Toddler Nutrition

Toddler Nutrition for your 1–3 Years Old Child

This information provides general nutrition recommendations. Talk with a health care provider or a diet and nutrition specialist (dietitian) if you have any questions.

Feeding

Between 12–15 months of age, your child may eat less food because he or she is growing more slowly. Your child may be a picky eater during this stage.

Drinking

  • Encourage your child to drink water.
  • Limit daily intake of juice to 4–6 oz (120–180 mL). Give your child juice that contains vitamin C and is made from 100% juice without additives. Offer juice in a cup without a lid, and encourage your child to finish his or her drink at the table. This will help to limit your child’s juice intake.
  • Do notallow your child to take juice in a bottle, sippy cup, or juice box to bed or to carry these around for an extended period of time. Sipping juice over an extended period can increase the risk of tooth decay.
  • Do notrequire your child to eat or to finish everything on his or her plate.

Eating

  • Model healthy food choices, and limit fast food choices and junk food.
  • Provide your child with 3 small meals and 2 or 3 nutritious snacks each day.
  • Cut all foods into small pieces to minimize the risk of choking.
  • Do notgive your child nuts, whole grapes, hard candies, popcorn, or chewing gum. Those types of food may cause your child to choke.
  • Try not to give your child foods that are high in fat, salt (sodium), or sugar.
  • Food allergies may cause your child to have a reaction (such as a rash, diarrhea, or vomiting) after eating or drinking. Talk with your health care provider if you have concerns about food allergies.

Forming healthy habits

  • Try not to let your child watch TV while he or she is eating.
  • Allow your child to feed himself or herself with a fork, spoon, and child-safe knife (utensils).

Continue to introduce your child to new foods that have different tastes and textures.

Nutrition

  • At 12 months of age, gradually stop giving baby foods and start to give your child the family diet.
  • Provide your child with healthy options for meals and snacks.
    • Aim for 1-1½ cups of fruits and 1-1½ cups of vegetables a day.
    • Provide whole grains whenever possible. Aim for 3-4 oz a day.
    • Serve lean proteins like fish, poultry, or beans. Aim for 2-3 oz a day.
    • Aim for 16–32 oz (480–960 mL) of milk a day.
  • After 12 months:
    • If you are not breastfeeding, you may stop giving your child infant formula and begin giving whole vitamin D milk, as directed by your healthcare provider.
    • If you are breastfeeding, you may continue to do so. Talk with your lactation consultant or health care provider about your child’s nutrition needs.

At 24 months, you may start giving your child reduced fat (2% or 1%) or fat-free (skim) milk instead of whole vitamin D milk.

Summary

  • Provide your child with healthy options for meals and snacks, including fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains, and dairy.
  • Encourage your child to drink water. Juice is not necessary in your child’s diet. If you do allow your child to drink juice, limit it to 4–6 oz (120–180 mL) a day.
  • Introduce your child to new tastes and textures, but remember that your child may be more picky about food choices at this age.
  • Provide your child with milk every day. Aim to have your child drink 16–32 oz (480–960 mL) of milk a day.
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