Nutrition for Toddlers

The toddler (ages 1 to 3) 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 mealtime 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 or she needs:

  • Avoid battles over food and meals.
  • Provide regular meals and snacks.
  • Be flexible with food acceptance as toddlers are often reluctant to try new things. If your toddler refuses a food, don’t make a big deal out of it, and try again in a few days or weeks.
  • Be realistic about food amounts. Portion size should be about one-fourth the size of an adult portion.
  • Limit juice intake; encourage whole fruit instead.
  • 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-size pieces.
    —Make some foods soft and moist.
    —Serve foods near room temperature.
    —Use ground meat instead of steak or chops.
    —Use a child-size 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 or she is eating.
    —Keeping your child seated while eating.

Healthy Food Choices

MyPlate - United States Department of Agriculture

The Choose My Plate icon is a guideline to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. My Plate can help you and your child eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat. The USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the food plate to guide parents in selecting foods for children age 2 and older.

Toddlers and Nutrition

4 Tips for Feeding Fussy Eaters
As many parents know, getting toddlers to eat healthy foods like vegetables can be a challenge. What to do?

Encourage Your Toddler to Snack Healthy
Toddlers may not eat as much in one sitting and often get hungry before the next meal. Try these snack ideas between meals.

Creating Healthy Mental Food Perceptions
Parents have significant influence over their toddler's mental perceptions about food. CHOC psychologist Dr. Cindy Kim offers tips for healthy food attitudes.