Toddler nutrition

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Toddler nutrition is the description of the dietary needs of toddlers aged one to two years old. Food provides the energy and nutrients that toddlers need to be healthy. An adequate intake in nutrient rich food is good nutrition. A diet lacking essential calories, minerals, fluid and vitamins could be considered 'bad' nutrition. Nutrition needs are different for toddlers. For a baby, breast milk is "best" and it has all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Toddlers typically have been weaned from breast milk and infant formula. Though infants usually start eating solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age, more and more solid foods are consumed by a growing toddler. If a food introduced one at a time, a potential allergen can be identified. [1] Food provides the energy and nutrients that young children need to be healthy. Toddlers are learning to feed themselves and to eat new foods. They should eat a variety of foods from all the food groups. Each day, toddlers need enough nutrients, including


The eating habits of toddlers differ from those of infants in that their diet resembles that of parents and siblings. Good nutrition for toddlers is the introduction of foods with new textures and flavors. A toddler will show preference for one food over another. The stomach of toddlers are small. Good nutrition and food will be to offer foods that are nutrient rich rather than foods with empty calories. Toddlers play with their food and practice self-feeding. They will use their fingers at first then common eating utensils. Toddlers benefit from becoming more independent in feeding themselves. A toddler may try to assert control over mealtimes and can cause conflict. Toddlers eat in response to feelings of hunger and of being full. [2]

USDA guidelines and menu choices

US Department of Agriculture Nutrition Guidelines USDA my plate.png
US Department of Agriculture Nutrition Guidelines


Milk contains calcium and vitamin D. These substances are essential for proper bone and teeth formation. Typically, toddlers will benefit the most from drinking whole milk (3.25% milk fat) as the dietary fats needed for proper growth and development of the brain are found in highest abundance in whole milk. Even toddlers can be overweight. A family history of heart disease, high cholesterol, or obesity, may require using reduced fat (2%) milk. At age 2 a toddler can move from whole milk to low-fat or nonfat milk if they prefer.

With respect to method of consumption, a toddler should typically transition from either breast feeding or bottle feeding to drinking from a cup at about the first birthday. If the toddler is breastfed they can transition directly to a cup and bypass ever using a bottle. They benefit most from a gradual transition by weaning, rather than abruptly withholding bottles. One strategy is to offer a cup of whole milk sometime after the meal begins. Toddlers often don't prefer cow's milk over breast milk or infant formula, so cow’s milk can be introduced to the toddler through gradual mixing with breast milk or infant formula with the end result of the toddler receiving all cow's milk. Milk intake for toddlers can be reduced when protein from other sources is added to the diet. [2] Paediatricians can offer advice if caregivers believe that the toddler may be drinking too much milk. [3]

Toddler milk is a high-cost, under-regulated drink made of powdered milk, added sugars, vegetable oil, and salt that is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. [3] [4] [5]


Iron deficiency can be a concern when the toddler reaches one year of age. Iron deficiency can cause problems in normal growth and development, and health issues such as anemia. Iron can be given to toddler in meat, fish, beans, and other iron-fortified foods. Toddlers benefit from eating iron-fortified cereal up until the age of 18 to 24 months. [6]

Fruit Juice

Toddler fruit juice intake is often improperly regulated by parents due to its perceived health benefits and content packaging that allows for easy transport. Over-consumption of fruit juice products can actually negatively impact toddler health and is strongly associated with diseases such as diarrhea, malnutrition and tooth decay. Paediatricians, dentists and other healthcare providers should educate parents as to the risks associated with overconsumption of fruit juices. Similarly, unpasteurized juice products can contain pathogens that can cause serious illness in toddlers and should be completely avoided. Importantly, drinking fruit drinks, which often contain very little fruit content and high levels of added sugars, does not replace proper intake of fruits as they don’t provide the same fibre and nutrient content. However, consumption of 100% fruit juice (no added sugars or other ingredients) may offer more nutritional benefits than juice drinks, and can be considered to be a part of a healthy balanced diet when limited to 8 fluid-ounces (250 mL) per day. [7]

Foods to avoid

Food allergies can develop, or become evident, in toddlers. The risk of the child developing food allergies is greater if close family members have allergies. As toddlers transition from a primarily milk-based diet to a diet that includes soft and solid foods, they will encounter a variety of new foods. As each new food is introduced, careful observation is required in order to determine if an allergy exists, or is developing. [6]


Many foods pose a high risk of choking for toddlers, such as: nuts, raisins, hot dogs and popcorn. Toddlers should never be unsupervised while eating foods that can cause choking and every effort should be made to cut solid foods into small pieces. [6] [8] [9]


Toddlers can be given three meals per day. A schedule of snacks 2-3 times each day is appropriate. Toddlers sometimes will not want to eat at mealtime. Skipping a meal will not harm the toddler. Pushing food onto a child who is not hungry can lead to feeding problems - neither is eating on demand. [6]

Toddlers benefit from knowing that meals and snacks will be offered on a regular schedule. Concerns about adequate nutrition and calorie intake can be discussed with the pediatrician. [6] [10]

Related Research Articles

Dieting is the practice of eating food in a regulated way to decrease, maintain, or increase body weight, or to prevent and treat diseases such as diabetes and obesity. As weight loss depends on calorie intake, different kinds of calorie-reduced diets, such as those emphasising particular macronutrients, have been shown to be no more effective than one another. As weight regain is common, diet success is best predicted by long-term adherence. Regardless, the outcome of a diet can vary widely depending on the individual.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Infant formula</span> Manufactured food designed for feeding infants

