Is Your Toddler Eating Enough?
Toddlers can certainly drive you nuts when it comes to mealtime. More often than not, my three-year-old will take three bites of his meal before he declares, “I'm full!” The boy is a bean pole and hardly puts on weight from year to year. On a rare occasion, he will eat his share and ask for a second serving. I am constantly concerned that he doesn't eat enough.
What exactly is ‘enough' when it comes to portion sizes for a toddler? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children from the ages of 1 and 3 consume 40 calories for every inch of height. For example, a toddler who is 28 inches tall should eat 1,120 calories a day. This amount varies based on a child's build and activity level. Taller or more active toddlers will eat more than shorter or less active toddlers. Additionally, a toddler's serving size is 1/4 less of what an adult's is.
Check out these examples of toddler serving sizes.
Offer your child a total of 6 servings of grains throughout the day. Toddler portions include:
- 1/4 – 1/2 bagel
- 2-4 medium size potato wedges
- 1/2 1 slice of bread
- 1/4 cup cereal
- 1/4 cup pasta
Offer your child 1-2 fruit or vegetable at each meal. Since these are high energy and low and sugar foods, toddlers should freely be able to eat larger portions than suggested if they want to. Portions include:
- 3 – 10 small grapes or berries
- 1/2 – 1 kiwi
- 1/2 – 2 tablespoons green beans
- 1 – 3 tablespoons carrots
- 1/4 – 1 banana
- 1 – 4 small broccoli florets 1/4 – 1/2 apple
Offer dairy about 3 times per day with meals or snacks. Portions include:
- 1 slice of cheese
- 1 cup of milk
- 1/4 cup yogurt
Serve foods high in protein to your toddler 2 – 3 times per day. Portions include:
- 1/4 – 1 medium sausage
- 2 – 5 tablespoons of meat
- 1/4 – 1 small fillet of fish
- 2 cup homemade soup
- 1/2 – 1 egg
Foods High in Fat and Sugar
Since toddlers under two have lower energy needs, they should not be offered foods high in fat or sugar. Older toddlers may be given these food items in small quantities (once a day to occasionally). Here are some suggestions:
- 1 small bar of chocolate
- 1 cookie
- 6-8 gummy fruit snacks
- 4 -6 chips
Here are some of my favorite tips to help your toddler eat a wide variety of foods at mealtime.
1. Get your child involved in planning the meal
2. Keep meals colorful with a wide variety of foods
3. Follow your child's appetite cues. When they say they are full trust that they know their body and don't force them to remain at the table to clear their plate.
4. Be a positive food role model to encourage healthy eating habits.
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