The Short of It
Toddlers are so picky, which makes it hard to know how much to feed them when they won't eat so many things, and, if they're not refusing to touch a morsel of food, they're famished. Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics has released new toddler feeding guidelines that can help you navigate this challenging phase in your child's culinary development.
It turns out, we don't need to feed toddlers all that much. According to the AAP, a child's development slows after the first year of life, so their food intake should not be excessive. It offers this good rule of thumb: between the ages 1 and 3, a toddler requires about 40 calories per inch of height. So, for instance, say your kiddo measures 32 inches. He should be eating around 1,300 calories a day, but keep in mind that number will vary depending on how much activity your child gets. For most toddlers, it's a lot!
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If that math is just a bit too much for you, perhaps this will help: Aim to feed your toddler about a quarter of what you eat each day. Just be sure to serve up a varied diet complete with all the vitamins and minerals your little one needs to flourish and grow! You'll want to try to feed your child the following per day:
- 6 servings of grains
- 2 to 3 servings of veggies
- 2 to 3 servings of fruits
- 2 to 3 servings of dairy
- 2 servings of protein, such as meat, poultry, fish or tofu
- 2 servings of legumes, such as dried bean, peas or lentils
- About 1 Tbsp. of peanut butter, barring an allergy
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If you're struggling to convince your toddler to eat the veggies, try blending purees into other foods.
Hopefully, this information can serve as a helpful guideline for parents struggling to adjust their toddlers' diets now that the primary food source isn't breast milk, formula, and baby food! But as a mom of a toddler myself, I can say that not every day is going to be perfect. Some days I feel like my daughter eats a great variety of foods, while others, she is subsisting on mostly Cheerios and yogurt. Other days, she shows almost no interest in food. And in restaurants, forget it! When we eat out, I'm lucky if she'll much on a dinner roll because she's so distracted.
I guess, as long as most days we are following these guidelines, we are doing a pretty good job!
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Be sure to check out the AAP's HealthyChildren.org to see sample menus for toddlers that include serving sizes.