Thursday, January 12, 2012

Toddler Mini-Meals: Cucumber & Cream Cheese

My first reader request: New ideas for toddler snacks!

Toddler snacking is quite different from adult snacking. A "snack" to us seems to be a feed-my-hunger, tide-me-over-until-the-next-meal type of quick fix.  For a toddler, a snack should be treated like a mini-meal, and her meals should also be treated like a mini-meal.  My daughter eats the same volume and variety of foods each time she sits at the table. I look at them like mini-meals so that it is easier for me to avoid the "snack" trap---that is, highly processed, quick finger foods that come in a nice convenient package (high carb, low nutrient). Even when the packaging looks "wholesome" and "natural," reading the label will alarm you to some unwanted ingredients.  This doesn't mean  you have to be a slave in your kitchen. It just means you should do some research at the grocery store, and "choose your battles."  You can't always avoid unwanted ingredients, but strive to for the majority of your child's intake.

Here are a few alarms that go off on the ingredients list:
Partially Hydrogenated Oils: Read, "Trans Fats"
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Artificial Sweeteners
Enriched Bleached Flour

As a general rule, I look for whole grain, natural substances, not artificial additives in the first 5 ingredients on the list.

Don't be fooled. As I'm writing this and trying to get out the door for some good ol' bounce house toddler fun, my daughter is eating a handful of cheerios, a fruit cup, and a cheese stick.  Sometimes the quick fix is the way to go.

Try this light but filling and nutritious mini-meal:

Cucumber & Cream Cheese Sandwich
2 slices Pepperidge Farm Very Thin whole wheat bread (easy for toddlers' little mouths)
1 Tbs plain cream cheese (1/3 less fat)
2 Tbs chopped Cucumber (Cut about 1 1/2 - 2 inches off your cuc)

Peel, then chop the cucumber into smaller than bite size pieces.* Spread cream cheese evenly on one side of each piece of bread, then layer the cucumber pieces in sandwich, and cut into fun shapes or sizes your child can pick up.  Serve with a side of fruit (quartered or halved grapes go well with this light meal) and water or milk to drink.

*Cucumber is the FIRST food my daughter 'choked' on. If this is your child's first experience, try giving it to her plain, or chop finely to put into the sandwich.  You know your toddler's chewing experience and level.  Please make your best judgment and always ALWAYS supervise your toddler when she is eating. If a recipe calls for bite size pieces, it is a good rule of thumb to cut it into a shape and size that does NOT match a child's esophagus. (Examples: quartered grapes, hot dog sliced length-wise)

Meal Stats: This is how I will present the nutritional benefits of the meal. I do not count calories/fat/sugar, not for myself and especially not for my child. Instead I like to choose whole foods as much as possible, and use the Choose My Plate guideline found at  Maybe eventually I can come up with a symbol/chart for quicker reporting.....

Dairy: Cream Cheese
Grain: Whole Wheat Bread
Vegetable: Cucumber
Fruit: Grapes
Protein: N/A (Cream Cheese provides 1g)

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