician if you're unsure about when you should introduce your baby to snacks and keep in mind that it’s recommended not to introduce solids before 4 months.
When it comes to finger foods, it is necessary to mention that allowing your child to explore more advanced textures should only be done once your toddler achieves higher motor skills including:
Using their fingers to grasp foods
Using their hands to move food toward their mouth
Sitting up straight during meals
The rule of thumb is to introduce only one new type of snack at a time. It can help identify if your baby is allergic to a particular food. If you suspect that your little one has an allergy, be sure to consult your pediatrician.
Including items from each food group is an important part of a 1-year-old's diet. My Plate has a great breakdown of the different food groups for your reference!
The list below contains suitable snacks for children starting from 12 months:
Veggies like sweet potato or steamed green beans
Fruits like bananas and apple
Dairy products like cream cheese, shredded cheese, or sugar-free yogurt
When is it a Good Time to Offer My Baby Snacks?
Depending on the age of your toddler and their diet, it can be a good idea to plan out snack times in-between structured meals. The best place for a snack break is in the kitchen to help your child associate it with a place for eating.
But to avoid confusion about structured meals versus snacks, it's best to keep snack times brief. Remember that during these snack times, just like regular mealtimes, it is important to make your child feel safe and comfortable by sitting them upright and providing them with support if needed.
What is The Appropriate Size Snack to Serve a Baby?
Snacks serve to provide your baby with sustenance between mealtimes and therefore, you should be conscious of the volume and amount of food given to your little one as to not spoil bigger meals. It's a good idea to start with smaller snacks and gradually increase the size and frequency as your baby's appetite increases.
Best Healthy Baby Snacks
Now that we have discussed the importance of including snacks in your baby's diet let's look at different kinds of popular baby snacks, why they are popular, and options for both homemade and commercial baby snacks!
Baby Fruit and Veggie Snacks
Consuming an abundance of fruit and veggies can help maintain a steady level of blood glucose so active older babies and toddlers don't run out of energy! But keep in mind, it's important to be aware of choking hazards which can be caused by hard fruit or raw vegetables, always make sure you prepare your baby's food in an age-appropriate texture.
When it comes to snacking, baby cereals and porridges are a great place to start and can begin around the 6-month mark depending on your baby's development, although some products can be introduced in as little as 5 months as a part of a mixed weaning diet.
To determine which products are suitable for your baby's age, products will be labeled with information on when they can safely be introduced.
Baby cereals and porridges can be mixed with water, breast milk, or formula, making them familiar for your little one, and easy to eat. These snacks are also often fortified with valuable vitamins and minerals to increase their nutritional value!
HiPP is a family-run company known for their high-quality baby food products. For babies with dietary restrictions, they carry many gluten-free and vegan snack options, in addition to all their products being free from artificial colors, preservatives, aroma or flavor enhancers, and added sugars.
Their products are certified EU organic and also contain the HiPP organic seal which ensures that all products are made with clean ingredients through additional quality tests. They make a variety of different snacks including bars, puffs, cereals, and pouches!
Holle is another leading company in the organic baby food market. Many of their products are both EU organic and Demeter organic; the Demeter association has the strictest regulations for organic agriculture worldwide.
Holle makes a wide range of baby snack including biscuits, fruity rings, teas, weaning oils, and cereals that cater to different needs and developmental stages. Some of Holle's best-selling snacks are pureed baby food pouches made with ingredients such as organic fruits, veggies, grains, and yogurt all without any added sugar or salt!
Baby puffs come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are one of the most popular types of finger foods out there. Feeding your baby with puffs snacks is great for helping them learn how to handle food by pinching or grasping the different shapes.
By learning the "pincer grasp", your child is developing fine motor skills that will benefit them as they gain more independence and learn new tasks, such as using utensils and zipping clothing. Puff snacks also mix well with the baby's saliva which can help keep feeding times safe by reducing choking hazards.
Holle makes a range of organic puff snacks that come in a variety of flavors suitable for babies 8 months and older. These organic snacks are gluten-free and made with a small list of ingredients and are easy baby snacks for the on the go!
Baby Foods to Avoid
It's important to be aware that different foods can be dangerous to your baby's health depending on their age. According to the CDC before 12 months, it is important to avoid the following foods and drinks in your infant's diet:
100% fruit juice
Foods that are high in salt
Products with added sugar
Choking hazards (popcorn, hot dogs, whole nuts, etc...)
Are There Toxic Ingredients in Baby Snacks?
Heavy metals are naturally found in our environment and thus can sometimes make their way into our food supply, thankfully baby foods are subjected to strict safety regulations that work to minimize the amounts of toxic chemicals in food.
The label of ‘EU organic' can help bring peace of mind to parents that their baby's food has passed strict quality checks and safety controls before making its way to their child. While the EU organic label doesn't directly protect against heavy metals (as they are naturally present in our environment), they do set acceptable limits for heavy metals in food and these limits are even lower for baby food.
When it comes to homemade baby food, it isn't always subject to the same regulations so there are some steps you can take to help reduce the risk of your baby's exposure. These tips include the following:
Use clean water when preparing food or drinks for your baby
Offer babies a wide variety of natural food preferably those having natural colors
Stay clear of long-living or predatory fish because they can contain dangerous levels of mercury
A nutritious snack for a baby is not only a great way to implement healthy eating habits, it can also be a good strategy to introduce your little one to new solid foods!
It's very important to make sure you consult your pediatrician before feeding your baby solid foods. Once you get the go-ahead from your doctor, always supervise your toddler when offering homemade or store-bought snacks!
Planning and preparing solid food snacks in advance can save time and ensure that your child is receiving a wide range of nutrients including vitamins and minerals. Happy snacking!
Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.
Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.
Agustina Fernandez is a medical doctor, who graduated from Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, in Argentina. She has experience working in an emergency room of a public hospital, where she helped many patients with urgent diseases. However, her true passion are children and she is planning on doing her specialization degree in Pediatrics soon. In the past year, she has become interested in researching about infant nutrition, including breastfeeding, infant formula and food in the first years of little ones' lives.
Dr. Hsu received his medical degree from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, and holds a Master’s of Science degree from both Harvard University and Tufts University.
Dr. Hsu did research in MRI neuroimaging research of fetal brains at Boston Children’s Hospital, an affiliated hospital of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Hsu is currently a full-time medical writer and consultant.
Outside of the medical profession, Dr. Hsu loves to write, learn new languages, and travel