Healthy Foods for Toddlers


Children who eat a balanced diet should get all that they need from food.

As a general rule, foods can be put into four main groups. Parents, you should try to give your child 2 to 3 foods from each of these groups every day.


Milk and dairy products
e.g. Cheese, yoghurt, ice-cream

Strong, healthy bones and teeth

Starchy foods
e.g. Tortilla, rice, cereals, potatoes, plantain

General healthy growth and development, energy to meet extra growing needs

Vegetables and fruit
e.g. Papaya, banana, green beans, carrots

Strong muscles and bones, healthy brain and eye development

Meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts & beans

 Builds natural immunity

Amount of Food a Toddler Should be Eating

Toddlers naturally eat the right amount of food to meet their needs. Normal toddlers will not starve themselves. If children are gaining weight as they should, then they are eating the right amount for their bodies. Remeber, portion sizes for toddlers are small. For example, an adult serving of meat is 3 oz (about the size of a deck of cards). A toddler serving of meat is 1 oz (2 tbsp).

Picky Eaters

Toddlers develop definite food likes and dislikes. Eating only one or two foods for days or weeks on end and food refusals are common. Mealtimes can become a challenge.

Here are some ways to deal with a toddler's picky eating:

  • Set a good example with your eating habits.
  • Allow the child to get hungry by assuring at least two hours between meals and snacks.
  • Use dishes and utensils that the child likes.
  • Allow the child to help with food shopping and making the meal.
  • Serve balanced meals and then put a small amount of each food on the child's plate.
  • Do not make a separate meal to please a picky child. If the child does not wish to eat the meal, a skipped meal will not hurt them.
  • Encourage kids to try new foods, but don't use food as a reward or punishment.
  • Most of all, teach children to enjoy sharing and eating together as a family.


A child can switch from breast milk to cow's milk when he or she turns one year old. Serve whole milk until the toddler turns two years old to meet the child's need for fat.

Toddlers should not drink more than about 16-24 ounces (2-3 bottles) of milk each day. Drinking too much milk can cause:

  • Constipation - hard poop
  • Weight Loss - the milk causes the child to feel full and not want to eat other nutritious foods
  • Weight Gain- if they are still eating well, then extra calories can lead to becoming overweight
  • Lack of Iron in Blood- milk doesn't have any iron in it and if a child fills up on milk, they won't eat other foods that are high in iron. Iron is important for a baby's brain development. Low iron during the early years may have a big effect on learning later in life.

Foods high in iron: raisins, shrimp, red meat, black beans, chick peas, chicken, whole wheat bread, molasses. Parents can also cook food in a heavy black pot (cast iron) to increase iron.

CAUTION: Do not decrease milk drinking in children who are not taking in enough solid food because they cannot swallow properly. Inspiration Center Field officers and staff may be able to teach feeding techniques that will help your child progress from the bottle to solid foods. Also, a skinny kid who is eating enough solid food but taking several bottles should not be instructed to decrease the amount of milk they drink. The child may need the extra calories. Instead, feed the child solid foods first and then the bottle later.


Fruit juice (pure juice, not a juice drink) can be part of a healthy diet. A toddler needs no more than four to six ounces (about half a can) of fruit juice per day.

Food Needs for Children with Special Needs

Food needs of children with disabilities vary depending on the child's physical abilities, their diagnosis and other factors.

Some children with disabilities may need more calories. For example, children who have a high degree of spasticity (tight muscles) burn a lot of calories during the day because of their muscle contractions. Feeding problems are common in children living with disabilities and can result in children not consuming enough food.

Other children may need fewer calories. Children with disabilities that limit their ability to walk or move about often need to consume fewer calories to avoid becoming overweight.

Ways to Boost Calory Intake in Underweight Kids

  • To increase the amount of energy in food, add powdered milk to regular whole milk, add cheese to dishes, add wheat germ or oil to food, etc.
  • Snacks or small meals and desserts are another good opportunity to boost calories. Healthy snacks: puddings, custards, shakes, ice cream, crackers, peanut butter, and raisins.
  • Pediasure and Carnation Instant Breakfast (which is usually cheaper) are liquid nutritional supplements that are available in drugstores and grocery stores without prescription.