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Help! I need Toddler-friendly healthy snacks without High Fructose Corn Syrup, etc.

Help! I'm a new mom and my 12 month old daughter has been eating pretty traditional snack foods--you know, those dry and thus easy to carry around when on the go foods, animal crackers, nilla wafers, graham crackers, saltines, toasted O's, etc. Problem is most of these have high fructose corn syrup!

I'm at a disadvantage because as a kid I didn't like vanilla wafers (too artificial tasting), animal crackers (too dry and bland) and graham crackers (just taste weird). I know that I probably just have a weird palette, but I need some good product recommendations and maybe even some recipes for making snacks on my own. I'm NOT much of a baker so hopefully there are some easy things to make ahead of time to feed her throughout the week at snacktime.

I found some good oyster crackers made by Trader Joes and also Olde Cape Cod (actually since I like them I found them helpful during bouts of morning sickness) and Toasted O's are easy to find in health food sections, but all the graham crackers at my grocery store had HFCS so I just bought the one with the most fiber.

We are big fans of organic rice cakes-you can get them lightly salted and they are easy to take along in the diaper bag. We're just getting tired of eating them everyday!
Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

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  1. My daughter is 5 1/2. Her mother breast fed her for over a year. We then went initially to baby foods until I stated making healthier home made versions. She doesn't snack much - but I keep raisins, cheeses, home made bread, and can make musubi or sushi or MW an artichoke for a snack. Our daughter is with each of us half the time. Neither of us have ever given her purchased cookies, snacks, or soft drinks. Although this is Dana Zsofia's week to be with her Mom, her Mom just dropped her off for the afternoon and evening. Dana Zsofia was hungry. I told her what I'm preparing for dinner (salmon); so she decided to snack on a bowl of oatmeal and wait for dinner later. Another snack is cooked pasta (stored in the ref) with a drizzle of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. She can have this snack if the rest of her meals have been healthy for the day.

    1. My 20 month old loves snapea crisps, raisins, nuts, Pirate's Booty and veggie booty (or the Trader Joe's version), stone wheat crackers, and fruit. We also buy Trader Joe's brand cats cookies, animal crackers and Cinnamon Schoolbook letter cookies. She also eats cheese and yogurt (less portable, but healthy).


      1. Our son is now about two years, five months, and he's gone through a lot of different phases. Saltines and graham crackers were popular around 12 months as I recall. Freeze dried fruit from Trader Joe's, particularly the mangosteens were a hit. He also likes some regular dried fruit, but I think 12 months may have been a bit early for that. The freeze dried is easier to eat. Cheese is good and fresh fruit. There have been periods when he seems to be on an almost all fruit diet. He really likes watermelon, and he can tell good fruit, like Maine blueberries in season, from dull industrial fruit like mass produced Mexican blueberries. Small round fruits like grapes and blueberries should generally be cut in half at 12 months.

        I made a batch of saucisson sec, which he likes sliced thinly, but that's probably too hard for 12 months. He has a taste for spicy foods.

        2 Replies
        1. re: David A. Goldfarb

          Mine eats salami. Kids like foods with flavor more than you think.

        2. our grandaughter (now 7) LOVED (at very early age) and still does - snacking on edamame. She enjoyed getting it out of the pod too.

          6 Replies
          1. re: lexpatti

            My 4 yo daughter also loves edamame beans and has been eating them a little over a year now. For a 1yo, you could probably cook them a bit more, shell them first. She also likes cheese strings and yogurt sticks, TJ and Market of Choice has organic varieties. Another quick to-go snack is baby carrots. They might be too crunchy for a 12 month old so you could quickly steam them so they're a bit softer. She loved blueberries when she was quite young. She's a big fruit eater particularly berries so I try to get as much as I can when they are in season.

            1. re: Green Omnivore

              Thanks! I'll have to try cooking edamame myself for her--I usually only get it in trail mixes or at restaurants. I'm sure she'll love that. Question, how long does it keep once you cook it?

              1. re: mamma_spice

                you might try all sorts of different beans --- garbanzos, kidneys, navy, pintos, lentils, all make great finger foods for young ones

                hummus and pita - is that too complex a flavor combo for your toddler?

                as a kid, I loved sliced tomato and cheddar drizzled with italian dressing

                i also loved rice cakes spread with apple butter or apricot jam

                1. re: Emme

                  Oh yes, she loves hummus and pita. Her first real hummus (when she was a baby her "hummus was just pureed chickpeas and roasted garlic with oil--now she is old enough for tahini) was at Jazz Fest in New Orleans!
                  Thanks for reminding me, we are out of apple butter! Got to go to the farmers market soon!

