Deciding what to feed your toddler every day can be a challenge so these sample toddler meal plans, and information on what and when to feed, should help.
Toddler Meal Plan
To give you examples of what a toddler might eat in a day, I recorded 3 days of meals and snacks with my two year old. These days represent average days and will show how an appetite might fluctuate and the diversity of foods that we should be offering to our toddlers.
What should toddlers eat?
Each day, toddlers should have a mix of:
- Protein from dairy, nuts/legumes (in forms that are safe for their age), meat, poultry, and fish.
- Complex carbohydrates from whole grains and produce including sweet potatoes and squash.
- Healthy fats such as avocado, flax seed, chia seed, hemp seed, egg yolks, and nuts and seeds.
- Produce including fruits and veggies.
Toddlers also need and fiber-rich foods, which they’ll naturally get if they eat the complex carbs and produce recommended above, and iron-rich foods. It’s also a good idea to aim to serve them a wide range of foods to ensure that they’re getting the nutrition they need to grow—and to help avoid falling into a rut of picky eating.
How many meals a day should a toddler have?
Most toddlers will do well with three main meals and two smaller snacks a day. Tune in to your toddler though because they may prefer a snack first thing, then breakfast later in the morning at what is typically morning snack time. Many toddlers are also hungry for a dinner-size meal at 4 pm and would be satisfied with a smaller snack closer to bedtime. You can adjust as needed.
How much time should I allow between toddler meals?
Depending on the age of your toddler, and their activity level, whether they have a cold, and what you’re up to, they should be able to go 2-3 hours between meals and snacks. That window of time will give them plenty of time to work up an appetite, which can help them be more interested in eating what you serve them.
Having set meal and snack times is a good routine to aim for since it can set a cadence to your day and help your toddler know what to expect. (I.E., try not to allow grazing on snacks all day since that is the fastest way to ruin an appetite for an actual meal!)
Toddler Feeding Schedule
Here’s a look at two options for toddler feeding schedules that might work for your toddler. These are not set in stone because I realize that everyone has a different daily schedule but are meant to be examples for you to consider and adjust.
- 7 am: Breakfast
- 9:30 am: Morning Snack
- 12 pm: Lunch
- 3 pm: Afternoon Snack
- 5:30 pm: Dinner
- 6 am: Breakfast
- 9 am: Morning Snack
- 11:30 am: Lunch
- 2:30 pm: Afternoon Snack
- 5:30: Fruits and/or Veggies while waiting for dinner
- 6 pm: Dinner
Meal Plan for 2 Year Old
Here’s a look at two sample toddler meal plans from real life with my two year old.
Sample Toddler Meal Plan Day One
This was a weekend day and we typically go lighter on snacks to help our toddler have an appetite for her meals. She ate a solid breakfast this day so the banana was all she needed for her morning snack.
- Breakfast: Applesauce Waffles, applesauce, nut butter
- Morning Snack: Banana, water
- Lunch: Spinach Pesto Pasta with Peas, grapes, fruit leather, milk
- Afternoon Snack: Cherry tomatoes, raisins
- Dinner: 1/2 Cheesy Meat Bun, broccoli, milk
Sample Toddler Meal Plan Day Two
This toddler menu was another sample day in our life. On this day, my two year old ate more substantial snacks and didn’t eat all of her main meals, as sometimes happens.
- Breakfast: Breakfast Cookie, reusable pouch with plain whole milk yogurt
- Morning Snack: Cheese stick, clementine
- Lunch: Butternut Squash Apple Soup, Veggie Straws, fresh snap peas with ranch (she didn’t eat all of this and mostly ignored the soup!)
- Afternoon Snack: Joe’s O’s, kiwi, milk
- Dinner: Taco filling with ground beef, peppers, beans, and corn; cheese quesadilla (she mostly ate the quesadilla in this meal)
Sample Toddler Meal Plan Day Three
My toddler loves her oatmeal, so she started this sample toddler menu with a solid breakfast and ate fairly well during the day, trailing off a bit at dinner.
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon, milk
- Morning Snack: cottage cheese, canned peaches (we have some home canned peaches, but if store-bought, look for ones canned in light syrup
- Lunch: crispy breaded tofu, toast sticks with jam, sautéed carrots
- Afternoon Snack: Mini Larabar, water
- Dinner: Bratwurst, steamed beets, roll, strawberries (she ate everything except the meat)
How do I know if my toddler is eating enough?
If your toddler is healthy and is energetic, you can trust them to eat as much as they need for their hunger. To help them do this, try to:
- Limit distractions at the table, turning off screens so they can focus on their food.
- Sit with them while they eat so they start to learn table manners and can mimic what they see you doing.
- Don’t pressure them to eat more than they seem to want.
- Read up on the Division of Responsibility in Feeding to avoid power struggles.
- Set meal times and decide what to feed at each meal.
- Let the kids decide what of the food to eat and how much.
- Aim to serve a variety of healthy foods throughout the week.
- Remember that just because a toddler refuses a food doesn’t mean that they don’t like it.
- Keep foods you want them to eat in regular rotation so they’re familiar.
- Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming the kids.
- Be patient, they’re still learning!
- Remember that appetites naturally fluctuate and that is not a cause for concern.
There’s No Such Thing As a Perfect Toddler Diet
And most of all, take images of meals that other kids are eating with a grain of salt. No two kids are the same, no two families are the same. There is not one perfect way to feed a toddler, but I hope that seeing some examples do help!