If I know anything about toddlers, it's that they're either not hungry at all, or starving. And typically, it goes like this: Dinner? Not hungry. Bedtime? Starving. Denying food to a toddler claiming to be hungry at bedtime is a hard task, and not one that I've yet mastered. But, the last thing I want is this snack to interfere with sleep. So, what are good bedtime snacks for toddlers? Cookies, it seems, is not one of them. (They do, however, make a great post-kid-bedtime snack for adults.)
It probably doesn't need to be said, but going to bed hungry is not going to help a kid sleep, according to Riley Children's Health at the University of Indiana. Offering a snack high in protein or fiber, as opposed to one high in carbs and sugar, will help to keep your child fuller, longer. Riley Children's Health suggested offering snacks like nuts, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, hummus, eggs, beans, tofu, berries, and whole grains.
Try to make sure snacks are eaten an hour before bedtime, too, says Dr. Alison Mitzner, MD, pediatrician and mom of two, as eating too close to bed can disrupt sleep. "Stay away from the obvious — food with high sugars (like chocolate)," Mitzner tells Romper, "as this will keep them up. Stick to foods that are high in tryptophan or increases tryptophan, which helps with sleep." According to Healthline, foods high in tryptophan include eggs, cheese, and soy products like tofu.
Milk is also a good way to wash those snacks down as it contains melatonin, a chemical the body produces to regulate the sleep/wake cycle. A glass of warm milk can help your little one relax before turning in for the night.
"Good snacks include foods with protein and calcium," S. Daniel Ganjian, MD, pediatrician and pediatric obesity specialist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper. "A warm cup of milk before going to bed can definitely help your child fall asleep faster. Other options include cottage cheese, low-sugar yogurt, or sliced cheeses with some crackers."
"Dairy is a good choice as it helps with sleep (cottage cheese, milk, yogurt)," Mitzner adds. "And if your child doesn’t do well with dairy, then nuts and carbs, like whole wheat bread or crackers, are a good alternative."
Avoid foods with refined grains and sugars, Ganjian tells Romper, such as those in flavored yogurts, sweet cereals, cookies, cake, and ice cream.
If you're resourceful, (ahem, lazy) like me, your kid's bedtime snack can be something as simple as what you had for dinner. It's easy for you, logical, and it could work wonders. Just save your child's uneaten dinner plate, and offer it again when hunger strikes, noted Parents. Though they may not eat it at first, especially if they've adjusted to some more desirable bedtime snacks, it's more than likely they'll start munching it down, even if it's just a couple of hours after the rest of the family.
Bedtime snacks are often unavoidable, as toddlers are growing (and often frustrating) creatures. Keeping snacks healthy and smart will keep your little one's belly full and ready for a great night's sleep. At least, that's the dream.
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