Helpful feeding information for your toddler
The toddler (ages 1 to 3) phase can often be challenging when it comes to feeding.
Several developmental changes happen 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, like 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
The MyPlate icon is a guideline to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. MyPlate
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.
The MyPlate icon is divided into 5 food group categories, emphasizing the nutritional
intake of the following:
Grains. Foods that are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain
are grain products. Examples include whole wheat, brown rice, and oatmeal.
Vegetables. Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of colorful vegetables. Include dark green,
red, and orange vegetables, legumes (peas and beans), and starchy vegetables.
Fruits. Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh,
canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut up, or pureed.
Dairy. Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group.
Focus on fat-free or low-fat products, as well as those that are high in calcium.
Protein. Go lean on protein. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine.
Choose more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.
Oils are not a food group, yet some, like nut oils, contain essential nutrients and
can be included in the diet. Animal fats are solid fats and should be avoided.
Exercise and everyday physical activity should also be included with a healthy dietary
Nutrition and activity tips
Here are some tips to follow:
Try to control when and where food is eaten by your children by providing regular
daily meal times with social interaction and demonstration of healthy eating behaviors.
Involve children in the selection and preparation of foods and teach them to make
healthy choices by helping them select foods based on their nutritional value.
For children in general, reported dietary intakes of the following are low enough
to be of concern by the USDA: calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Select foods
with these nutrients when possible.
Most Americans need to reduce the number of calories they consume. When it comes to
weight control, calories do count. Controlling portion sizes and eating nonprocessed foods helps limit calorie
intake and increase nutrients.
Parents are encouraged to provide recommended serving sizes for children.
Parents are encouraged to limit children’s video, television watching, and computer
use to less than 2 hours daily and replace sitting activities with activities that
require more movement.
Children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical
activity on most days for maintenance of good health and fitness. This is also for
healthy weight during growth.
To prevent dehydration, encourage children to drink fluid regularly during physical
activity and drink several glasses of water or other fluid after the physical activity
To find more information about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 and to determine the appropriate dietary recommendations for your child’s age, sex,
and physical activity level, visit the Online Resources page for the links to the
ChooseMyPlate.gov and 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines sites. Please note that the MyPlate
plan is designed for people older than age 2 who do not have chronic health conditions.
Always talk with your child’s health care provider regarding his or her healthy diet
and exercise needs.