Healthy Foods and Meal Ideas for Your Toddler
Kids this age generally need 3 meals and 1 to 2 healthy snacks per day. Sticking to regularly scheduled eating times helps your tot know what to expect and ensures that they're 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 their hunger and fullness cues than to worry too much about the exact amounts listed below. Just start with a tablespoon or 2 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 them. Your child should be eating 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 the options you provide) and how much. If they 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
Lunch: Half a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread, 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% 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
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