Deciding what to feed your toddler every day can be a challenge so these sample toddler meal plans, feeding schedules, and information on what and when to feed, should help eliminate some of the confusion.

sample-day-of-toddler-food-in-grid

Toddler Meal Plan

To give you examples of what a toddler might eat in a day, I have 5 sample toddler meal plans from my own real life when my middle kiddo was 2 years old. These days represent average days and will show how an appetite might fluctuate and the diversity of foods that we can 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 iron-rich foods and fiber-rich foods, which they’ll naturally get if they eat from a mix of categories above. 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.

This may sound overwhelming, but really, if you aim for 1-2 food groups minimum at most meals and vary what you serve throughout the week, you don’t need to spend time tracking food groups or counting grams, promise.

TIP: Get a printable Toddler Daily Nutrition Chart here.

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.

TIP: It can help to think of all of the food your child eats in one day as “mini meals” and to serve the same sorts of foods at each meal—instead of saving “snack” foods for just snack times. That can improve your kiddo’s disposition at all meals!

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, etc, you can aim for 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!)

TIP: Learn what to do when your toddler won’t eat here.

Toddler Feeding Schedule

Here’s a look at three sample 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
  • (1 pm nap)
  • 3 pm: Afternoon Snack
  • 5:30 pm: Dinner

OR

  • 6 am: Breakfast
  • 9 am: Morning Snack
  • 11:30 am: Lunch
  • (12 pm nap)
  • 2:30 pm: Afternoon Snack
  • 5:30: Fruits and/or Veggies while waiting for dinner
  • 6 pm: Dinner

1 Year Old Feeding Schedule

For a one year old who’s still taking two naps a day and having bottles or breastfeeding, here’s a look at what their schedule might be. (For more info on how to wean a toddler and gradually drop bottles or breastfeeding (if you want to), this post has all of the weaning info you might need.)

  • 6 am bottle or breastfeeding
  • 7 am: Breakfast
  • 9 am: Morning Snack
  • (9:30 am nap)
  • 10:30 am bottle or breastfeeding
  • 11:30 am: Lunch
  • (1 pm nap)
  • 2:30 bottle or breastfeeding
  • 3:30 pm: Afternoon Snack
  • 5:30 pm: Dinner
  • 6:30: bottle or breastfeeding
  • (7pm bedtime)

TIP: Find out more about 1 Year Old Feeding Schedules here.

daily toddler meals and snacks in gridToddler Meal Plan for 2 Year Old

Here’s a look at a few sample toddler meal plans from real life with my two year old. This first 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.

meals and snacks for a toddlerSample 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 in grid of 5Sample Toddler Meal Plan Day Three

I love to make a batch of muffins on the weekend to have on hand for easy weekday breakfasts—and the Banana Oatmeal Muffins are always a hit with my kids.

Sample Meal Plan Day Four

This may or may not be the right amount of food for your child, so adjust what you serve based on their typical hunger patterns and allow more food if they let you know they’re still hungry.

Sample Meal Plan Day Five

We do oatmeal at least twice a week and I’ve found that having it in a regular cadence each week increases the likelihood that my toddler will be happy to eat it.

TIP: My kiddo was on a cottage cheese kick on this day, hence having it twice.

How do I know if my toddler is eating enough?

If your toddler is healthy and is energetic, is meeting milestones and is gaining weight, you can trust them to eat as much as they need for their hunger assuming there are no medical issues at play. (If there are medical concerns, always check in with your pediatrician.)

To help them do this, try to:

  1. Limit distractions at the table, turning off screens so they can focus on their food.
  2. Sit with them while they eat so they start to learn table manners and can mimic what they see you doing.
  3. Don’t pressure them to eat more than they seem to want.
  4. Read up on the Division of Responsibility in Feeding to avoid power struggles.
  5. Set meal times and decide what to feed at each meal.
  6. Let the kids decide what of the food to eat and how much.
  7. Aim to serve a variety of healthy foods throughout the week.
  8. Remember that just because a toddler refuses a food doesn’t mean that they don’t like it.
  9. Keep foods you want them to eat in regular rotation so they’re familiar.
  10. Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming the kids.
  11. Be patient, they’re still learning!
  12. Remember that appetites naturally fluctuate and that is not a cause for concern.

TIP: Learn more about normal picky eating in toddlers.

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!

Click here for a printable Daily Toddler Nutrition Guide.

I’d love to know how you approach toddler meals and timing in your house, so please comment below to share!

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Comments

  1. Thank you for these helpful meal plans, ideas and tips. My daughter (19 months old) seems to like to play with water rather than drink it. If i give her water, juice or milk in a cup she pours it all over the table and floor and make a mess. I can’t seem to find any remedy for that. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi! I would keep the amount you offer her at any given time very small so there is less to play with. I have also taken cups away and kept them near me and just offered them sporadically during the meal (my toddler still often plays with her cup if it’s right by her). I hope that helps!

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been struggling lately with my toddler and I think this has given me a plan for how I should be dealing with this. I just had one question, sometimes my daughter will pick only one of the things on the plate and only eat that. For example, if I were to offer her strawberries in a meal she won’t touch anything else. What would you suggest one does when that happens?

