What and How Much Should My Toddler Be Eating Everyday?

As parents, we all know that toddlers need a variety of nutritious foods every day to promote growth and healthy development, but you might be wondering how much food (and what type) your little one should be eating everyday. To be honest, even I was curious to see if my toddler was meeting her daily requirements. That’s why I recruited one of my fabulous nutrition student volunteers to create a visual presentation for parents–to show them what a day in the life of a toddler should look like food-wise.

Below is a visual guide for parents on how many food servings a older toddler (aged two-three) should be offered daily. It’s important to note that this is a guide for what parents should offer, not necessarily what a toddler will eat

Toddlers’ food intakes can be unpredictable and, to be honest, all over the place. As kids enter toddlerhood, their appetite and food intake slows down and can become more selective as they yearn for independence and control. Try not to fixate on the amount your child is consuming–this should be left up to the child.

As mentioned in previous blog posts, it is the parent’s job to decide when, where and what their child eats, and it’s important to leave the rest up to your child. Allow her or him to self-feed independently, and focus on their own intuitive cues when it comes to how much to eat. 

Check out this post that outlines some mealtime boundaries and the roles that parents and children should play during mealtime.

Below is a visual of two different days to give you a better idea of the amount and variety of food you should offer your toddler each day.

Food Serving Guidelines for 2-3 year old:

Fruit – 2 servings (1 cup)

Vegetables – 2 servings (1 cup)

Grain Products – 3 servings (3 ounce equivalents)

Milk and Alternatives – 2 servings (2 cups)

Meat and Alternatives – 1 serving (2 ounce equivalents)

*Water is the only beverage recommended in between meals/snacks and milk (as indicated–no more than 500 mL) or water at meals for hydration. Fruit juice is not recommended at all.

Sample Day 1

Breakfast

  • ½ cup homogenized or 2% milk  
  • ½ egg
  • ½ small banana

 

breakfast1milk1

Morning snack

  • ½ tbsp. nut butter
  • 5 crackers
  • ½ small orange

 

morningsnack1

Lunch

  • 1 slice bread with butter
  • ½ ounce tuna
  • 1 slice hard cheese
  • ½ cup cucumber and carrot coins

 

lunch1

Afternoon snack

  • ½ cup full-fat yogurt
  • ½ cup cut-up strawberries

 

aftsnack1

Dinner

  • ½ cup homogenized or 2% milk
  • ½ cup cooked rice with butter 
  • ½ ounce chicken breast
  • ½ cup cooked broccoli

 

dinner1milk2

Sample Day 2:

Breakfast

  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • ½ cup cooked oatmeal
  • ½ cup full-fat greek yogurt

 

breakfast2

Morning snack

  • 1 cup full-fat cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup cubed watermelon

 

3

Lunch

  • 1 slice bread with butter 
  • ½ ounce chicken breast (left-over)
  • 1 slice cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup sliced plum
  • 1/2 cup homogenized or 2% milk

 

lunch2milk1

Afternoon snack

  • 1/2 cup lightly steamed cauliflower and broccoli
  • 1 tbsp hummus

 

11

Dinner

  • ½ cup homogenized or 2% milk
  • ½ cup cooked pasta with butter 
  • ½ cup green peas
  • 1 ounce cooked fish

 

dinner2milk3

 

For more helpful tips on toddler nutrition, check out my Facebook page, where I post daily!

 

 

References:

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding

Written by: Dawn Amber (Nutrition and Dietetics Student) and edited by: Sarah Remmer, RD

 

Sarah Remmer
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1Comment
  • Ellyn Satter
    Posted at 07:11h, 10 February Reply

    Dawn, it appears you “get it” relative to the division of responsibility in feeding. I also see what you said about these foods being what you can offer your child. Unfortunately, in my experience, parents can be so agenda driven that such information sends them right off to pressuring their child to eat. I am going to post the link to your page on the ESI clinical facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/esicliniss We will see what the panel of working-toward-being-experts have to say about grappling with this particular issues.

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