What to give your child for snacks

What to give your child for snacks

Empty calories

Empty calories give your child calories but no vitamins or minerals. Your child can have some empty calories but too many can fill up your child. Examples include:

  • sugars or sweeteners: soft drinks, fruit punch, candy, cakes, cookies, pies and ice cream
  • solid fats: cookies, cakes, pizza, cheese, sausages, fatty meats, butter and stick margarine


Choose my plate includes fruits, grains, vegetables, proteins and dairy. Give your child healthful snacks.

Avoid foods high in sugar or foods that have empty calories (such as soft drinks or juice).

Eating extra sugar puts your child at risk for tooth decay, even if she is just getting baby teeth.

Because your child may not eat a lot during meals, it is important that she eat healthful snacks.

Go to choosemyplate.gov for meal and snack patterns and ideas.

Foods that must be chewed with a grinding motion may present a choking danger for children younger than age 4. They are:

  • nuts (do not give your child peanuts until age 7)
  • popcorn
  • whole hot dogs
  • raw carrots or other hard vegetables
  • hard candy
  • large marshmallows
  • lollipops with hard sticks
  • caramel corn or Cracker Jack®
  • whole grapes
  • chunks of meat or cheese

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. For inclusivity, this guide uses "them" and "their."
Reviewed By: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2016