                2. re: mamma_spice

                  Sorry for the late reply! I get them frozen at Trader Joe's. I boil them for 5-8 minutes for the regular ones or only 3-5 minutes if they are pre-cooked. If you are worried that they are too big, you can squish them in half before serving. I think they should keep for a few days in the fridge. They are quick to make so there's no need to make a huge batch. TJ also sells them pre-cooked and pre-shelled in their produce section. The best by date is usually a week or so but they never last long in my house.

            2. Trader Joe's has lots of healthier snacky options. The dried fruits are great, and kids love something that takes a while to chew and eat. If you are up to baking, you can try oatmeal cookies or homemade graham crackers. Both are simple, and you can start with half of a recipe.

              My cousin (now 8) loved oatmeal with salt and pepper as a snack. Not really portable, but good if you're home.

              4 Replies
              1. re: cheesecake17

                Interesting, oatmeal with S&P. I think I would like that! I crave savory foods and always preferred my cottage cheese with s&p instead of sweet fruits! DD is still acquiring a taste for pepper (I hope!) she freaks out whenever she gets a taste of black pepper. I've been seasoning her veggies and some other foods separately in the meantime.
                She does LOVE oatmeal!
                I've been looking for graham flour--where do you buy it?

                1. re: mamma_spice

                  My mother bought some from either a local health food store or Whole Foods.

                  I saw a recipe online that was vegan and didn't use graham crackers. I can look for it if you're interested.

                  Also, my friend's kids love Glenny's soy crisps. They actually think they're potato chips. They have that crunchy but melt in your mouth texture

                  1. re: cheesecake17

                    Great! I'll have to try the crisps. Any recipes are appreciated!

                    1. re: mamma_spice

                      here's the graham cracker recipe.


                      I remember making graham crackers with a friend ages ago, and adding colored sprinkles. Turned out yummy..

              2. when they were smaller, my 3 kids, ages 6 (twins) and 3 loved snacking on snap-pea crisps from trader joes, organic corn chips, string cheese, cereal-- mix a few different kinds in a bag (puffins are a big hit), dried cranberries, blueberries, thinly sliced apple (sometimes with cinnamon sugar), sliced grapes, pirates booty, pita chips, small pretzels, cheddar bunnies. it is easy to get stuck in the baby food aisle at the grocery store with their limited choices but try looking elsewhere for small foods that are easy to transport and eat on the go.

                1 Reply
                1. re: roxhills

                  I'll have to try the Puffins! Thanks for the advice!

                2. If you're specifically looking for something pre-made, browse some ethnic markets in your area, whatever the ethnicity. Virtually all other countries are going to be using less HFCS than the U.S. I'd just look for what you had in mind and then read the label.

                  Crackers are pretty easy to make. I don't have a recipe handy but made some great ones using little more than almond meal.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Cinnamon

                    oohh That sounds tasty. DH makes healthy cookies using bananas and almond meal so I always have it on hand!

                  2. Another thread reminded me that my daughter likes mashed potatoes: wash, salt, and microwave a big one for 8 minutes; peel and eat the crispy, salty skin; mash the potato with a bit of oil and enough milk to get a perfect mash. Total working time about thee minutes.

                    1. My daughter always liked lots of fruits and I would just pack them in a ziploc baggie. She especially liked grapes (sliced in halves or quarters) and mandarin oranges. She also loved goldfish and cheerios, but those probably have all the stuff you don't want! Our nutrionist aunt tells us that Kashi makes a cereal like cheerios that is supposed to be healthier. She also likes those freeze dried asian pears and fuji apples you can get at Costco. Also string cheese!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: MrsCheese

                        Kashi Heart to Heart "Honey Toasted O's" are tasty but a 33 gram serving has 5 grams of sugars including evaporated cane syrup and honey - note that a 28 gram serving of Cheerios only has 1 gram of sugar (including ingredient "sugar". Kashi is "natural", but Cheerios are remarkably benign for a mass market cereal. Compare the ingredient lists.

