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Feeding > Feeding Your Toddler (1-3 Years)

Feeding Your Toddler (1-3 Years)

Now that your child is past the first birthday, growth will slow down and appetite will decrease. Your toddler is also becoming increasingly independent and feeding your child may become a challenge. To be sure your child is getting the nutrition he needs, consider the following guidelines.
 
  • Many kids at this age become picky eaters. They have much less of an appetite because their growth naturally slows at this age. Do not force your child to eat anything, but continue to offer a variety of foods.
  • Avoid sugary snacks, juice, & pop. If they fill up on these empty calories, they won't eat the nutritious foods they need. They are also bad for teeth!
  • Toddlers should not have more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit or vegetable juice per day. 
  • No bottles! They can use all cups at this age.
  • Continue whole milk or 2% milk if your child drinks milk. No milk is necessary if your child doesn't like it or can't tolerate it. They can get calcium and protein from many sources and we all should take a vitamin D supplement.

What should my toddler eat?

  • Your toddler should be eating table foods and drinking from a cup.
  • Toddlers are still learning basic feeding skills. Encourage your toddler to feed himself. Let him practice with a child-sized spoon or fork, but do not be surprised if he would rather eat with his fingers.
  • Mealtime will be messy! Be patient and have fun!

How should my child eat?

  • Your child’s stomach is still quite small, so it is important to offer him 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day.
  • Toddlers eat better when they are given meals and snacks at about the same time each day. Do not let your child snack all day long. Let him know that another time to eat will be coming soon.
  • Eat with your child, as a family as much as possible.

When should my toddler eat?

  • Your child’s stomach is still quite small, so it is important to offer him 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day. Think of snacks as "mini meals" and offer protein with each feeding.
  • Toddlers eat better when they are given meals and snacks at about the same time each day. Do not let your child snack all day long. Let him know that another time to eat will be coming soon.
  • Eat with your child as a family as much as possible.

What should my toddler drink?

  • Your toddler should be offered low fat milk or water with meals.
  • Limit any milk to no more than 24 ounces/day. Some kids drink none at all, and that is preferred over too much! They can get the nutrients elsewhere if they don't drink milk, but they can become depleated in iron and other nutrients if they drink too much milk.
  • Limit juice intake to 4 ounces per day, if at all. Be sure it is 100% fruit or vegetable juice.
  • Soda pop, juice drinks, and Kool-Aid do not have a place in your child’s diet.

Where should my child eat?

  • Your toddler should eat all meals and snacks in a high chair or at the table. It is a choking hazard for your child to eat food around the house or while walking or playing.
  • Minimize distractions by sending pets out of the room and turning off the television and radio.

Does my toddler need a vitamin supplement?

  • All children need a supplemental Vitamin D. Learn more about Vitamin D.
  • All children need supplemental iron. Learn more about iron supplements.

How can I keep my child safe while eating?

  • Toddlers can choke easily. Never feed toddlers nuts, popcorn, whole grapes, hard candy (including jelly beans), chunks of raw vegetables, hotdogs, or carrot coins.
  • Do not allow your child to run and play with food in his mouth. Always supervise your child while eating.
  • Before eating or touching food, have children wash their hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. This is  the time it takes to sing the ABC song as he washes his hands. 
  • Let hot food cool to avoid burning your child’s mouth. Be especially careful to cool food that has been heated in the microwave.
  • If your child has a strong family history of significant food allergy or asthma, delay introducing eggs until 2 years of age, and peanuts, fish, and seafood until 3 years of age.
  • Parents and other caregivers should take infant and child CPR every 2 years.

How do I prevent mealtime from becoming a battle?

Remember that both you and your child have specific “jobs” when it comes to eating:
 
  • The caregiver’s jobs are to decide what food is offered, when the food is offered, and where it will be eaten.The child’s jobs are to decide if he will or will not eat, what he will eat from the foods offered, and how much he will eat.
  • It is acceptable to hide nutritious foods in casseroles, smoothies, or other recipes.
  • Cut foods into fun shapes or arrange it on the plate in a fun pattern (ie a smiley face).
  • Offer small portions.
  • Encourage healthy foods by describing how much you enjoy eating them.
  • Keep meals to 20-30 minutes. Allowing kids to play too much or come and go from the table does not encourage good eating habits.
  • Do not substitute less healthy foods simply to get your child to eat. If hungry, kids will eat what's offered.
  • Don't give up! Kids need repeated exposures to a food to learn to love it. 
  • Praise when your child tries a new food.
  • If your child totally refuses a food, offer a food from the same food group at another meal or snack.

How do I deal with a picky eater?

  • Offer small portions that will not overwhelm your child.
  • When you offer a new food, simply place it on your child’s plate without making a big deal out of it. Encourage your child to try at least one bite of all foods, but never force a toddler to eat.
  • Try to keep meals and snacks to 20-30 minutes in length. Another meal or snack time is only a couple of hours away.
  • Resist the urge to offer sugary foods in an effort to get your child to eat more.
  • Don’t give up!  Keep trying new foods even if your child does not eat them the first time. It may take many attempts before your child decides to accept a new food. Always praise your child for trying a new food.
  • If your child totally refuses a food, offer a food from the same food group at another meal or snack.
  • Be a good role model! Let your child see you enjoying a healthy diet, too.

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