If you’ve got a little one with a milk allergy, it can be tough thinking through tasty snack options! Check out this list of 20 dairy free toddler snacks that are perfect for young children. Your kiddo will gobble these right up!
Why dairy free snacks?
If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably got a child at home with a food allergy or intolerance – so this information is old news to you, of course. 😉
But maybe some of you are daycare providers, babysitters, or family friends looking for snack ideas – in which case, it can be helpful to understand the background of allergies and intolerances and why choosing the right options can be so important:
Milk is one of the most common food allergies in children. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) about 2.5% of children under 3 years old are allergic. When it comes to a milk allergy, the immune system sees milk protein as an invader and releases chemicals like histamine that cause reactive symptoms.
Symptoms can include diarrhea, rash, vomiting, and stomachache – and can also progress into a severe, life-threatening issue called anaphylaxis. This is when there is a narrowing of the airways that can block breathing.
Allergic responses can get worse each time the food is consumed, so even if a child had a mild reaction the first few times – it’s important not to give them any foods their allergic to as it could progress to a severe reaction.
Allergies and intolerances are not the same thing. For example, lactose intolerance is sometimes confused for a milk allergy, but these are two very different conditions.
Lactose intolerance is a digestive condition that is caused by the bodies inability to digest the main sugar in dairy products called lactose. With lactose intolerance, eating dairy products that contain lactose will likely cause digestive discomfort but does not create the potentially life-threatening situation that a food allergy does.
Of course, if you’re serving up snacks for a child with lactose intolerance, choosing dairy-free options can be beneficial to ensure there’s no GI upset. But it’s even more essential for those with allergies, who must avoid dairy completely.
Never fear. There are plenty of toddler-friendly snacks that are available to purchase or make at home!
Dairy Free Toddler Snacks
*Disclaimer: The list below is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. At the time of publication, I believe these foods do not include dairy. However, food manufacturers can change their formulas and manufacturing processes at any time, or it is possible I may have missed an ingredient. You should always double-check the labels prior to consuming.
*Disclosure: This section contains Amazon Affiliate Links. As an affiliate, I earn a commission on qualifying purchases.
Homemade Snack Ideas
If you’ve got the time, making homemade snacks can be inexpensive and nutritious. Plus, your toddler may even be able to help you with some of the preparation. Even if it’s simply dumping an ingredient into a bowl, you will get to spend time together and cooking is a great sensory activity.
Here are some simple dairy free toddler snack ideas that can be made at home and don’t require many specialty ingredients.
1. Fruit smoothie
The flavor combinations for fruit smoothies are endless. As a base, just combine frozen fruit with your favorite dairy-free beverage, like almond milk, soy milk, coconut water, or 100% fruit juice. I prefer using unsweetened plant-based milks in the smoothie as it will keep the overall sugar content lower, but that’s totally a personal call!
From there, you can get creative with different add-ins. Here’s some of my favorite for toddlers:
- Peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter – adds healthy fats and a little protein
- Leafy greens like kale and spinach – great for picky eaters who may not like whole veggies right now
- Chia seeds or ground flax seed – adds both fiber and healthy fats
- Avocado – adds healthy fats and calories; great for toddlers who may need to gain weight
- Cinnamon and turmeric – these spices can help expand your toddlers flavor profile and add beneficial nutrition properties
- Silken tofu – if your child can tolerate soy, tofu can be a nice way of adding some extra protein to a smoothie
2. Homemade Applesauce
Fall will be here before you know it, and what’s more fun than taking the family out to an apple orchard?! You can come home with your bushel of apples and whip up some homemade applesauce. Trust me, it’s easier than you think!
All you need are enough apples to fill a large pot. Wash, core, and slice apples into large chunks (you can also peel them, but it’s not necessary). Put about 1/2 to 1 cup of water in the pot, or enough to fill about 1 inch on the bottom.
Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the apples, covered for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the apples don’t stick to the bottom. Once the apples are fully cooked and softened, mash them using a wooden spoon or an immersion blender to blend down to your desire consistency.
Apples are naturally sweet, but sometimes additional sweetener might be desired if the apples you chose are bit sour. Give it a taste when it’s cooled down a bit, and then feel free to add in a little sweetener of your choice if needed (though I recommend unsweetened)! You can also add spices like cinnamon too.
3. Banana “ice cream”
Alright, alright – it’s not actually ice cream, but it is delicious! Just slice and freeze bananas, and pull them out anytime you’d like to make this faux frozen treat. Toss the frozen bananas in a blender with a splash of your favorite dairy-free milk, then blend into the consistency of soft-serve.
While it’s great on it’s own, you can play around with adding flavors too. For example, add some vanilla extract, fresh strawberries or raspberries, peanut butter, or cocoa powder.
4. Dairy-free muffins
Muffins are a great make-ahead snack – and one that your toddler may be able to help with. Try letting them pour the measured ingredients into the bowl, or mixing the batter with a big spoon.
I personally love making muffins because you can prep a bunch one weekend, and then freeze them to have on hand for the next few months. To defrost, just pop one out of the freezer and microwave for about 30 seconds.
Here’s a few recipes you might want to check out – all of which are dairy free:
- Lemon blueberry muffins
- Cranberry orange muffins
- Raspberry muffins
- Chocolate chip muffins
- Pumpkin muffins
Hummus is a great way to encourage kids to eat legumes, as it’s made with chickpeas. While you can always grab a store-bought package, making it on your own is fun and inexpensive.
Here’s how to make it (which comes right from my dairy free cookbook!). You’ll need:
- 1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 garlic clove
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
Now just place all the ingredients in a food processor and process for 60 to 90 seconds, or until the hummus is smooth.