                        For another option, my regular dry breakfast cereal is Cascadian Farms' "Purely O's". They're organic and have no added sugars (a 30 gram serving has 1 gram sugar, probably from barley flour). Like the other two, it has added vitamins and minerals.

                        1. re: Striver

                          When our son was at that stage we also went with "Purely O's" and found it to be a good product.

                          1. re: Striver

                            I noticed that too when comparing ingredient lists! I thought that multi-grain would be better--til I compared the sugar content! Oats must not need as much sugar to sweeten as the other grains!

                          2. re: MrsCheese

                            Freeze dried asian pears?! yum! We'll have to try!

                          3. Graham crackers aren't going to hurt her, in moderation, nor will animal crackers. I don't understand what your childhood has to do with what you feed her.

                            Fruit, fresh or dried, raw veggies, string cheese, salami, cereal, yogurt (your own or some decent organic brand).

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Ideefixed

                              Sorry, didn't come out well. I have trouble feeding my little one anything that I don't like--that means that I had to make my own baby food and also learn to try a lot of new foods (it's been good for us!) We didn't have healthy snacks in our house as kids so I am mostly learning through what I see other moms offering. I just feel weird offering her snack foods that I find unpalatable!

                              If only she had teeth!!!! I can't give her too many raw fruits (she loves fruits but gets a diaper rash if she eats too many and she can handle bananas, berries, and really ripe things. I have to cook apples and mush up oranges. She won't use a mesh feeder--we've tried several times!) or raw veggies even some cooked are too much for her. She loves asparagus and green beans but can only suck on them! LOL!

                              1. re: mamma_spice

                                Looking back, I was making a lot of applesauce and pureed pears at 1 year. Around the same time, my sister was trying to encourage me to post to our family food blog, and my first post was on this topic--


                                1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                                  My daughter is in the stage where she doesn't like to be spoon fed but doesn't have teeth so meals get very messy--which is fine at home but when we are snacking on the go I don't want to have to change her clothes (or mine!).
                                  Nice blog! Ahh..rationing bananas and baby crack (I mean graham crackers!), yes, add in dirty diapers and saying "No!" and that is my life....;)

                            2. Sweet peas. I've never known a toddler who doesn't love them.
                              Cheese cut into small pieces she can pick out one by one or toast with melted cheese on top cut up in small pieces.
                              Raisins and dried cherries.
                              Look at the world through her eyes...
                              I've known several mothers/fathers who would not allow any products with sugar in the house only to end up with children who found it (secretly) at other children's houses.
                              Everything in moderation!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: latindancer

                                She loves peas! Can you have too many peas? I try not to feed them to her everyday, but she would love that! I also eat them like candy!

                              2. Kashi's crackers are OK. Trader Joe's is your friend for snacks that don't cost a million dollars and have fewer additives. They have lots of freeze-dried fruit that makes for good portable snacks, as someone also said. 12 months is a bit young for raisins and other dried fruit. I also at that age used to carry sunflower seeds for my daughter (small enough to be non-chokeable), little cubes of tofu, drained and rinsed canned beans, little bits of cut up fruit, grapes travel well, frozen fruit and peas.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: pointybird

                                  What would we do without Trader Joe's? I'm afraid that I'll find out soon. We're moving and the city that we are moving to (Akron, OH) doesn't have one yet. DH and I are already talking about making regular TJ's runs. We tried tofu last night and she loved it! I bought some travel containers so that we can take some along for a picnic lunch!
                                  I'll have to try sunflower seeds!

                                  1. re: mamma_spice

                                    You'll have to drive on up to Detroit, mamma_spice! We have TJ's aplenty, plus ethnic markets--I agree with Cinnamon that they can be a good source of snacks with less HFCS and other additives. There's a Japanese puffed corn snack that I'm very fond of.

                                2. I have a 12-month-old too, and having just a few teeth means she can only eat the softer foods. The rice cakes and health-food-store type oat O's work pretty well on the go for her -- they tend to have a melt-in-the-mouth texture which she likes. So do bread slices (even better spread with butter), and the softer kinds of cheeses (be sure to check that the sodium content is not too high).

                                  In addition to all the nice sugggestions here, I used to make "pancakes" made with a mix of egg yolk, flour, ground beans, grated fruit/vegetable and cheese, depending on what I have on hand. Cut to bite-sized pieces, she liked it a lot until I decided it was too much trouble to make.

