Healthy Foods and Meal Ideas for Your Toddler

1-3 Years

When deciding what and when to feed your toddler, the good news is that your child’s eating habits are pretty predictable (for the most part). Kids this age generally need three meals and one to two healthy snacks per day. Sticking to regularly scheduled eating times helps your tot know what to expect and ensures that she’s hungry at mealtime.

Every child is different, and even the same child will eat different amounts from meal to meal and day to day. It’s more important to pay attention to her hunger and fullness cues than to worry too much about the exact amounts listed below. Just start with a tablespoon or two of each item, and then serve more depending on age or hunger.

What to expect

Now that your baby is a toddler, there is more good news: You don’t have to prepare special meals or even special healthy snacks just for him. He should eat what the rest of the family eats—just in smaller and/or softened pieces. It’s also important to eat meals as a family. If you can’t eat together as a family, make it a date for you and your little one, and encourage any caregivers to do the same. It’s great bonding time, and your little green-bean-hater will benefit from seeing you enjoy your own healthy serving.

Tip: It’s your job to offer healthy food. It’s your child's job to decide whether to eat, what to eat from your options and how much. If she eats little or nothing, it’s OK. There’s a scheduled meal or snack in a few hours.

Sample day of meals and snacks

Breakfast: Toasted oats cereal with sliced banana, milk

  • 1/2 cup whole grains, like oatmeal, dry cereal, 1 whole-grain toaster waffle or 1/2 slice whole-grain bread
  • 1/4­ to 1/2 cup fruit, like banana, berries or unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup milk

Snack: Plain yogurt with berries

  • 1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt or cottage cheese; or 1 to 2 ounces cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup fruit
  • Water

Lunch: Half a turkey sandwich on whole wheat, peas, thinly sliced apple, milk

  • 1/4­ cup (or 1 to 2 ounces) protein, like meat, poultry, seafood, beans, lentils or 1 egg
  • 1/4­ cup whole-grain pasta, brown rice or other whole grain, or 1/2 slice bread
  • 1/4­ cup veggies, like peas, green beans or sweet potato
  • 1/4­ cup fruit, like canned peaches (packed in water or 100 percent juice, not syrup), thinly sliced apple or pears

Snack: Cucumber with hummus

  • 1/4­ to 1/2 cup veggies or whole grains, like thinly sliced cucumber or green pepper or lightly steamed carrot sticks; or 4 crackers or 1/2 whole-grain English muffin or bagel
  • Protein: 1 tablespoon hummus, bean dip or nut butter (thinly spread); 1 hard-boiled egg; or 1 to 2 ounces cheese
  • Water

Dinner: Diced chicken, steamed veggie blend, 1/2 cup brown rice, milk

  • 1/4­ to 1/2 cup protein, like meat, poultry, seafood, beans or lentils
  • 1/2 cup veggies, like steamed squash, broccoli or cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup whole-grain pasta, brown rice or other whole grain, or 1/2 slice whole-grain bread
  • 1/2 cup milk