In the early days of feeding a toddler—or during a sudden shift in appetite or preferences—it can be helpful to step back and look at the big picture. This contains information on food groups and recommended serving sizes, is an updated version of the handout you probably got from your pediatrician at the one year old check up. It contains foods that you probably really feed your kiddo though, since if your handout was like ours, it was written in 1995. So if you ever need a little help figuring out what to offer at snack time or dinner time, you can simply glance at this for help.
Appetites of toddlers can swing widely depending on whether they are dealing with teething, a growth spurt, or another developmental milestone. And this can be confusing for us parents, who already worry so much about how much—or how little—our kids are eating. But for me, I know that it’s helpful to be reminded that it’s okay if my toddler only eats half of a piece of fruit, or just a few bites of meat, because that’s actually an appropriate amount for someone their age and size.
Please know that my only intention for this is to give you a baseline, a starting point. It absolutely is not meant to be a mandate or a structured meal plan. And it should not take the place of any dietary concerns you have that would be better addressed by a pediatrician. There are days when my daughter eats much more than these recommendations—and days when she falls short in one category or other, just like any adult would if you compared real intake with a piece of paper. So keep the big picture in mind and aim for a balanced diet over the course of a week or longer.
And most importantly, trust the hunger cues and natural eating patterns of your child first and foremost. In my mind—and that of the very respected feeding expert Ellyn Slatter—it’s your job to decide what and when to feed them and it’s their job to decide how much to eat.
Keep this guide to reference whenever you worry about whether or not your toddler is getting the right nutrition. It just might reassure you!