Toddler Nutrition

The toddler (ages 1 to 3 years) phase can often be challenging when it comes to feeding. Several developmental changes occur at this time. Toddlers are striving for independence and control. Their growth rate slows down and with this comes a decrease in appetite. These changes can make meal time difficult. It is important for parents to provide structure and set limits for the toddler.

The following are suggestions to help manage mealtimes so that the toddler gets the nutrition he/she needs:

  • Avoid battles over food and meals.
  • Provide regular meals and snacks.
  • Be flexible with food acceptance as toddlers are often afraid of new things.
  • Be realistic about food amounts. Portion size should be about one-fourth the size of an adult portion.
  • Limit juice intake to about 4 to 6 ounces per day.
  • Dessert should not be used as a reward. Try serving it with the rest of the food.
  • Make the food easy for your toddler to eat:
    • Cut food into bite-sized pieces.
    • Make some foods soft and moist.
    • Serve foods near room temperature.
    • Use ground meat instead of steak or chops.
    • Use a child-sized spoon and fork with dull prongs.
    • Seat your child at a comfortable height in a secure chair.
  • Prevent choking by:
    • slowly adding more difficult-to-chew foods.
    • avoiding foods that are hard to chew and/or swallow such as nuts, raw carrots, gum drops, jelly beans, and peanut butter (by itself).
    • modifying high-risk foods: cut hot dogs in quarters, cut grapes in quarters, and cook carrots until soft.
    • always supervising your child when he/she is eating.
    • keeping your child seated while eating.

Healthy food choices

The food guide pyramid is a guideline to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. The food guide pyramid can help you and your child eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the food guide pyramid to guide parents in selecting foods for children 2 to 6 years of age. Choose the proper number of servings from each food group for your child each day.