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Feeding toddlers – what and how much?

toddler; eat; eating; food; tucker;

It is important to offer your toddler a range of foods. Choose foods from the five food groups described below. The number of serves will give you an idea of how much your child should eat. This is a guide only, remember, appetites vary from child to child, and from day to day!

  • Toddlers need to eat regularly as they only have small tummies
  • Offer small serves of nutritious foods 5-6 times/day
  • Toddlers need structure, routine and limits. This helps them feel more secure.

Contents


Grain (cereal) foods

4 serves per day

Example of one serve

  • 1 slice bread
  • ½ medium roll or flatbread
  • 1 crumpet or English muffin
  • 3 large plain crackers biscuits
  • 2 breakfast biscuits eg Weetbix
  • ⅔ cup cereal flakes or ¼ cup muesli
  • ½ cup cooked porridge
  • ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles or quinoa

Choose wholemeal / wholegrain products where possible.

When comparing breakfast cereals choose those with less added sugar (compare using the total sugar per 100g column on the nutrition panel for each cereal)

Vegetables and legumes/beans

Minimum 2 ½ serves per day

  •  1 cup salad
  • ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables
  • ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetable (eg sweet potato)
  • ½ cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils (eg baked beans)
  • 1 medium tomato
  • ½ cup sweetcorn

Offer a variety of vegetables of different colours each day.

Vegetables and legumes contain different minerals, vitamins and protective factors for good health and development.

Fruit

Minimum 1 serve per day

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
  • 1 slice melon or 2 small fruits (eg kiwi, apricots, plums)
  • 1 cup diced or canned fruit (no added sugar)

Or only occasionally:

  • ½ (125ml) cup fruit juice (no added sugar)
  • 30g dried fruit (eg 4 dried apricot halves, 1 ½ tablespoons sultanas)

Fresh fruit is a better choice than fruit juice and dried fruit.

Hard, raw fruit such as apple should not be given to young children as they are at risk of choking. Have a look at the topic 'Choking on food or other objects' for more about this.

Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives

Minimum 1 ½ serves per day

  • 1 cup (250ml) milk or a breastfeed
  • 1 cup (250ml) calcium fortified milk
  • ¾ cup (200g) yoghurt
  • ¾ cup (200g) custard
  • 2 slices of cheese (40g) or ½ cup grated or ricotta cheese

Children less than 2 years of age should have full cream milk and milk products. They need the extra fat for their growth and development.

After 2 years of age children can drink reduced fat milks with the rest of the family.

Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds and legumes/ beans

Minimum 1 serve per day

  • 2 thin slices of cooked lean meat, chicken or turkey
  • ½ cup cooked stew, casserole or mince
  • 2 thin slices of ham or beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils (eg baked beans)
  • 2 fish fingers or 1 sausage (occasionally only)
  • 1 small cooked fish fillet (100g) or 1 small can of fish (eg tuna)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons nut or seed paste (eg peanut, almond or tahini).

Choose lean meats, trim excess fat and cook in minimal amounts of fat.

Do not give whole nuts, seeds or other similar foods to young children as they are at risk of choking. . Have a look at the topic 'Choking on food or other objects' for more about this.

fish 

Sample meal ideas

Note: these are examples only. The amount of food eaten will vary depending on your toddler's appetite.

* Toddlers less than two years of age should have full cream milk and milk products.

