Feeding a Toddler
Feeding toddlers can be challenging. They are often picky eaters,
are hesitant to try new foods, and in general, don’t seem to eat very much.
It may be helpful to remember a toddler needs a lot less to eat
than you think. Remember that children grow much slower during their second
year so their appetite may slow a bit.
This article is full of suggestions to help you have a toddler
that likes to eat. Many food suggestions for toddlers are at the end of the
A common problem with toddlers is that they just won’t eat. This is
often caused by the toddler drinking four bottles a day plus lots of juice. A toddler
only needs two cups of whole milk a day plus 4 oz. of juice. That leaves plenty
of room in the tummy for solid food and a healthy appetite. If your toddler
isn’t eating like you think he should, keep track of his bottles for a day. He
may be drinking all of his calories. Slowly wean him to 16 oz. of milk (two
cups) and 4 oz. of juice per day.
Offer him meal and snacks at the table and let him do the rest.
Your Toddler’s First Chair
Toddlers are usually children from about 12-24 months of age, or the
time period when the child begins to walk, or toddle. Many toddlers want to do
everything themselves. This can be tough because even though they have the will
to do everything themselves, they may not quite have the skill. Mealtime is a great
place to let them "do it themselves." They can finger feed, drink from a cup,
and even practice with a spoon.
When your baby wants to feed himself, it’s time to get a high
chair. A high chair will help your baby learn how to feed himself. It will also
help your baby be part of the family table. Your baby’s first chair is a very
Say “Yes to a Mess”!
Playing with food is part of learning how to eat. Your toddler
will learn a lot about food before it ever gets into his mouth by touching and
playing with food. Playing with food can be messy. That’s okay! Say yes to a
mess and help your toddler learn to enjoy eating a variety of foods.
Bring his high chair to the family table. Your toddler will learn
how to eat by watching you and others eat. Talk while you eat – talk about how
the food tastes good, talk about how you chew the food. Offer a drink from a cup
without a lid.
Toddlers need to eat with their hands. Most foods can become fun
finger foods. Help your toddler wash his hands before eating. Offer soft finger
foods on the high chair tray. Use table foods when possible. Avoid foods that
are high in salt, sugar or spices for young toddlers.
Be ready for a mess. Put newspaper under the high chair before
eating. The newspaper can be easily thrown away later. Or put a large towel
under your child’s chair. Shake off any excess food and wash the towel. Clean
up can be easy!
Your Toddler’s Diet
When your baby turns 1 year old, it is time to wean from the
bottle. Wean your baby from the bottle when he is 12 to 14 months old. Most
babies can drink whole milk when they are 1 year old.
Your baby will probably drink less when he is weaned from the
bottle. That’s okay! Too much milk can lead to iron deficiency or anemia. Offer
16 ounces of whole milk during the day. Let your toddler drink milk from a cup
at meal times and snack times. Your toddler will be drinking less milk and
eating more foods. Offer 3 meals a day. Offer 3 small snacks a day.
What will my toddler
Offer small amounts of the foods that your family is eating at
Offer soft foods, cut into small pieces that are easy for your
toddler to eat.
Children under the age of 2 years usually eat small amounts. Offer
1 to 2 tablespoons of each food to your toddler. Let him ask for more if he is
Let your toddler decide how much he needs to eat. Offer food every
2 to 3 hours, at meals or snacks. Snacks are small meals. Snacks are not
Here are some ideas
food suggestions for toddlers:
- Fruits and Vegetables: use soft fruits and soft cooked vegetables
cut into bite pieces. This could be fresh, frozen, or canned. Examples include
bananas, peaches, pears, watermelon, applesauce, cooked carrots, peas, cooked
green beans, etc. Toddlers should not have raw vegetables. They may choke on
- Cereals and Grains: most toddlers love these foods. They include
cereals like cheerios, or hot cereal like oatmeal or cream of wheat. (WIC
approved cereals are high in iron! Your toddler will need this now that he is
on whole milk.) Also in this group are crackers, bread or toast, pancakes,
rice, and noodles.
- Protein: this can be a little tricky for toddlers. Meats can be
hard for them to chew, but they need the protein and the iron. Try foods high
in protein like eggs, softer meat like meatloaf, meatballs, lean lunchmeat,
soft chicken, hamburger meat, beans, and tofu (a soy protein). When you have a
meat your toddler can eat, wrap a little up and freeze it for when you have a
meat they can’t chew.
- Milk Products: this is usually easy!! Your toddler needs about 16
oz. (2 cups) of whole milk per day. Use whole milk for good brain growth. Also
in this group is cheese and yogurt. If your toddler has cheese and yogurt every
day you may want to cut back slightly on the whole milk to drink.
- Fats and Sweets: limit things like chips, fried foods, kool-aid
or sweetened drinks, and candy.
Remember your toddler is watching what you eat! Set a good example
by having simple, healthy meals at the family table. Here is my golden rule of
Parents are responsible for what is put on the table to eat;
children are responsible for what they put in their mouth. Put good things on
your table to eat and your toddler will do the rest!