Toddler nutrition

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Toddler nutrition is the description of the dietary needs of toddlers aged one to two years old. Food provides the energy and nutrients that toddlers need to be healthy. An adequate intake in nutrient rich food is good nutrition. A diet lacking essential calories, minerals, fluid and vitamins could be considered 'bad' nutrition. Nutrition needs are different for toddlers. For a baby, breast milk is "best" and it has all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Toddlers typically have been weaned from breast milk and formula. Though infants usually start eating solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age, more and more solid foods are consumed by a growing toddler. If a food introduced one at a time, a potential allergen can be identified.[1] Food provides the energy and nutrients that young children need to be healthy. Toddlers are learning to feed themselves and to eat new foods. They should eat a variety of foods from all the food groups. Each day, toddlers need enough nutrients, including

  • 7 milligrams of iron
  • 700 milligrams of calcium
  • 600 IU of vitamin D[2]

The eating habits of toddlers differ from that of infants in that their diet resembles that of parents and siblings. Good nutrition for toddlers is the introduction of foods with new textures and flavors. A toddler will show preference for one food over another. The stomach of toddlers are small. Good nutrition and food will be to offer foods that are nutrient rich rather than foods with empty calories. Toddlers play with their food and practice self-feeding. They will use their fingers at first then with common eating utensils. Toddlers benefit from becoming more independent in feeding themselves. A toddler may try assert control over mealtimes and can cause conflict. Toddlers eat in response to feelings of hunger and of being full.[2]

USDA guidelines and menu choices[edit]

US Department of Agriculture Nutrition Guidelines


Milk provides calcium and vitamin D. These substances provides what is needed for strong bones. Most toddlers benefit the most from drinking whole milk. Dietary fats needed for the growth of the brain are in milk. Even toddlers can be overweight. A family history of heart disease, high cholesterol, or obesity, may require using reduced fat (2%) milk. At age 2 a toddler can move from whole milk to low-fat or nonfat milk.

A toddler can transition from a bottle/breast to a cup at about 18 months of age or even sooner. They benefit most from a gradual transition rather than abruptly withholding bottles. One strategy is to offer a cup of whole milk sometime after the meal begins. If the toddler is breastfeed they can transition directly to a cup and bypass using a bottle. Toddlers often don't prefer cow's milk over breast milk or formula. Mixing the cow's milk with breastmilk or formula can be done with the end result of the toddler receiving all cow's milk. Milk intake for toddlers can be reduced when protein from other sources is added to the diet.[2]


Iron deficiency can be a concern when the toddler reaches one year of age. Iron deficiency can cause difficulties in normal growth and development and cause anemia. Iron can be given to toddler in meat, fish, beans, and other iron-fortified foods. Toddlers benefit from eating iron-fortified cereal up until the age of 18 to 24 months. Clinicians can offer advice if caregivers believe that the toddler may be drinking too much milk.[3]

Foods to avoid[edit]

Food allergies can develop in toddlers. The risk of the child developing food allergies is greater if close family members have allergies. The toddler will eventually eat a variety of foods. As each food is introduced careful observation will identify whether or not an allergy is developing.[3]


Choking can be a concern. Some foods that may cause choking are: nuts, raisins hot dogs and popcorn. Toddlers benefit from never being left alone while eating.[3][4]


Toddlers can be given three meals per day. A schedule of snacks 2-3 times each day is appropriate. Toddlers sometimes will not want to eat at mealtime. Skipping a meal will not harm the toddler. Pushing food onto a child who is not hungry can lead to feeding problems - neither is eating on demand.[3]

Toddlers benefit from knowing that meals and snacks will be offered on a regular schedule. Concerns about adequate nutrition and calorie intake can be discussed with the pediatrician.[3][5]


  1. ^ "Infant and Newborn Nutrition: MedlinePlus". This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b c "Toddler Nutrition: MedlinePlus". Retrieved 27 July 2017. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Feeding Your 1- to 2-Year-Old". September 2014. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  4. ^ "Healthy Eating for Preschollers" (PDF). US Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 27 July 2017. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ "Maira Nutrition". Tuesday, 16 October 2018