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Toddlers

Toddlers

Give your toddler healthy choices as they explore new foods and flavors.

Toddlers are learning to feed themselves and to eat new foods during this important time of growth and development. Young children have small stomachs and are developing food preferences, so make every bite count!

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Healthy Eating

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Picky Eating

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Serve Safe Food

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MyPlate Tips

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Resources

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Healthy Eating

It’s important for toddlers to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy and fortified soy alternatives. Avoid foods and beverages with added sugars and choose those with lower sodium. Experiment with flavors, colors, and textures to see what your child likes.

The amount of food a young child needs depends on a variety of factors. Use the MyPlate Plan as a general guide to how much they should eat from each food group every day.

Toddlers have a wide range of normal growth; every child is different. Your child’s healthcare provider will monitor their growth over time using growth charts and other tools. Be sure to discuss concerns you may have about your child’s growth with their healthcare provider.

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Picky Eating

Behaviors sometimes considered to be “picky eating” are normal for toddlers as they explore new foods and learn to communicate their needs and preferences. Try the following tips to help with this behavior in a positive way:

  • Your child may be unwilling to try new foods. Try serving a new food alongside a familiar food in the same meal. It may take a child up to 8-10 tries to accept a new food.
  • Your child may not eat the exact amounts suggested every day. Try to balance the amounts over a few days or a week.
  • Offer different foods from all five food groups each day. Encourage your child to choose from a variety of foods.
  • Serve foods in small portions at scheduled meals and snacks.
  • Toddlers can easily fill up on beverages. Offer water if your child is thirsty in between meals.
  • Let your child help prepare meals. Even young children can rinse fruits and vegetables, tear lettuce, or stir ingredients. Children get excited about tasting items when they have been involved in the preparation.

Serve Safe Food

  • Some foods are more likely to cause foodborne illness. Only serve your child foods containing seafood, meat, poultry, or eggs that have been cooked to the recommended safe minimum internal temperatures. Avoid serving your toddler unpasteurized (raw) juice or milk.
  • Avoid serving foods that are hard to swallow or cut them into small pieces, about 1/2 inch. Hard-to-swallow foods can include peanuts, popcorn, round slices of hot dog, hard candy, whole grapes, and cherry tomatoes.
  • Be sure to store foods and beverages properly in the refrigerator when not being consumed, including cups of liquid. Discard any perishables left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • To prevent choking, have your toddler sit in a highchair, booster, or other safe, upright place while eating. Sit with your child as they eat. Avoid letting your child run, walk, play, or lie down with food in their mouth.
  • Help your child learn to wash their hands after using the bathroom, before and after eating, after playing with pets, or whenever they are dirty. Sing the alphabet song for the right amount of time for proper handwashing.

MyPlate Tips on Alexa

Get MyPlate nutrition information straight to your home on your Amazon Alexa smart speaker, or on your phone or tablet via the free Amazon Alexa app. For more information, visit our MyPlate Alexa page.

Below are some of the many tips available for parents and caregivers on what and how to feed your toddler. And just like the MyPlate.gov website and the Start Simple with MyPlate app, all of the information provided by MyPlate on Alexa is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.

Added Sugars

Did you know that toddlers should avoid foods and beverages with added sugars? Little tummies don't have a lot of room, and every bite they eat should be packed with the nutrients their body needs. Read the label on the back of food packages to make sure there are no added sugars. Next time you are at the store, for example, grab a tub of plain yogurt with no added sugars. For extra flavor and extra nutrients, you can add in a pureed fruit.

Introducing Foods - Safety

Grapes, cherries, and cherry tomatoes can be great options for your toddler but they must be cut and prepared properly to prevent choking. Before offering any foods that are small and round, slice them into long thin pieces and, if needed, remove pits or large seeds from the inside of fruits.

Grains

When it comes to feeding your toddler grains, like breads and crackers, look for whole grain options by searching the ingredient list for words like "whole wheat flour" or "whole grain." Most toddlers (and adults, too!) don't get enough whole grains in their diet.