Breakfast

1 breakfast biscuit eg Weetbix and ½ cup milk*

¼ cup (dry) oats cooked with ½ cup milk*

1 slice toast with margarine and spread or a cooked egg

1 small tub yoghurt* (100g) with ½ cup cut up fruit

Snack

1 medium piece fruit cut into fingers or wedges

4 small crackers (eg Salada, Premium)

Lunch

½ cup baked beans and 1 slice bread or toast

salad plate with ½ cup chopped/grated salad vegetables (grate hard vegetables), 1 slice cheese*, 1 thin slice cooked meat or chicken and 1 slice bread with margarine

sandwich with cold meat eg ham and cheese* sandwich

baked potato with baked beans and cheese*

Snack

1 small tub yoghurt* (100g)

1 medium piece fruit cut into fingers or wedges

1 slice fruit bread with margarine

Dinner

2 slices chopped roast meat, ½ cup mashed potato and pieces steamed broccoli, carrot and pumpkin

1 cup pasta with bolognese sauce and ½ cup mixed vegetables

stir-fry vegetables with meat and 1⁄2 cup noodles

1⁄2 cup cooked rice, 1⁄2 cup mixed vegetables and 1 fish finger


Snack

½ cup (125ml) custard* or yoghurt*

½ cup diced/tinned fruit


Fluids

2-3 breastfeeds

Up to 2-3 drinks of milk, especially if not choosing dairy foods* for meals and snacks. No more than 500 ml of milk per day

Tap water should be freely available

Your toddler does not need milk or breastfeeds overnight


Easy meals and snacks

Breakfast

  • Weetbix or Vitabrits with milk and chopped or tinned fruit.
  • Yoghurt with chopped or tinned fruit.
  • Porridge with milk and chopped banana.
  • Fruit smoothie - blend milk and fresh fruit (try strawberries or bananas).
  • Toasted fruit bread or fruit muffin with margarine.

Lunch

  • Sandwiches - try a variety of fillings: avocado, cream cheese, finely grated carrot, finely sliced roast meat or chicken, smooth peanut butter, Vegemite, cheddar cheese, mashed boiled egg.
  • Fill lunch box with cherry tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, boiled egg, strips of cooked roast meat or chicken, cheese cubes and a small bread roll.
  • Tinned baked beans or spaghetti with wholegrain toast.
  • Egg (boiled, poached or scrambled) with vegetables and toast.

Dinner

  • Add frozen diced vegetables to instant noodles and top with cheese.
  • Serve cooked takeaway chicken or pizza with salad or vegetables.
  • Make an omelette or scrambled eggs with grated or diced vegetables.
  • Mini pizzas using English muffins as the base.
  • Oven bake fish in foil and serve with oven baked potato wedges and vegetables or salad.
  • Heat tinned tuna or salmon with cooked pasta or rice and vegetables.
  • Microwave a jacket potato, top with baked beans and grated cheese and serve with salad.

Snacks

  • Soft vegetable sticks - lightly steam potato, carrot, green beans or pumpkin and serve with dipping sauce, cottage cheese or smooth peanut butter.
  • Chopped banana.
  • Hummus or avocado on pita bread.
  • Fruit smoothie.
  • Canned beans (eg 3 bean mix, chickpeas, kidney beans).
  • Fruit and yoghurt pops (mix bananas or strawberries with yoghurt and freeze).
  • snack ideasCorn or rice cakes with peanut butter, mashed banana, Vegemite or cheese.
  • Bread fingers (toast cut into fingers) or crackers, lightly spread with peanut butter, hummus, mashed avocado, hummus, Vegemite or ricotta cheese.
  • Slice of toasted wholegrain bread topped with ricotta cheese and fruit spread.
  • Savoury pikelets made with finely grated vegetables.
  • Fresh or tinned fruit (in natural juice).
  • Rice crackers and cheese.
  • Fruit muffin, raisin bread or scone.
  • Cheese stick or triangle.
  • Sultanas (sometimes).
  • Fruit Kebabs - cube of fruit on bamboo skewers (remember to remove any sharp points on the skewer).
  • Small tub of yoghurt.

Want more information?

Resources

Booklets

Source 

The content of this topic comes from a booklet produced by specialist Dietitians at the Women's and Children's Health Network (WCHN), SA Health. January 2014
'Tucker for toddlers'

Information in this booklet should not be used as an alternative to professional advice.
Food product information contained in this booklet was up to date at the time of revision. If you are not sure about a food, check with the manufacturer.

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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