Health Topics

Feeding Your Toddler - Ages 1 to 3 Years

Feeding Your Toddler - Ages 1 to 3 Years

As your child transitions into the toddler years, he or she is learning to eat more solid foods. Good nutrition gives your child what he or she needs for growth and health, and energy for playing, moving and learning. Here are a few helpful suggestions for feeding your toddler.

A Toddler’s Diet

The toddler years are full of exploring and discovery. The best thing you can do is offer your toddler a variety of foods with different tastes, textures and colors.

How Much Should My Toddler Be Eating?

Your job is to decide what foods are offered and when and where they are eaten. Let your child decide which of the foods offered he or she will eat, and how much to eat. Day-to-day and meal-to-meal appetite changes are normal.

Use the guidelines below to make sure your toddler is getting enough nutrition each day.

Grain Group

Make sure your toddler gets at least 6 servings of grains each day. Examples include:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 4-6 crackers
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal
  • 1/2 bun, muffin or bagel

Fruit and Vegetable Group

At least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day will ensure your child is healthy. Try the following examples in your home:

  • 1/2 cup cooked, canned or chopped raw
  • 1/2 - 1 small fruit/vegetable
  • 1/2 cup juiced

Milk Group

To make sure your toddler gets enough nutrients every day, make sure he or she gets 3 servings of milk and other dairy products, including:

  • 3/4 cup milk or yogurt
  • 3/4 ounce of cheese

Meat Group

Two servings of meat each day will provide your toddler with healthy protein. View the list below for some ideas of how to include protein in your child’s diet:

  • 1-3 tablespoons lean meat, chicken or fish
  • 4-5 tablespoons dry beans and peas
  • 1 egg

Fat Group

Limited amounts of fats are also important for the growth of your child; 3-4 servings each day are sufficient. Use the recommendations listed below to keep your child healthy:

  • 1 teaspoon margarine, butter, oils

Is There Anything I Shouldn't Feed My Toddler?

Choking is a hazard of eating for all ages, but especially for toddlers. Make sure to avoid foods that can pose a potential risk, including:

  • Slippery foods such as whole grapes, large pieces of meat, poultry and hot dogs, and candy or cough drops.
  • Small, hard foods such as nuts, seeds, popcorn, chips, pretzels, raw carrots and raisins.
  • Sticky foods such as peanut butter and marshmallows.
  • Always cut up foods into small pieces and watch your child while he or she is eating.

Also, your toddler could have food allergies that you don’t know about. The most common food allergies are:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Peanuts and other nuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soybeans
  • Wheat

Many children grow out of food allergies. If you think your child might have a food allergy, talk with your doctor.

What Do I Do if My Child Is a Picky Eater?

Many toddlers are very particular when it comes to the foods they will and will not eat. Although frustrating, this is not uncommon. Don’t get discouraged and try the tips listed below:

  • Offer new foods one at a time, and remember that children may need to try a new food 10 or more times before they accept it!
  • Avoid “short order cooking.” Serve at least one food you know your child will like, but then expect him or her to eat the same foods as the rest of the family.
  • Make food simple, plain and recognizable. Some kids don't like food that is mixed (like a casserole) or food that touches other items on the plate.
  • Never force your child to eat a food he or she doesn't like. Offer multiple choices so that your child can choose something he or she does like.