Healthy Bedtime Snacks for Toddlers

Your toddler's stomach is small, and it is normal for him to eat frequently throughout the day. If he seems hungry an hour after dinner, a small bedtime snack may help him sleep better and wake up less hungry in the morning. Just as you plan healthy morning and afternoon snacks for your child, have a selection of healthy bedtime snacks on hand when he needs a bit to eat before snuggling into his bed.

Focus on Nutrition

Healthy bedtime snacks offer you another opportunity to give your toddler healthy food. Your toddler may eat only small amounts at regular meals, and snacks are a way to give him enough calories and proper nutrition. Toddlers generally need between 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day, according to KidsHealth. If you notice your child has not had much calcium on a particular day, or did not finish her yogurt at lunch, an after-dinner snack can help fill the gap. Your child may be more likely to sit down and eat a healthy, small snack when she is tired and almost ready to go to bed.

Calm Him Down

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Carbohydrate-rich foods containing the natural sleep-inducing chemical tryptophan, may help your toddler relax and calm down before going to bed, explains Elizabeth Pantley, author of "The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers." Avoid sugary, processed carbohydrates such as a bowl of sugary cereal or sweet toddler cookies. Give him three to five whole-grain crackers and a tablespoon of hummus. Lightly toast a piece of whole wheat bread and serve plain or with a light coating of peanut butter. Other healthy, calming snacks include a small amount of tofu yogurt or a scrambled egg.

Snacks with Calcium

Calcium-rich bedtime snacks can help your toddler feel satisfied and prepared for sleep. A small cup of cottage cheese topped with finely chopped bananas, a cup of low-sugar yogurt or a glass of milk are good choices. Slice your child's favorite cheese and serve alone or with a handful of small wheat crackers. Pour some whole grain cereal into a small bowl and top with soy or regular milk. If your child is still breast-feeding, an extra nursing session can serve as a bedtime snack.

Foods to Avoid

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Certain foods are not appropriate for toddlers to have as a bedtime snack or anytime. Peanuts, raisins and popcorn pose choking hazards to your child. Before bedtime, avoid giving your child chocolate, which contains caffeine, or sugar-filled snacks such as:

  • soft candy
  • ice cream or cookies

The caffeine in chocolate may keep your child awake at night and sugar may make it difficult for her to settle down for sleep. Give her a healthy snack about 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime to allow for digestion.