You can serve hummus to your toddler with chopped vegetables, dairy-free crackers, warm pita bread (double check that it’s dairy free), or even mixed into a bowl with some rice and chicken (who said snacks couldn’t be like mini-meals?!).
6. Roasted chickpeas
While you can buy store-bought version of these, some brands are extra crunchy, which may not be ideal for a toddler. Making them at home provides a more manageable level of crispiness, and you can control the added salt better too.
Try draining a can of chickpeas, and then dry them off a bit using paper towels. Then, place on a baking sheet and toss with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and a few pinches of salt. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 20-3o minutes, let cool, and enjoy!
7. Avocado tuna salad
Tuna is a great snack for kids and adults alike, since it’s packed with brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. Instead of mayo, try mixing your canned tuna with some mashed avocado. You can serve this for your kiddo with whole grain crackers or on whole wheat bread.
*Note – occasionally, tuna may contain casein as an additive. While most brands have phased this out, it’s always wise to double check labels prior to purchasing. Tuna is more likely to include casein if it’s a flavored variety.
8. Energy balls
Energy balls are typically a combination of nuts or nut butter, oats, and dried or fresh fruit – plus some other add ins like spices or chia seeds. They can be great for older toddlers. Younger toddlers can eat them too, but you might want to cut up the balls into small, one-bite chunks.
I’m a big fan of apple peanut butter energy balls (though feel free to substitute sunbutter if you need them nut-free!):
- 1 apple, peeled and diced
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
- 1/2 cup dates, whole (not chopped)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
Combine everything in a food processor, roll into 12 balls, and store in the fridge.
9. Kale Chips
While it’s not really a chip, it is crispy and delicious! Simply take 6 cups of loosely packed chopped kale and toss with 2 tbsp olive oil. You can also add in any seasonings, like a few pinches of salt or garlic powder. Now bake that in the oven at 300 degrees for 18-25 minutes, until the kale is crisp.
This is a great way to add some variety to your kiddo’s veggies and encourage them to try leafy greens in a new way.
10. Sweet potato rounds
Sweet potatoes are a great nutritious carbohydrate that helps fuel growing bodies. Sweet potato rounds can be made with a variety of toppings (I’ve even seen marshmallows and nuts!) but I love mine with guac on top.
To make: slice sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch rounds, toss in olive oil, then bake at 425 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until they’re tender (flip once halfway). Top with guacamole (homemade or store-bought) and let your little one dig in.
Store-bought Snack Ideas
Sometimes your kiddo is hungry NOW, and it can make your life easier to grab something quick from the pantry. Here are some store-bought and dairy free snack ideas that are perfect for your little tot.
1. Any fresh fruit or veggies
From bananas to bell peppers, clementines to cucumbers…any fruit or veggie can be a convenient option for your toddler. Just remember to take proper precautions with foods that are a choking hazard, like baby carrots (which can be sliced lengthwise into thin strips) or whole grapes (which should be quartered).
2. Mini Larabars
These mini bars are perfect for your tot to carry around. The mini ones come in two flavors – peanut butter chocolate chip and chocolate chip cookie dough – both of which are dairy free and gluten free.
If you’ve got a kiddo with a big appetite, feel free to grab regular-size Larabars! These come in many more flavors (my son’s favorite is the apple one!).
3. Made Good Crispy Squares
A classic childhood staple, these rice-krispie-treat-esque snacks are made without dairy. They’re also free from nuts which is a good option if you need a school-safe snack.
I’m a fan of the Vanilla Made Good Crispy Squares which you can find online. They also come in 3 other flavors:
- Chocolate chip
Keep in mind they do have a bit of added sugar, so you may want to save ’em for an occasional snack rather than an everyday option.
4. Dairy-free yogurts
Yogurt used to be a big no-no, but these days you can find ample dairy-free options on the market. Be sure to experiment with a variety of them – some are made from a base of almonds, others from coconut, and others from oats – so there’s a wide range of tastes and textures.
Also, as an RD I recommend comparing the added sugar content across brands. It can vary a lot, and it’s always wise to minimize added sugar intake.
5. Earth Balance Cheddar Puffs
Move over Cheetos! These vegan puff snacks are made with navy beans and corn, and offer the flavor of aged white cheddar without the dairy. You can buy them at Amazon here.
6. Graham crackers
Most graham crackers on the market these days do not contain dairy, but always double check ingredients. (Some of the gluten-free varieties actually do have dairy, so keep that in mind.)
At the time of publish, Honey Maid and Nabisco graham crackers both did not appear to contain dairy ingredients.
7. Katz Muffin Snacks
These cute little mini muffins come in 3 different flavors and are dairy, nut, soy, and gluten free. The flavors include:
- Chocolate chip
- Fudge brownie
They’re available to order by the box or by the case on the Katz website.
8. Dairy-free crackers
Believe it or not, most commercial crackers are dairy free – though there are some exceptions of course, like cheese-based crackers (i.e. Goldfish, Cheese Its).
But many options, like plain Triscuits or Ritz for example, are dairy free at the time of publish.
9. Mini bagels and dairy-free cream cheese
This is one of my own personal snack favorites as an adult, haha, but is a nice option for toddlers too! You can buy dairy-free cream cheese if your store sells it, or you can make your own homemade dairy-free cream cheese using our recipe. For the mini bagels, be sure to check labels, as many do not contain dairy but some do.
Cheerios are a staple cereal in any household, but there are plenty of other dairy-free cereals out there too! Not only are they convenient for toddlers to snack on solo, but you can make them into cereal bars, or serve them with a milk alternative.
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