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 mealtimes 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.  Talk to your child, but not about how much food she/he needs to eat.
  • Provide scheduled meals and snacks in high chair or at dining table.  
  • Offer a new food when your child is hungry.  It may take several introductions before he/she will pick it up and try it.
  • Be realistic about food amounts.  Portion sizes should be about one-fourth the size of an adult portion.
  • Avoid sugary beverages, including pop, juice, lemonade and Kool-Aid.
  • When your child stops eating or begins to play with food, this is usually a sign that he or she is finished eating.
  • Make the food easy for your toddler to eat:
      • Cut food into dime-sized pieces.  
      • 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:
      • Slowly add more difficult-to-chew foods.
      • Avoid foods that are hard to chew and / or swallow such as nuts, raw carrots, gum drops, jelly beans, hard candy and peanut butter (by itself).
      • Modify high-risk foods: cut hot dogs in quarters, cut grapes in quarters and cook carrots until soft.
      • Always supervise your child when he / she is eating.
      • Keep your child seated while eating.

The website ChooseMyPlate offers guidelines to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. ChooseMyPlate can help you and your child eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat.  Be sure to choose the proper number of servings from each food group for your child each day. 

Last Updated 08/2013