                                  Recently we're also trying a brand of sliced bread called Ezkiel, which contains spelt flour and a bunch of sprouted oat and rye. I keep the whole bag in the freezer and thaw slices when needed. Tastes slightly sweet (even without added sugar) and I figure out they contain somewhat more protein than regular breads.

                                  Hope it helps!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: tarteaucitron

                                    Thanks! I made bean pancakes too! I still make them when we have leftover rice and beans. They make a good appetizer for adults too when served with salsa and sour cream!

                                  2. Have you tried TJ's plaintain chips? They also have some reasonable trail mixes, though you have to read labels at first to figure out which ones. Organic Food Bars? www.organicfoodbar.com/products
                                    TJ's has good little round rice crackers. Snow peas or carrots or bell peppers slices & hummus? Mary's gone crackers... though some/most of these may need to wait until she's older.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: lgss

                                      The plantain chips and rice crackers sound like good ideas--I'll have to buy lots so I can snack too! DD loves plantains--we eat them alot!

                                    2. Thanks everyone for the great suggestions! Here's an update.

                                      I went to whole foods and got a couple of healthier versions of what I know she likes--Cheddar bunnies, stone wheat crackers, and vanilla wafers (with actual vanilla in it!!!).

                                      I bought a couple of travel containers so that I can take messier snacks on the go! I'm still looking for cute and eco-friendly bento boxes and lunch boxes/wraps.

                                      DD tried tofu for the first time last night---Yum! She likes it with teryaki sauce and toasted sesame seeds. And so do I.

                                      Does anyone know:
                                      When do kids start eating chocolate? Honey? Maple syrup? We use dark chocolate in our healthy cookies, and would like to make them for her.
                                      Here's the recipe link:
                                      seriously--make them!! they are great!
                                      And I put unsweetened chocolate in my black bean soup which I think she would like too...just wondering...

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: mamma_spice

                                        I'm starting my 12-month-old on honey, in moderation, now -- I think it's safe for them to handle it but please double check. And if so, maple syrup should be fine too.

                                        I would love to introduce chocolate to DD too, but knowing the young ones do not metabolize caffeine and other chemicals as quickly as we do, I'd add just the tiniest amount.

                                        What else do you include in your chocolate black bean soup? A very interesting combination!

                                        1. re: tarteaucitron

                                          Maple syrup is made from boiled down maple sap it does not carry the same risks that are associated with honey. Honey on the other hand is often unpasturized, and can be contaminated with the spores of clostridium botulism, bacteria that produces a toxin resulting in botulism. Botulism is rare, but it can be fatal for infants.

                                          1. re: maplesugar

                                            Makes sense. Thanks for the maple syrup info!

                                          2. re: tarteaucitron

                                            Here's the link to the soup recipe. It is scrumptious! I heart kale is a great blog!

                                          3. re: mamma_spice

                                            If she has a taste for tart and sour foods- try baking some tofu in a lemony marinade. I loved that as a kid.

                                          4. I know your original post was for snacks but I thought I would share a fantastic dinner idea for baby. My DD is 9 months and has no teeth but is very adventurous with trying new food. Tonight I made a poached salmon fillet, mashed it up (checked for bones first) with avocado. I served it with some couscous as a side. She loved it - it was a pretty good flavour combo!

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: Green Omnivore

                                                Sounds great! DD liked Mahi last time we had it. DH is not a salmon lover but if I could recruit my daughter that means we can have it more often...yay!

                                              2. ok, disclaimer: I have no kids

                                                but, i work in the natural foods department at my grocery store, and i see what sells really well to moms with kids. cascadian farms purely o's, and also the nature's best variety (gluten free). All the Barbara's bakery puffins, fruit nuggets (thats the name of the product, not sure of the brand), frutabu fruit rolls (1 serving of fruit per roll), all the earth's best crackers and cookies sell amazingly well, amy's organic mac and cheese (all varieties, but the organic, not the natural) snap pea crisps, gensoy soy crisps, pirate's booty (all flavors), van's organic mini waffles, and all the brown cow organic yogurts. all natural products, most certified organic, and all pretty healthy.

                                                1. Chickpeas, they must be cooked enough to squishy soft if you pinch them between your fingers, i.e. well cooked, so as not to be a choking hazard. But my 2.5 yr old and 10 month old love them.