Is Your Toddler Eating Enough?

a meal
Image via Mindi Stavish

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.

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Check out these examples of toddler serving sizes.

Image via Mindi Stavish


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
Image via Mindi Stavish


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:

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  • 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
Image via Flickr/ Benjamin Horn


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
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Image via Mindi Stavish


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

{ MORE: What to Do When the Picky Eater Emerges }

Image via Flickr/ Ginny

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
Image via Mindi Stavish

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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What is your biggest struggle when feeding your toddler?

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Is Your Toddler Eating Enough?

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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