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Hilliard Pediatrics, Inc. - Dr. Tim Teller, MD
Children between the ages of 12 months to 3 years offer some nutritional challenges to their parents, from what they eat and how they eat to how much they eat. This guide will help you make smart choices about these issues.
Good nutrition requires a variety of foods from the four food groups: milk and milk products, meat and protein foods, vegetables and fruits, and the bread and grain group. This chart offers the number of servings per day and the serving size for toddlers. Remember that although charts such as this one are helpful, if your child is eating different amounts but has been growing and developing well and is in good health, they are likely doing what is right for them. Also, it is important to know that growth is naturally slower after the 1st birthday than before, so your child may not want or need as much to eat as before. Note: 1 cup = 8 ounces; 1 ounce (oz.) = 2 tablespoons (tbsp.) = 6 teaspoons (tsp.).
|Food Group||Servings Per Day||1 Year Olds||2-3 Year Olds|
|--milk||1/2 cup||1/2-3/4 cup|
|--cheese||1/2 oz.||3/4-1 oz.|
|--yogurt||1/2 cup||1/2-3/4 cup|
|--cottage cheese||1/2 cup||1/2-3/4 cup|
|--fish, meat, or poultry||1 oz.||1.5 oz.|
|--peanut butter||3-4 tsp.||6-8 tsp.|
|--dried peas or beans||1/2 cup||3/4 cup|
|--egg||1 egg||1.5 egg|
|BREAD AND GRAINS||4 to 6|
|--bread||1/2 slice||1 slice|
|--ready-to-eat cereal||1/2 cup||1/2 cup|
|--pasta or rice||1/4 cup||1/2 cup|
|--crackers||2-3 crackers||3-4 crackers|
|--muffins, bagels, rolls, buns||1/4-1/2||0.5-1|
|VEGETABLES AND FRUITS||4 to 5|
|--juice||1/4-1/2 cup||1/2-2/3 cup|
|--cooked||1/4 cup||1/2 cup|
|--whole||1/2 of the item||1/2 of the item|
Please note that our latest recommendations are that it is fine to do all milk, soy, peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, wheat, and egg products after the first birthday for otherwise healthy children with no history of food allergies.
It is important to have toddlers off the bottle by 15 months. Encourage your toddler to drink from a sippy cup. Many children will prefer to transition through using a “spill-able” sippy cup before moving on to the “spill-proof” kind. Children can use “open-top” cups once they are keeping the spilling to a minimum. Introducing children to spoons and forks for them to use is fine, but expect your toddler to want to eat most things with their fingers. Offering foods in bite-sized pieces helps. Many toddlers prefer that food items stay separated on their plates, so plastic child-sized plates with separate compartments are useful.
The 3 situations below are very common amongst toddlers. They are frustrating but normal.
The following foods are hard for children to chew without a full set of teeth. They could cause the child to choke. Only offer these foods when the child can chew and swallow well. It is important to watch your toddler closely while they are eating, especially with these food items.
Healthy snacks are important to give young children the energy to grow, play, and learn. Remember that snack time is an opportunity to balance the diet. For example, children who neglect milk at meals can be given cheese or yogurt at snack time. Do not bribe toddlers with sweets. This creates problems later in life by setting us up to reward ourselves with food, which is bad for the waistline and does not encourage well-balanced nutrition. Some healthy snacks include:
One word of caution about “fruit snacks”: most fruit snacks are not a good substitute for eating fruit, are full of sugar, and are not good for the teeth since the sugars tend to cling to the teeth after eating the fruit snack. These sugars can lead to tooth decay. Although they are ok occasionally as a special treat, please do not allow your child to eat these regularly.
Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs To Know by Dietz, PhD and Stern, PhD - American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011.
Food Fights: Winning The Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood by Jana, MD and Shu, MD – American Academy of Pediatrics, 2012.
The new food pyramid and information about nutrition can be found at www.choosemyplate.gov.
Many of the toddler food makers have nutritional information of their websites. These include:
Last Updated: 06/2019