toddler-portion-sizes
As your son or daughter transitions out of infancy and into toddlerhood there are A LOT of changes to their normal routine and schedule. You transition them from formula to whole milk. You quit with the pureed baby food. You may have decided to wean from breastfeeding – or your baby did. It can leave you with a lot of questions about what and how much you should be feeding your toddler. Portion sizes are important in childhood because their tummies are so so small. You want to make sure they are getting everything they neeed and not just a few thinks from their plate they fill up on first. Cause let’s be honest…most toddlers aren’t picking up the fruits and veggies from their plate first – I know my doesn’t. But don’t worry mama! I’m going to walk you through just how much of each food group you should be offering your toddler at mealtime so you can ensure your tiny foodie is getting everything they need.

What Should My Toddler Be Eating?

Your toddler should be eating a variety of healthy foods from all 5 food groups daily:
  • Fruits 
  • Veggies 
  • Grains 
  • Dairy 
  • Protein 
How much your toddler eats at mealtime will change as they grow and even with each meal you offer them. Some things that can affect your toddler’s appetite are:
  • How physically active have been that day?
  • Are they tired?
  • Are they sick?
  • Are they hitting a growth spurt?
The best way to tackle this changing appetite is to start out with the appropriate toddler portion sizes I am about to cover with you. You can always offer them a second plate of food if they are still hungry after finishing that first plate. Advice from a Pro: Don’t stress on the day-to-day eating habits of your toddler because they will vary a lot – focus on the weekly habits. Contact me if you have any questions or concerns about your toddler’s eating habits.

Protein

Goal: 2 toddler portion sizes daily What is one toddler portion size? 
  • 1 ounce of cooked beef, turkey, chicken, or fish 
  • 1 cooked egg
  • ¼ cup cooked beans
Fish – or seafood – once a week helps to support your toddler’s brain development. Infancy and toddlerhood are stages in your child’s life where their brain develops and grows the most, so it’s important! What if your toddler is a vegetarian? Talk to your child’s pediatrician or a child nutritionist (*cough cough* me) to ensure your child is getting enough iron and vitamin B12.

Fruit

Goal: 3 toddler portion sizes daily What is one toddler portion size? 
  • ¼ cup of fresh fruit 
  • ¼ cup of cooked fruit 
  • ¼ cup of canned fruit 
Offering a variety of fruits to your child is most important when offering fruit. Eat the rainbow – offer fruits of different colors to get the best nutritional variety. Pro Tips: Choose fresh or canned fruit over fruit bars or leathers. When buying canned fruit make sure you pick the can that reads “no added sugar.”

Veggies

Goal: 3 toddler portion sizes daily What is one toddler portion size? 
  • ¼ cup of fresh veggies 
  • ¼ cup of cooked veggies
  • ¼ cup of canned veggies 
Offering a variety of veggies is also the most important thing to consider when offering your child veggies. Eat the rainbow – offer veggies of different colors to get the best nutritional variety. Pro Tip: Roast, steam, or mash veggies rather than frying or offering veggie chips.

Grains

Goal: 5 toddler portion sizes daily What is one toddler portion size? 
  • ½ – 1 slice of bread
  • ¼-½ cup of oatmeal 
  • ¼-½ cup of rice
  • ¼-½ cup of pasta
  • ½ cup cereal
  • ½ pancake or waffle 
  • ½ tortilla
Pro Tip: Look for words like “whole wheat flour” or “whole grain” on food products and nutrition labels at the grocery store.

Dairy (Or Dairy Alternatives)

Goal: 4 toddler portion sizes daily What is one toddler portion size? 
  • ½ cup of milk (or milk alternative) 
  • 1 ounce of cheese 
  • ½ cup of yogurt 
The same portion sizes still apply whether you offer your child dairy or dairy alternative products. For example, ½ cashew milk yogurt still counts for 1 portion of dairy. Pro Tip: 2-3 cups of milk per day is the current recommendation.

What Should My Toddler’s Plate Look Like?

Okay, so now you know how much you should feed your toddler daily but how does this look at mealtime? What should you serve your toddler – or what should their plate look like – at each meal?

Breakfast

Your toddler’s breakfast should include at least one portion of each of the following:
  • Milk (or other dairy product)
  • Fruit, veggie, or both
  • Grain
  • Occasionally you can offer a protein-  egg, sausage or ham – in place of a grain
Some breakfast ideas for your toddler – following the above guidelines – are:
  1. Bowl of breakfast cereal (milk and grain) + banana (fruit)
  2. Yogurt with strawberries (dairy and fruit) + whole-grain muffin (grain)
  3. Blueberry pancakes (grain and fruit) + cup of milk
  4. Egg bites with broccoli (protein + veggie) + cup of milk

Lunch/Dinner

Your toddler’s lunch/dinner should include at least one portion of each of the following:
  • Water or diluted fruit juice
  • Protein (meat or meat alternative)
  • Veggie
  • Fruit
  • Grain
Some lunch/dinner ideas for your toddler – following the guidelines above – are:
  1. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (grain and fruit and protein) + baby carrots + water (or juice)
  2. Chicken quesadilla (protein and grain) + applesauce (fruit) + cherry tomatoes (veggie) + water
  3. Hummus sandwich (protein and grain) + grapes (fruit) + green beans (veggie) + water
  4. Pesto pasta tossed with cherry tomatoes and cheese or chicken (grain and veggie and protein) + cantaloupe (fruit)

What Size Snack Should You Feed Your Toddler?

Your toddler is likely to snack in between mealtime. Snacks should be fairly small – remember their tummies are very small. Offer the portion sizes I have mentioned above in two food groups. Choosing a protein + fruit or veggie is a well-balanced snack for your toddler. Check out this list of 20 Easy & Healthy Snacks to Feed Your Growing Toddler.  Also these vegan-friendly toddler snacks! If you find your child isn’t eating at mealtime and just wants to snack, snack, snack all day – which is common – limit the amount of milk and/or snacks you offer them 1.5-2 hours before mealtime.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Remember your toddler’s appetite may vary from day to day or meal-to-meal – focus on their weekly eating habits. Offer the appropriate portion of food at each mealtime and serve a second plate if your toddler is still hungry. Make sure your toddler is eating a variety of foods from all 5 foods groups daily to ensure they are eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. Download my 20 Superfoods for Babies + Toddlers PDF Guide to learn how to easily boost the nutrition of your toddler’s meals + snacks!

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