    1. Hi! I would suggest that you allow her to eat just the strawberries, though encourage her to try the other foods in a not too forceful way by talking about how they taste as compared with foods she likes. (It may or may not help.) I would also encourage you to continue to talk to her about how she needs to eat until her belly is full since we won’t be eating again until the next meal—my goal with that would be to avoid extra snacks in between meals. Aim to include 1-2 foods she usually likes at each meal and then let her be in charge of how much and what she eats. She may not be that hungry and she may go through phases of being more or less hungry. Toddlers often have a real decrease in their hunger around 2 or 3, but it will come back up. You can also check out this post for more info on mealtime structure: https://www.yummytoddlerfood.com/the-division-of-responsibility/

      1. My grandson will refuse all other food if one of his favorites is in view. So i make trades for bites. I tell him to eat one bite of each of the other foods and then he gets one bite of his favorite. He loves all red colored stuff. Melon, tomatoes, berries, etç. i stick to my guns before he can have any otherwise he will only eat tomatoes. If it is a new food i give plenty of slack and i give at different times and in different ways like baked vs steamed or grilled. If he doesn’t like in every form then i know not to offer it anymore. If i keep the reward foods out of sight until at least half of the meal is eaten he will eat better. But each day holds a new adventure .

  3. Hello! I happened to come across your webpage as I was desperately looking for meal ideas for my little one who is 17 months old. He has been refusing to eat almost everything that I offer him for the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure if it’s because he is teething, or if he feels he has too many teeth already (he has 12 including the molars, plus 2 canine teeth are coming out too!) and he is finding it difficult to move the food inside his mouth! He now refuses food that he used to eat previously, like eggs.But your webpage has some great meal ideas that I will definitely try out! It stresses me out to no end when I see my little one throw the food down on the floor, or purse his mouth closed whenever I bring a spoon close to him. I hope it’s just a phase.
    Great job on the webpage and I will bookmark this for future reference! Thank you!

    1. I hope it’s just a phase too—teething molars can really be rough on the kids! Hang in there!

  4. Thank you for this informative post. I’m having a hard time preparing food for my kid and sometimes I’m running out of new ideas on what to prepare. Thankfully, she loves to eat fish and fruits. Until now, she doesn’t like using utensils so I just let her use her hands. I hope to see more plan meals from you. Thumbs up for this topic!

  5. Thanks for the post! It’s great seeing other meal ideas. I feel like with my son (who will be 14 months at the end of the week) we tend to fall back on a lot of his favorites because we know he will eat them. It’s hard finding the balance between knowing that your kiddo is getting enough to eat and worrying because some days he/she doesn’t really want what you’re offering. My son rarely eats meat (sometimes he will eat fish) although we try to offer it to him and I’m not sure if it’s a texture thing, the fact that he only has 6 teeth, or something entirely different. Just got to keep on offering and maybe one day he will try eating it (instead of refusing and then later throwing it down on the floor for the dogs -_- ) Also, we haven’t introduced using utensils yet for self-feeding so that will be an adventure…but I feel it will open up more food options (my son prefers to self-feed and will only let me spoon feed him oatmeal or applesauce).

    1. So many kiddos don’t love meat (my toddler only eats it at daycare…and I can’t figure out why!). I’d aim to include a food he usually likes on his plate for each meal and then super small servings of other foods so he sees a range of foods and might try them. Utensils may take a while to master—many toddlers still use their hands when they’re two since it’s much more efficient. But you could try a reusable pouch if you haven’t already! We love the Squeasy Gear for yogurt, applesauce, and smoothies.

  6. I guess I don’t even really pay attention to how much our daughter consumes. I just present healthy options and let her eat what she wants. I figure she’ll eat if she’s hungry. We don’t do "try it bites," but if she says she doesn’t like something, I’ll just say, "That’s fine. Just leave it on your plate. You might like it next time." If she is hungry and not liking what’s offered, I’ll give her the option of bread with (coconut) butter, but that’s it. That way she’s not hungry, but she’s not expecting full-service catering. The only thing I am pushy on is that if she is eating bread and wants another piece she has to eat the crust of the first piece before I’ll get her another.

    1. That is genius about her having to eat the crust before she gets a second piece of toast! I am going to start doing that—to cut down on food waste if nothing else:) That also seems like a really smart thing with having one set thing as a backup because then it’s so clear and there’s no bargaining. It just is what it is (but you also know she’s not then hungry). Smart!

