Feeding a Toddler

Mother and Son Playing

Toddlers are notoriously picky when it comes to eating. Not only do toddlers need far fewer calories than they did as babies, they also have discovered they can voice their opinions and be stubborn about food. Whether they do this to test their own limits or to drive their parents crazy – toddlers need special considerations when it comes to meal time.

Toddler Nutrition

Toddlers need a well balanced diet of nutrients and vitamins. While it is possible to get all of your child’s nutrients in via diet alone, a multivitamin can’t hurt anything. Throw a chewable vitamin on your child’s plate at breakfast along with his normal meal and you can rest assured that even if he drinks only milk and eats noodles, his nutrition is roughly covered at least.

When it comes to toddlers, you should not chart his caloric and nutrient intake every day. Instead average his food intake every three days or so. Very few toddlers eat three squares a day, so it is only stressful to try and figure out how many bites of cantaloupe he needs to fulfill his Vitamin A for the day. It’s more likely he’ll just eat three giant pieces tomorrow than give in and take just one more bite today.

Nutritional Guidelines for Toddlers

A child between the ages of one and three needs far fewer calories and nutrients than you may think. Here is the breakdown of a day – although you do best to consider his intake over a few days rather than a single one.

You should be feeding your toddler:

  • Protein – 16 ounces of milk and one ounce of meat makes up the 16 required grams.
  • Fats – A full 30% or more of a toddler’s diet should come from fats. Find healthier sources of fats such as peanut butter and olive oil rather than junk food and ice cream.
  • 325-1000 mg of Sodium
  • 40 mg of Vitamin C
  • 400 ug. RE of Vitamin A
  • 800 mg of Calcium (16 ounces of milk is only 600 mg.)
  • 10 mg of Iron
  • 10 mg of Zinc
  • 50 ug of Folate

Overall your child should be consuming 1000 to 1300 calories per day. That is 40 calories per day per inch of height. (There are 3.14 cm in an inch.) The bulk of the calories should come from carbohydrates.

Toddler Favorites

While some toddler will eat anything, others are more sensitive to the appearance and texture of foods. Offer your child whatever meal you’ve prepared that night, but always be sure to include a favorite that you know he’ll eat.

Surprisingly even a diet consisting of grilled cheese, orange juice, milk, and bananas is enough to cover almost all of the nutritional guidelines. If you can sneak in some meat, you’d just about have it covered. Don’t battle your child over food. Give him an option of healthy satisfying options and let him select what he wants to eat. It might appear as though he has eaten nothing at all, but looking over the number of meals and snacks your child consumes in a few days should give you a better understanding of his intake.

Toddler Food Ideas

Here are a few ideas of moderately healthy food choices your toddler might be inclined to eat on a given day:


  • Yogurt
  • Pudding
  • Milk
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheese sticks
  • Cheese cubes

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Quartered grapes
  • Bananas
  • Apple slices
  • Carrot sticks
  • Lima beans
  • Green beans
  • Baked carrots
  • Broccoli with cheese
  • Cauliflower with cheese
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Diced tomatoes


  • Deli meat
  • Cubed ham, turkey, or roast beef
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Sausage
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Baked beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Pinto beans


  • Whole grain toast
  • Whole grain bagels
  • Whole grain waffles
  • Blueberry pancakes
  • Silver dollar (mini) pancakes
  • Tortillas with cheese
  • Crackers
  • Sandwich bread
  • Muffins
  • Biscuits

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