In This Post:
A question I often hear from moms –
How do I feed my child a healthy diet?
A great visual guide to this is the toddler food pyramid – and I’m a visual learner so I thought we’d cover it today!
I know the food pyramid has come and gone. MyPlate is the new food pyramid. Now MyPlate is great for visually what your child’s individual meals should look like. But, I think the food pyramid is a great visual for what their daily diet should look like as a whole.
What Is The Toddler Food Pyramid?
The toddler food pyramid is a visual representation of the dietary guidelines for your toddler. In essence, it’s what food groups your child should be eating each day and how much from those food groups they should be eating.
Note: These recommendations are just guidelines, not a strict playbook for you to follow. Every child will be different. Some will eat more and some will eat less. That is okay, as long as your child is healthy, gaining weight appropriately, and eating a balanced diet with a variety of healthy foods.
Let’s start from the bottom:
Grains are extremely important for your toddler’s diet because they provide their body with energy and fuel! Your growing toddler needs this energy to play, run, and be active throughout the day.
Many modern diet fads have us believe that grain-type foods are bad – but they’re not! Our body needs carbohydrates and isn’t something you should eliminate from your diet – especially your child’s.
Common food products you’ll find in the grains category are:
- Breakfast Cereals
How many servings of grains does your toddler need daily?
- Age 1-2: need 3-4 servings of grains
- Age 3-5: need 4-6 servings of grains
Fruits and Veggies
Fruit and vegetables are other important components in your child’s diet because they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients!
Don’t stress too much about the number of veggies your child will eat – toddlers are prone to be picky with veggies. Just try to serve some type of fruit or veggie with every meal and include it as a snack.
Focus on offering a variety of fruits and veggies you know your child will eat. The more color the better!
You can offer fruits and veggies in multiple different ways including:
- 100% fruit juices
- Whole, fresh fruit
- In Baked Goods
How many servings of fruits and veggies does your toddler need daily?
- Age 1-2: 2-3 servings of fruits and veggies
- Age 3-5: 4-5 servings of fruits and veggies
Dairy is a great source of calcium, protein, Vitamin D, and healthy fats – all of which your growing toddler needs.
If your child has a milk protein allergy or is lactose-intolerant look for milk alternatives that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Common food products included in the dairy category include:
How many servings of dairy does your toddler need daily?
- Age 1-2: 3 servings of dairy
- Age 3-5: 3 servings of dairy
You’d be surprised to learn that protein requirements for toddlers are fairly small 2-3 servings daily. It is very easy to meet this daily requirement so don’t stress over the amount of protein they are eating – they are likely meeting it!
Protein doesn’t only include meat! Your toddler consuming a vegetarian diet can get protein from plant sources too. Here are some common food products that are rich in protein:
- Red meat – like beef
- Nut butter – like peanut butter
How many servings of protein does your toddler need daily?
- 1-2 year olds: 2 servings of protein
- 3-5 year olds: 3-4 servings of protein
Fats + Oils
Fats and oils are only needed in a small amount. Your toddler will receive fat from dairy and protein, as well. They will get fat from cooking oils – olive oil, avocado oil, and butter.
With that being said there is no reason to your limit or restrict butter, olive oil, and healthy fats – like avocado and nuts. Your growing toddler needs the fat and calories for energy and brain development.
Sweets, Added Sugars, and Salty Foods
Sweets, added sugars, and salty foods – like snacks – are foods that you should limit from your child’s diet. They don’t have a lot to offer your toddler nutritionally, plus they are linked to an increased risk of childhood obesity.
This doesn’t mean you have to eliminate or restrict these foods. I never recommend eliminating foods from your or your child’s diet – it’s unrealistic. But serve these foods in moderation.
Make them fun treats and things you enjoy on occasion.
These types of foods include:
- Baked sweets – cookies, cake, etc.
- Sweetened beverages – soda, sweet tea, sports drinks
- Snack foods – chips, crackers, gummy treats
I HIGHLY recommend that you avoid added sugars before 2 years of age. Check the nutrition label of your food products to see the “Added Sugar” amount.
How Much Should My Toddler Eat?
You should offer your toddler 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day of nutritious food.
Offer small servings at first (around 1 serving) and then offer seconds if your child is still hungry. This takes the pressure off your child to eat a large plate of food. This can be overwhelming and result in what we think is picky eating.
Offering appropriate-sized portions will also teach your child to be an intuitive eater from an early age. This helps to build healthy habits and relationships with food later in life.
Tips for Feeding Your Toddler A Healthy Diet
Here are some healthy eating tips and tricks to keep in mind when feeding your child:
- Offer a variety of foods from different food groups
- Make ½ of your toddler’s grains whole grains – like brown rice, oatmeal, 100% whole grain bread
- Serve a variety of lean protein foods
- Make half their plate fruits and veggies
- Choose fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits and veggies
- Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt
- Avoid sugary food and drinks
- Avoid foods high in salt (sodium)
- Chose healthy snacks – check out my list
- Select canned foods labeled low sodium, reduced-sodium or no salt added
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks – soda, energy drinks,fizzy drinks, and sports drinks
The toddler food pyramid is a visual representation of the dietary guidelines for your toddler. Your toddler’s diet should include a variety of grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, and dairy products.
Offer food and drinks high in fat, sugar, and salt less often.
Want to know more about boosting the nutritional value of your child’s meals and snacks? Download my free superfoods guide for tips and ideas – even for the pickiest of eaters.