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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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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.

Resources

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MyPlate on Alexa

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Healthy Eating for Toddlers

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Behavioral Milestones

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Kitchen Helper Activities

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Healthy Tips for Picky Eaters

English   Spanish

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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

English   Spanish

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CDC’s Milestone Tracker

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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.

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