Your toddler has a small stomach and so it is absolutely normal for him/her to eat frequently throughout the entire day. So in many cases the child feels hungry an hour after dinner and in such cases a small bedtime meal will help him/her sleep better and also will help him/her to wake-up less hungry in the morning. However, just like you plan a healthy diet for his/her breakfast, lunch and dinner, the bedtime snack also should be decided cautiously so that it helps your child get a peaceful sleep throughout the night and also at the same time makes sure that he/she doesn’t get-up hungry in the morning. While you are still indecisive about the kind of food you should offer to your child here are some pointers which will help you to make-up your mind about choosing the perfect bedtime snack for your lovely little one:
Introducing Bedtime Snack as a Rule
Make a new feeding rule and try to stick to it! Either you introduce bedtime snacks or you don’t, but never interchange the rules as otherwise your child will never learn to finish his/her meal and always be confused whether or not you will provide him/her with something more at the end of the dinner. If you don’t choose to give bedtime snack to your child then make him/her sure that they should eat their dinner properly as the next meal will be next morning’s breakfast. Now if you choose to give him/her a bedtime snack, make sure that there is at least an hour gap between dinner and the snack. Also you should choose food from 2-4 different groups and your choice should depend on the kind of food he/she had before throughout the day.
For example if he/she had eaten lot of grain or dairy alternative throughout the day then it is best to offer him/her meat or vegetable alternative as a bedtime snack. In this way you can maintain the balance of the nutrients intake of your child.
Mix the Offerings: Firstly it is advisable not to offer the same food alternative as bedtime snack. Secondly sometimes you should offer his/her favourite food and sometimes not. In this way the child will not anticipate that his/her favourite food will come as a bedtime snack and so as a result will tend not to avoid having the dinner properly. Dinner should be given primary importance in every case so that your child also starts depending on it more.
Nutrition Should be the Key: Since your toddler eats in frequent intervals you should grab every opportunity to provide him/her with healthier meals. According to KidsHealth.com your toddler requires around 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day and these after dinner bedtime snacks are perfect for filling-up the gap. However, you should make sure that you don’t rely too much on the bedtime snack and it should only remain as a support system for your child to get a good night sleep. According to Kristen Yarker, a leading child-feeding expert in Canada, once a child realizes that you as a parent are relying too much on the bedtime snack then he/she will refuse to eat the dinner. In that way you will be rewarding him/her for not having a dinner properly-a habit you must discourage as a parent.
Choosing the Food: The purpose of introducing bedtime snack is basically to help your child get a good night sleep and not feel hungry before next morning’s breakfast. Carbohydrate-rich food contains a natural sleep inducing chemical called tryptophan. But you should try and avoid sugary carbohydrates because they are not easily digestible and are likely to cause problem for your child during the night. Lightly toasted whole-wheat bread can be considered as a good alternative. Also foods rich in calcium will help your toddler to get a nice sleep at night. You can offer him a cup of cottage cheese with finely chopped bananas on it or perhaps you can rather choose a cup of low-sugary yoghurt or a glass of milk will also do just fine. Make sure that you avoid food which might cause choking hazards like peanuts, raisins and popcorns along with food which posses high amount of sugar, as a bedtime snack for your child.
Do remember that bedtime snacks are just alternative supporting feeding habits for your toddler or pre-schooler. However, if your child is having proper breakfast and not waking-up hungry in the middle of the night, then you should indulge in giving him/her any sort of bedtime snack. The entire point of introducing such snacks is to make your child realizing the importance of eating well at night so that he/she gets a proper sleep. The sooner he/she can intake the adequate amount in a single meal (dinner) the better it is for him/her.