  7. Young children can be so tricky to feed! I remember how delighted I was when Madeline was first eating solid foods and would gobble down nearly everything offered (the only exception being foods heavy with citric acid like tomatoes and oranges – still won’t eat those and I think she might be sensitive). Then around 2 1/2 years she started culling foods out of her diet with no rhyme or reason. Some of them came back (like eggs, thank goodness) but others are still not welcomed by her palette. Regarding vegetables, I loved what I learned from "Feeding Baby Green" by Dr. Alan Greene. Some people are PROP tasters, meaning bitter tastes are more noticeable and the PROP taster is initially put off by food that are bitter – like many green vegetables. But apparently, PROP tasters usually end up as very diverse eaters later in life. I’ve also read that many toddlers are drawn to fats because they are going through significant phase of brain development and fats are needed for the production of myelin to coat developing neural networks. And I love what Virginia wrote below about toddlers needing energy rich foods. Often vegetable consume more calories than they contain so children end up with negative calorie intake. Great for someone trying to lose weight and toddlers do not fall into that category.
    We do encourage a "let’s try" bite but work hard not to be too pushy. We thank her and if she didn’t like it we tell her it’s okay and she may like it some day. We also share stories of how we learned to try different foods. Texture seems to be really important – she loves yogurt and hummus but mashed up potatoes of any kind make her gag. I will admit that while we don’t set out to bribe or coax her with dessert as a reward (we have dessert randomly – it can take months to finish one small container or raspberry sorbet), our rule is we have dessert after we eat our healthy food. That means we eat all the healthy food we already like and a decent "let’s try" bite of something new or not favored. If others have better ideas about how to handle desserts I would love to hear them. While this doesn’t seem to be increasing her desire for sweets right now, I worry this may backfire on us at some point.
    This is such a wonderful post! I love reading it and the comments from others with stories about how we are doing our best to keep our young ones healthy, teach them about food, and the hard work we ourselves have to do of relinquishing control, trusting that with encouragement and healthy options, our children will learn how to make wise food choices.

    1. We offer a healthy dessert after our toddlers have eaten one of everything on their plate, and everything of one thing. For example: we may serve chicken with mash, peas, beans, corn and carrot. Our children will eat one piece of all the items, but my daughter typically eats all the chicken and my son eats all the carrots. They can then choose a dessert.
      I offer a choice of yoghurt, a slice of cheese, or an in season fruit (tonight, it was strawberries. )
      Who ever dictated that dessert needs to be unhealthy anyway? They enjoy it, and even if they did not fill up ondinner, at least they don’t go hungry.
      It also helps me to know if they are full, because sometimes they eat more (and sometimes less) than the minimum and are happy not to get the dessert.

  8. I’ll admit that June often wants a "treat" after lunch and dinner, and we do the "three more bites" thing as a negotiation, which I feel sheepish about, but I feel that NEED for her to eat what’s on her plate. She’s open to trying a bite of new things 90% of the time, which makes me happy, and she loves most fruit as well as salty fish like sardines and smoked salmon. But vegetables? Those are tough. Sometimes a bite of cooked broccoli makes it past her lips. But if we want her to eat, say, a carrot? Then the Pocky Stick is our bargaining tool. Luckily she thinks Pocky Sticks are to be eaten one by one… so far.

    I’d love to read a post on desserts and "treats." It seems like June wants a treat (or 3) every single day. We got into that cycle because I think I made getting food an activity, esp on cold or rainy days. "Oh, let’s go get a hot chocolate!" Now it’s a daily request.

    1. I’d like to second that request! Since we started offering her a "treat" to encourage the potty, it’s a word we hear a lot more often. I think she also gets a lot of "treats" at daycare with the older kids, which sabotages us a little.

      Tell me how you get J to eat sardines and salmon!!

      1. I have a post planned called "Too Many Treats" (we read a lot of Berenstein Bears around here…) so hopefully that’s helpful!

  9. Very insightful, and very heartening to read this, coming from someone who, for all intents and purposes, feeds her child as part of her job! My daughter is, on the whole, a good eater, but her predisposition towards all things sweet and her teeny portion intake is enough to make us go bonkers some days. All we can do is keep providing good choices. Let her eat Brie, as it were.

    1. I’m constantly amazed at the level of energy these little ones have and how much their intake can vary from day to day. Your girl likes brie?? Sounds like you guys are doing a good job!

      1. It’s funny that you said L requests dairy. E would eat Brie, cottage cheese, cheddar, yogurt, and milk for every meal if we let her, I think.

  10. Hey she ate banana, salsa, fruit leather, grapes, and black beans all in one day — that’s not too shabby on the produce intake!

    But I feel you and loved reading this because it looks a lot like what V consumes (or doesn’t consume) in a day and it’s nice to know I don’t have the only toddler nibbling through a lot of meals. When I was doing a lot of research on this subject, I came across an interesting study by childhood obesity researchers at Penn State. They found that typical toddlers are predisposed to prefer energy-rich foods and many will even prefer bananas to other fruits for that reason! It’s almost like we’re biologically programmed to be able to get in quick bursts of calories without having to eat a lot. This certainly makes sense from an evolutionary perspective! (The cheese and black beans will keep you alive longer.) And I bet the slow down on the growth spurt as a lot to do with increased choosiness — she needs fewer calories now, so eating is going to be inherently less exciting for awhile…

    (Here’s the study, in case you are interested: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1748-720X.2007.00111.x/abstract)

    1. Thanks for that link! I did see a mention of that while I was reading up and writing this post and it does make sense that they’d go for the really nutrient dense food. I’m not sure a bite of fruit counts as a serving but you are right that she did at least taste a wide assortment of fruits and veggies:)