What Does a Balanced Diet For a Toddler Look Like?

If you have a toddler, chances are you think about food a lot. You plan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks every single day.

You also probably wonder why your little one has recently ditched a previously favorite food or why they seem to suddenly be obsessed with crackers and cheese. While it’s important to feed growing little ones a range of healthy foods, it’s also important not to spend your whole life stressing about what your babe is or is not eating.

If you want to know what a simple, balanced diet looks like for a toddler, so you can stop stressing and start enjoying mealtime, read on.  

balanced diet
Image via Unsplash/ Zach Vessels

Depending on their age and size, most toddlers need between 1000 and 1400 calories per day to meet their growing nutritional needs. In an ideal world, toddlers would get these calories from a range of nutrient-dense foods. 

Grains: Toddlers should eat about three ounces of grains per day, with at least half coming from whole grain sources. Toddlers often like breads and pastas when it comes to fulfilling their need for grains. 

Vegetables: In a balanced diet, toddlers should have about one cup of vegetables per day. Make sure that vegetables are served soft and cut into small pieces to prevent choking.

While not all toddlers are fans of all vegetables, with a little trial and error you should be able to find at least a few veggies your little one enjoys eating. If they're opposed to a certain veggie, don't give up. Try different preparations (roasted, sauced, steamed) and different presentations (mixed with something they do like or cut up differently).

Fruit: Toddlers should have around one cup of fruit per day. Many toddlers enjoy a range of fruits so do your best to mix it up and continue to offer new options as they grow. 

Milk: Toddlers should drink about two cups per milk per day. Your pediatrician can recommend whether whole or two percent milk is a better fit for your little one. Though they’ve probably ditched the bottle by now, most toddlers will happily drink milk from a sippy cup. 

Meat or beans: Toddlers should have about two ounces of meat or beans per day in a balanced diet. If a toddler is not a meat fan, an egg can be substituted for one ounce of meat or beans. 

While these guidelines, supplied by experts in children’s health might seem tough to meet on any given day, by offering your little one a range of foods from the list above and avoiding offering foods high in empty calories, you’ll give them the opportunity to develop healthy, balanced eating habits that will last a lifetime! 

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What Does a Balanced Diet For a Toddler Look Like?

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. Julia lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. You can find more of her work at JuliaPelly.com ... More

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