2½ - 5-years

Providing healthy snacks, including a variety of tooth friendly fruit and vegetables can help your child to get the energy and nutrients they need to grow up healthy and have the energy to learn and play. Introducing your child to simple and varied snack foods helps to develop good dietary habits which they will take with them into later childhood and beyond.

Why is it important?

About 30% of your child’s daily nutrients can be met through healthy snacks. A healthy, balanced diet which includes healthy, low sugar snacks, along with regular physical activity, are essential for your child’s health and wellbeing.

Young children need 3 small meals each day with 2 healthy snacks in between. Think of snacks as ‘mini meals’. Eat them sitting down and from a plate, where possible.

A child’s stomach is the size of their fist. Keeping snacks small means children will still want to eat at mealtimes.

Offer vegetables or fruit as part of every snack. In season is often cheaper, or try tinned fruit in water (drained and rinsed if in syrup)

It’s a good idea to offer a starchy food as part of 1 snack daily e.g. (toast or rice cakes). Offer these when your child is hungrier.

Remember, you can always swap things from the same food group, for example, try breadsticks, pitta bread, or toast

Milk (full-fat for children aged 1-2 years) or water are the best drinks for young children

Tips for healthy snacks:

  • Role model - if your child sees you eating healthy snacks they are more likely to do so too
  • Involve your child in preparing snacks including fruit and vegetables whenever possible
  • Offering a variety of vegetables and fruits in different colours. A rainbow diet will provide different nutrients essential for growth and development. The folic acid found in leafy greens such as spinach and kale is known to help improve the health of teeth and gums
  • Offer healthy foods from 4 food groups: starch, protein, dairy, fruit and vegetables
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks including: sweets, cakes, biscuits, soft drinks, juices and smoothies, fruit purées and dried fruits between meals as these can cause tooth decay
  • Offer dairy foods (or good quality alternatives) for some snacks which provide your child with essential nutrients such as iodine and calcium

Healthy snack ideas:

  • Peach and plain yoghurt with rice cakes, cup of water
  • Tomato and mozzarella cheese with breadsticks, cup of milk
  • Rice cake and banana, cup of water
  • Melon and half toasted muffin with spread, cup of water

First point of contact

Providing healthy snacks does not need to be expensive. There are many places where you can buy a wide range of fruit and vegetables at low cost. Speak to your Health Visitor to find out if you can access vouchers to purchase free fruit and vegetables and milk.

The Best Start with HENRY service can support you with ideas for tooth friendly snack foods. They can also provide information on places to purchase low cost fresh foods for snacks and help and information to achieve the right portion size for your child:

Best Start with HENRY in City & Hackney

Local services and information

Get help to buy food and milk (NHS Healthy Start scheme)

If you are pregnant or have children under the age of 4 years and are receiving certain benefits or are under 18 years, you may be able to access food from the national Healthy Start scheme. Healthy Start gives eligible families a pre-paid card to buy fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried or tinned pulses, plain cow's milk and infant formula.

  • An application for the digital Healthy Start scheme can be made online or by telephone on 0300 330 7010. Press option 3 if you require a translator
  • If you are still receiving paper vouchers, apply for the new digital service as soon as possible. After 31 March 2022, paper vouchers will no longer be issued and paper applications will be discontinued

Rose Vouchers for fruit and veg in Hackney

If you have young children under 5 years old or are pregnant, you may be eligible to receive Rose Vouchers for fruit and veg. You can spend Rose Vouchers on the fruit and vegetables of your choice with participating market traders and greengrocers in Hackney.

Families receive £3 of Rose Vouchers for each child every week, or £6 if the child is under one year old. Rose Vouchers are collected from local children’s centres each week.

Rose Vouchers are available for families on low incomes, including those with no recourse to public funds.

Free vitamins in Hackney and City

Free vitamins are available to help your baby and young children grow up strong and healthy and help you maintain your health during pregnancy and after birth.

If you live in or go to the GP in City and Hackney, free vitamins are available for pregnant women, new mothers and children under 4 years. 

National resources


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This page was last modified on: 22 Jun 2022