Healthy Shifts - Vegetables

Provide your toddler foods that are full of nutrients. Start simple by serving your baby roasted, steamed or mashed vegetables instead of fried vegetables or vegetable chips. For a vegetable idea, try cut and boiled green beans.

Allergenic Foods

Did you know that there is no need to wait to introduce your little one to eggs, seafood, soy, nut products, cow's milk, cheeses or yogurts? In fact, science shows that offering your baby these foods now could prevent an allergy later in life. Talk to your doctor if you have questions.

Vegetarian Diet

If your toddler is following a vegetarian diet, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider to make sure your little one is getting enough iron and vitamin B12.

Iron

Iron is an important nutrient that carries oxygen to your baby's cells. Keep your baby growing well by including iron-rich foods in their diet, like meat, seafood, beans, and spinach.

Responsive Feeding

It is important to recognize when your toddler is hungry and when they are full. Some signs your child might be hungry are they get excited or open their mouth when they are offered food. Your child might even use hand motions or certain sounds when they are hungry.

Vitamin D

Did you know that many kids may need to continue to get a vitamin D supplement even after they turn one? Check with your pediatrician to see what is right for your toddler.

Unpasteurized Foods

Unpasteurized foods are not safe for your little one as some unpasteurized products may contain harmful bacteria. Look for the word "pasteurized" on the food label before feeding your baby yogurt, milk, cheese, or juice. Pasteurized foods are the safest to feed your little one.

Beverages

Did you know that "toddler milks" and "toddler drinks" come with a lot of sugar? Experts recommend avoiding these and focusing on giving your baby healthy foods and beverages throughout the day. After your baby's first birthday, infant formula is no longer recommended. Instead, offer cow's milk, water, and if available, breastmilk.

Brain Development

Your baby's brain is going through a big growth spurt. Feed your little one seafood to help boost their mind. Try cooked crab, salmon, or canned shrimp. Offer your baby one ounce of fish once or twice a week. One ounce is about the size of three dice.

Healthy Shifts - Fruits

Make healthy shifts to empower your toddler to eat foods full of nutrients. Instead of offering sugary fruit bars, give your toddler fresh, canned or frozen fruit with no added sugar to snack on.

Introducing Foods - Safety

Nut butters like peanut butter are a great option to offer your toddler. To prevent choking, be sure to spread it thinly over a cracker or toast. Avoid offering a spoonful as your child may not be able to safely swallow that amount.

Repeated Exposure

Did you know that it may take 8 to 10 times before your child likes a new food? So, for example, offering your little one fruits and vegetables repeatedly will increase the likelihood that they will eventually like them. So, keep up the good work and one day it will pay off!

Variety - Foods, Flavor, Texture

It is important to offer your toddler a variety of foods from all of the five food groups -- fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy foods. Offer healthy foods and a variety of flavors and textures. You can try adding the same spices and seasonings that the rest of the family enjoys. Research indicates children may have to try foods many times before they like it.

Healthy Eating

Did you know that nearly 90% of toddlers don't eat enough vegetables? Try to offer a variety of colorful vegetables, like broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, black beans, lentils, peas, and cauliflower to your little one to help them grow big and strong.

Resources

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Healthy Eating for Toddlers

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Behavioral Milestones

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kitchen activities sheet

Kitchen Helper Activities

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Healthy Tips for Picky Eaters

English   Spanish

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MyPlate on Alexa

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Reducing the Risk of Choking in Young Children

English   Spanish

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Food Safety for Children Under 5

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Mealtimes with Toddlers Family Handout cover

Mealtimes with Toddlers – Family Handout

English   Spanish

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CDC’s Milestone Tracker

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Start Simple app on phone and watch

Start Simple with MyPlate App

Build healthy eating habits one goal at a time! Download the Start Simple with MyPlate app today.

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Alexa Speakers and Devices

MyPlate on Alexa

Get MyPlate nutrition tips for your baby or toddler on Amazon Alexa devices or the free Alexa app.

Learn more

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MyPlate.gov is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025