How much should my toddler eat?
I am often asked just how much a toddler should be eating. Certainly they vary enormously, and if you have a toddler who eats a lot you probably don’t need to read any further. It is not uncommon for 12-18mth olds to really only have one great meal a day (often breakfast) a scrappy lunch and then a medium size dinner.
They don’t need 3 similar size meals a day.
Boring food is our perception. Toddlers often like what they like all the time, then change their mind for no apparent reason.
Toddlers are notoriously fussy eaters. They’re hesitant to try anything new, don’t seem to eat very much and some days will only eat yellow coloured food for no good reason at all! Although being picky about food is a normal toddler-ism, you can ensure your toddler is getting his daily nutritional needs met by knowing what he should be eating with the toddler healthy eating pyramid. The toddler healthy food pyramid outlines recommendations (not absolute rules!) how much of each food group under twos should be eating.
The five food groups:
- Protein – this includes lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes
- Grains – this includes bread, cereals, rice, pasta and noodles
- Dairy – this includes milk, yoghurt, and cheese
Here’s a guide to how much toddlers should be eating per day from each food group:
Toddler daily needs
How big is one serve?
He needs one cup of fruit each day for his vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and fibre needs. A typical serving size to offer at meal or snack time is 1/4 cup. Below are some examples of a cup of fruit:
- 1 medium piece of fruit
- 1 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit
- 200ml 100% fruit juice
- 1/2 cup dried fruit
Toddlers need about 3/4 cup of veggies each day. You can divide this up and offer vegetables throughout the day with meals and as snacks. Offer a variety of coloured vegetables to ensure you’re giving your tot a wide assortment of nutrients. Here are some examples of what constitutes 3/4 cup of vegetables:
- 3/4 cup raw or cooked vegetables
- 2 cups raw leafy vegetables
- 200ml vegetable juice (not every day)
- 1 small potato
- 1 medium tomato (Maybe not to all toddler’s preference )
- 12 baby carrots (you wish!!)
For protein, Vitamin B iron and zinc, toddlers need about 30g of meat or meat equivalent per day such as:
- 30g meat, poultry or fish
- 1/4 cup dry beans or baked beans
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- A small handful of nuts or seeds (taking acre with under 2’s choking risk
- 1/4 cup tofu
- 2 tbsp hummus (use with cracker dips for snacks)
Carbohydrates, Vitamin B and iron are found in grains and your toddler needs 55g from the grain food group per day. Examples of 55g include:
- 1 slice bread
- 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal
- 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta
- 3/4 cup cold cereal
Dairy provides calcium, riboflavin and protein found in dairy foods. A daily serve of two cups of dairy will fulfill this need. You can divide the two cups into a between meal snack-size serving of 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup if you like. Examples include:
- 1/3 cup shredded cheese
- 1 cup yogurt
Fats should not be restricted to kids under the age of two years, so hold off on low fat dairy products until your toddler celebrates his second birthday.