Feeding your toddler can be absolutely aggravating- one day, he may eat a lunch to rival your own, but the next he refuses all food except for the one piece of toast he had at breakfast. What can you do? Educate yourself. Understanding toddler portion sizes and how many servings of what foods they should have each day can alleviate any fears that your toddler may not be eating enough, and can also help you ensure that the foods your toddler does eat are healthy and proportionate.
For grain products, six servings a day is recommended for toddlers. This sounds like a lot, but one serving for children this young is as small as four crackers or a half cup of cereal. A serving of bread for a toddler is one half to one slice. If your toddler is a carbohydrate fiend, a serving of rice or pasta is approximately half a cup. Make sure to choose whole grain products so that your toddler gets a sufficient amount of fiber each day.
The recommended number of dairy servings for a toddler between the ages of twelve and twenty-four months is four per day. A serving of dairy for children this age is a half cup of whole milk, yogurt, or pudding. Do not switch to low fat products until your child is over two years of age. For toddlers, a serving size of cheese is about one ounce.
Toddlers should have three servings per day of veggies. A serving is one half of a cup of cooked, diced vegetables. A half cup of tomato sauce also constitutes a serving of vegetables. Make sure your toddler’s veggie servings amount to a rainbow of colors each day so that he or she gets a variety of vitamins and antioxidants. Sweet potatoes, broccoli, and tomatoes are all nutritional powerhouses.
Most toddlers have no problem meeting the two daily servings recommended for fruits. Toddler appropriate serving sizes for fruit are a half cup or chopped or diced fruit, or half of a medium piece of fruit, such as a banana. Four ounces of 100% fruit juice can also constitute a fruit serving, but try not to exceed that in a day. Your toddler will get the most nutritional benefits by consuming the fruit in its original state.
Protein is an important part of a healthy diet. Toddlers should consume at least two servings of protein per day. A serving size of cooked meat or poultry for a toddler is two ounces. A serving size for adults is three ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards. Use this visual guideline when preparing a plate for your toddler to ensure you serve them an appropriate amount of meat. Beans are also a great source of protein, and the recommended portion size for a toddler is a half cup.
Remember that these are just guidelines. Never force your toddler to eat, just continue to offer a variety of healthy foods each day in age appropriate serving sizes. Even if your toddler doesn’t get the recommended number of dairy servings per day, if you examine your toddler’s weekly diet, you will find that it usually evens out. Help your toddler establish healthy eating habits that they can carry with them for a lifetime.
USDA Food Guidelines Brochure: http://www.nal.usda.gov/wicworks/Sharing_Center/RI/1-2yrs_foodguide.pdf
Dr. Sears, “Value Your Vegetables”: http://www.askdrsears.com/html/4/t045300.asp#T045302