Helpful feeding information for your toddler
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 meal time 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.
- Provide regular meals and snacks.
- Be flexible with food acceptance as toddlers are often afraid of new things.
- Be realistic about food amounts. Portion size should be about one-fourth the size of an adult portion.
- Limit juice intake to about 4 to 6 ounces per day.
- 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-sized pieces.
- Make some foods soft and moist.
- 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 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/she is eating.
- keeping your child seated while eating.
Healthy food choices
The food guide pyramid is a guideline to help you and your child eat a
healthy diet. The food guide pyramid can help you and your child eat a
variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US
Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the following food
pyramid to guide parents in selecting foods for children 2 years and
The Food Pyramid is divided into six colored bands representing the five food groups plus oils:
- Orange represents grains: Make half the grains consumed each day
whole grains. Whole-grain foods include oatmeal, whole-wheat flour,
whole cornmeal, brown rice, and whole-wheat bread. Check the food label
on processed foods - the words "whole" or "whole grain" should be listed
before the specific grain in the product.
- Green represents vegetables: Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety
of vegetables, including dark green- and orange-colored kinds, legumes
(peas and beans), starchy vegetables, and other vegetables.
- Red represents fruits: Focus on fruits. Any fruit or 100 percent
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.
- Yellow represents oils: Know the limits on fats, sugars, and salt
(sodium). Make most of your fat sources from fish, nuts, and vegetable
oils. Limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening, and
lard, as well as foods that contain these.
- Blue represents milk: Get your calcium-rich foods. Milk and milk
products contain calcium and vitamin D, both important ingredients in
building and maintaining bone tissue. Use low-fat or fat-free milk
after the age of two years. However, during the first year of life,
infants should be fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula. Whole cow's
milk may be introduced after an infant's first birthday, but lower-fat
or skim milk should not be used until the child is at least two years
- Purple represents meat and beans: Go lean on protein. Choose low fat
or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine - choose more
fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.
Activity is also represented on the pyramid by the steps and the
person climbing them, as a reminder of the importance of daily physical
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 (the most
recent guidelines), a decrease in energy intake of 50 to 100 calories
per day for children who are gaining excess fat can reduce the rate at
which they gain weight. With this reduction in energy intake, they will
grow into a healthy weight as they age. Help your child to find
higher-calorie foods that can be cut from his/her daily intake.
Nutrition and activity tips
- 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 providing opportunities to 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: vitamin E, calcium,
magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Select foods with these nutrients when
- Most Americans need to reduce the amount of calories they consume. When it comes to weight control, calories do count. Controlling portion sizes and eating non-processed 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 two hours daily and replace the
sedentary 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 and 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 is completed.
To find more information about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
2005 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 Food Pyramid and 2005 Dietary
Guidelines sites. Please note that the Food Pyramid is designed for
persons over the age of two who do not have chronic health conditions.
Always consult your child's physician regarding his/her healthy diet and exercise requirements.