Helpful feeding information for your toddler
Feeding toddlers (ages 1 to 3) can often be challenging. That's because several developmental
changes are happening 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. These suggestions can 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. Try again in a few days
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. The American Academy of Pediatrics
recommends limiting juice to 4 to 6 ounces per day for children ages 1 to 6 years
Don't use dessert 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. Aim
for mostly whole-grains.
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. The American
Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice to 4 to 6 ounces per day for children
ages 1 to 6 years old.
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. Limit animal fats.
Include exercise and everyday physical activity with a healthy dietary plan.
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. Provide social interaction and demonstrate healthy eating behaviors.
Involve children in choosing and preparing foods and teach them to make healthy choices
by helping them select foods based on their nutritional value.
Select foods with these nutrients when possible: calcium, magnesium, potassium, and
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 follow the recommended serving sizes for children.
Parents are encouraged to limit children’s screen time to less than 2 hours daily.
Instead, encourage activities that require more movement.
Children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical
activity on most days for good health and fitness. This is also for healthy weight
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 healthcare provider regarding his or her healthy diet
and exercise needs.