Feeding Toddlers: What Types of Food and How Much

The importance of timely feeding of toddlers cannot be ignored, considering their developmental milestones. They need a healthy and balanced diet enriched with vitamins, minerals, and nutritional requirements. Parents also need a lot of patience to deal with their finicky eaters.

Dos and don't of feeding toddlers

Growth and development in toddlers demand plenty of nourishment. The rising level of physical and mental activities necessitates effective nutritional support beyond breastfeeding. However, these notoriously fussy eaters are hard to placate with their ever-changing food habits. While feeding toddlers, parents have a task in hand to ensure balanced nutritional supply for their growth and health requirements. They must be mindful of what a toddler should have and not have in their daily meals. It also is the prime responsibility of parents to inculcate healthy eating habits.

Feeding Toddlers: An Overview of Nutritional Needs

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a toddler requires a nutritional support of 40 calories per inch of his height every day. Considering a normal height of 32 inches, each toddler should eat at least 1,300 calories a day to sustain their rapid growth and development milestones.

On a broader context, toddlers should have anywhere between 1,100 and 1,400 calories per day, subject to their physical size and activity level. Parents have to balance the amount of each food group in the platter considering the nutritional requirements. However, they must not expect their child to eat three meals a day like an adult. They may have a great breakfast and go without dinner. Your child may love to have more snacks throughout the day than meals. Prepare balanced and healthy meals adjusting the nutritional needs accordingly.

Make up for their lack of nutrition, vitamins, and minerals in meals during the snack time. If the toddler doesn’t drink milk, provide them with snacks with cheese.

Feeding Toddlers: Must-Have Foods

The diet of a toddler should include a variety of foods from all groups. It is imperative to ensure that they have foods of diverse tastes, textures, and colors.

While feeding toddlers, the weekly diet chart must include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Cereals
  • Starchy carbohydrates
  • Low-sugar foods
  • Mixture of white and whole grains
  • Eggs
  • Iron and protein rich foods
  • Dairy products
  • Fresh salads
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Milk and other dairy products rich in calcium and vitamins are essential for healthy bones. Fat in these products also fuels growth. However, start giving cow milk only after a child turns one-year old.

Fruit juice in small amounts is desirable, but not required for everyday consumption. Juice can be an alternative source of vitamins and minerals when the baby does not like whole fruits. However, added sugar is a cause for concern even for tiny tots and the habit could lead to cavities or obesity after a few years.

Always ensure a good supply of vitamin D to your child. Milk, egg, and cereals are good sources. Make sure the natural food flavor is preserved as far as possible. Avoid too much salt in toddler snacks or meals.

You cannot totally escape sugar, but certainly minimize it while feeding your tiny tots. You may consider adding sugar to breakfast cereals and yogurt, but avoid sugary cakes and cookies.

Feeding Toddlers: How Much To Feed

Let your child eat what they feel like from what is being offered to them. Don’t push too much and let them eat how much they want to. While feeding toddlers, you should not expect them to leave a clean plate. There may be day-to-day variations depending on their choice and hunger. You may even notice meal-to-meal dissimilarities.

Here is a list of what amount of which food a toddler should eat each day:

  • 4 to 6 servings of grain (may include bread, cereal, rice, etc.)
  • 4 to 5 servings of fruit and vegetables
  • 1/4 cup fruit juice (not more than 4 to 6 ounces a day till 6 years)
  • 3 to 4 cups of milk (can be ½ – 1-ounce cheese, ½ cup milk or yogurt each) max 16 ounces a day
  • Not more than 1-2 ounces lean meat/ fish (divide into 2 servings)
  • ½ – 1 egg a day
  • 2-4 tablespoons of beans and peas
  • 1 teaspoon butter or oils
  • 3/4 to 1 cup cereal
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Every meal must have 1/2 ounce of protein. The serving size for a toddler is equal to one tablespoon per year of age or a quarter of adult serving per year of age.

Feeding Toddlers: What Foods To Limit

  • Processed and ready-made foods
  • Sugary foods, such as cakes, cookies, biscuits, sweets, candies
  • High-fat foods, such as meat
  • Salty and crispy foods

Feeding Toddlers: What Foods To Avoid

  • Raw or partially cooked foods
  • Packed foods
  • Whole nuts, seeds, and similar choking hazards until five years (but can grind them and mix in the food)
  • Food with sugar or sweeteners
  • Sugary or fizzy drinks
  • Tea and coffee
  • Food containing caffeine
  • Oily food
  • Low-fat milk
  • Sticky foods, such as jelly and chewing gum
  • Raw vegetables
  • Hard or crunchy foods, such as popcorn
  • Foods that cause allergies to the child

While feeding toddlers, serve small amounts of foods. Let the child choose and eat. Keep an eye on potential food allergies. Don’t be angry at the dietary habit of your child. Fussy eating is a normal sign at this age. Teach them about positive eating habits and nurture them in a way that they learn to build a lifetime preference for healthy and nutrition food.


Ravneet Kaur
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Ravneet Kaur

Ravneet is a proficient author on mindful parenting, child psychology, and pregnancy-related issues. Her practical writing focuses on helping parents develop a compassionate understanding of child behavior and build strong family bonds. She also researches and writes on women’s health, pregnancy problems, relationship issues, teens, and child development and education.
Ravneet also blogs at www.wellnessguide.com
Ravneet Kaur
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