By Joan Avolio, RD

On December 7th, Dr. Ketyer posted the article “First Foods”, which gives very practical and sound advice on how to introduce and advance solid foods in infants.  The toddler stage follows next — from about 18 months to 3 years of age.  During this time, the growth we got used to seeing in infancy slows down and subsequently food intake decreases.  At this age children are undergoing other physical, social, and behavioral changes that will affect what they eat as well.  It is often upsetting and frustrating for parents when they see their child who readily ate vegetables, fruits, and meat may now refuse some or all of these items, and only eat a few select foods.  It is common for toddlers to change their food preferences or eat a lot one day then not so much the next.  Fortunately, what most children actually need at this age is less than what you may think.  Below are daily food guidelines for toddlers published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This can help to reassure you that overall your child is getting enough of what they need for growth and development.

Food Group — Servings/Day and Amount to Equal 1 Serving

Dairy – 6 servings per day.

Each serving = 1/2 cup (4 ounces) milk or yogurt; 1/2 ounce cheese.

Meat/Protein – 2 servings per day.

Each serving =1-3 tablespoons beef, pork, chicken, fish, etc.; 2-4 tablespoons beans or chopped nuts; 1 egg.

Grains – 6 servings per day.

Each serving = 1/4 to 1/2 slice bread product; 1/4 to 1/2 cup ready to eat or cooked cereal, rice, or pasta.

Vegetables – 3 servings per day.

Each serving = 1/4 to 1/3 cup cooked, canned, frozen, or fresh chopped vegetables; 1/4 to 1/3 cup (2-3 ounces) vegetable juice.

Fruits – 2-3 servings per day.

Each serving = 1/2 small fruit; 1/4 to 1/3 cup cooked, canned, frozen, or fresh chopped fruit; 1/4 to 1/3 cup (2-3 ounces) 100% juice.

Fats– 3 servings per day.

Each serving = 1 teaspoon added butter, margarine, or oil.



Editor’s note:  It is important to remember that your toddler will probably not accept some of what you serve them, especially at dinnertime.  Since most toddlers eat pretty well at breakfast and lunch and have healthy snacks during the day, they really might not be very hungry at the dinner hour.

Some Do’s and Don’ts regarding feeding toddlers:

  • Do eat at home, together as a family, as much as possible.  Parents need to be good role models for their children.
  • Do turn off the TV and keep cell phones away from the table during meals.  Mealtime is family time, and family time is special.
  • Don’t assume that your toddler doesn’t like what you offer them!  There is nothing wrong with the taste of food most adults eat.
  • Do assume that not eating what you’ve served means they’re not hungry.
  • Don’t fight with your toddler (you’ll never win that fight!).  See what I mean in this YouTube video here.
  • Don’t make your child a separate dinner from what you’ve prepared for the rest of your family.  Remember, if they don’t want to eat it, they’re probably not hungry.
  • Do call your pediatrician if you are concerned with how your child is eating, or if you are worried about their growth or development.


** Joan Avolio is a registered dietician.  She sees children and their families at the Arcadia Division of Pediatric Alliance.  Joan is a regular contributor to The PediaBlog.