Infant formula, also called baby formula, simply formula, baby milk or infant milk, is a manufactured food designed and marketed for feeding to babies and infants under 12 months of age, usually prepared for bottle-feeding or cup-feeding from powder or liquid. The U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) defines infant formula as "a food which purports to be or is represented for special dietary use solely as a food for infants by reason of its simulation of human milk or its suitability as a complete or partial substitute for human milk".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Human nutrition</span> Provision of essential nutrients necessary to support human life and health

Human nutrition deals with the provision of essential nutrients in food that are necessary to support human life and good health. Poor nutrition is a chronic problem often linked to poverty, food security, or a poor understanding of nutritional requirements. Malnutrition and its consequences are large contributors to deaths, physical deformities, and disabilities worldwide. Good nutrition is necessary for children to grow physically and mentally, and for normal human biological development.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Food pyramid (nutrition)</span> Visual representation of optimal servings from basic groups

A food pyramid is a representation of the optimal number of servings to be eaten each day from each of the basic food groups. The first pyramid was published in Sweden in 1974. The 1992 pyramid introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was called the "Food Guide Pyramid" or "Eating Right Pyramid". It was updated in 2005 to "MyPyramid", and then it was replaced by "MyPlate" in 2011.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Breast milk</span> Milk produced by the mammary glands in the breast of a human female

Breast milk or mother's milk is milk produced by mammary glands located in the breast of a human female. Breast milk is the primary source of nutrition for newborns, containing fat, protein, carbohydrates and variable minerals and vitamins. Breast milk also contains substances that help protect an infant against infection and inflammation, whilst also contributing to healthy development of the immune system and gut microbiome.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Baby food</span> Food made especially for infants

Baby food is any soft easily consumed food other than breastmilk or infant formula that is made specifically for human babies between six months and two years old. The food comes in many varieties and flavors that are purchased ready-made from producers, or it may be table food eaten by the family that has been mashed or otherwise broken down.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cat food</span> Food for consumption by cats

Cat food is food specifically designed for consumption by cats. As obligate carnivores, cats have specific requirements for their dietary nutrients, namely nutrients found only in meat, such as taurine, arginine, and Vitamin B6. Certain nutrients, including many vitamins and amino acids, are degraded by the temperatures, pressures and chemical treatments used during manufacture, and hence must be added after manufacture to avoid nutritional deficiency.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Healthy diet</span> Type of diet

A healthy diet is a diet that maintains or improves overall health. A healthy diet provides the body with essential nutrition: fluid, macronutrients such as protein, micronutrients such as vitamins, and adequate fibre and food energy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Empty calories</span> Calories with no nutritional value

In human nutrition, empty calories are those calories found in beverages and foods composed primarily or solely of sugars and/or certain fats and oils such as cholesterol, saturated or trans fats, that provide little to no useful nutrients such as protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, or antioxidants Foods composed mostly of empty calories have low nutrient density, meaning few nutrients relative to their energy content. The consumption of large amounts of empty calories can have negative health consequences.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Milk substitute</span> Alternative substance that resembles milk

A milk substitute is any substance that resembles milk and can be used in the same ways as milk. Such substances may be variously known as non-dairy beverage, nut milk, grain milk, legume milk, mock milk and alternative milk.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canada's Food Guide</span> Diet planning document produced by Health Canada

Canada's Food Guide is a nutrition guide produced by Health Canada. In 2007, it was reported to be the second most requested Canadian government publication, behind the Income Tax Forms. The Health Canada website states: "Food guides are basic education tools that are designed to help people follow a healthy diet."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sports nutrition</span> Study and practice of nutrition to improve performance

Sports nutrition is the study and practice of nutrition and diet with regards to improving anyone's athletic performance. Nutrition is an important part of many sports training regimens, being popular in strength sports and endurance sports. Sports nutrition focuses its studies on the type, as well as the quantity of fluids and food taken by an athlete. In addition, it deals with the consumption of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, supplements and organic substances that include carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Baby-led weaning is an approach to adding complementary foods to a baby's diet of breast milk or formula. BLW facilitates oral motor development and strongly focuses on the family meal, while maintaining eating as a positive, interactive experience. Baby-led weaning allows babies to control their solid food consumption by "self-feeding" from the start of their experience with food. The term weaning does not imply giving up breast milk or formula, but simply indicates the introduction of foods other than breast milk or formula.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) provide nutritional advice for Americans who are healthy or who are at risk for chronic disease but do not currently have chronic disease. The Guidelines are published every five years by the US Department of Agriculture, together with the US Department of Health and Human Services. Notably, the most recent ninth edition for 2020–25 includes dietary guidelines for children from birth to 23 months. In addition to the Dietary Guidelines per se, there are additional tools for assessing diet and nutrition, including the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), which can be used to assess the quality of a given selection of foods in the context of the Dietary Guidelines. Also provided are additional explanations regarding customization of the Guidelines to individual eating preferences, application of the Guidelines during pregnancy and infancy, the USDA Nutrition Evidence Systematic Review, information about the Nutrition Communicators Network and the MyPlate initiative, information from the National Academies about redesigning the process by which the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are created, and information about dietary guidelines from other nations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Meal replacement</span> Food substitute with controlled quantities of calories and nutrients

A meal replacement is a drink, bar, soup, etc. intended as a substitute for a solid food, usually with controlled quantities of calories and nutrients. Some drinks come in powdered form or pre-mixed health shakes that can be cheaper than solid foods with identical health qualities. Medically prescribed meal replacement drinks include the body's necessary vitamins and minerals. Bodybuilders sometimes use meal replacements, not formulated for weight loss, to save food preparation time when eating 5-6 meals a day.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vegan nutrition</span> Nutritional and human health aspects of vegan diets

Vegan nutrition refers to the nutritional and human health aspects of vegan diets. A well-planned, balanced vegan diet is suitable to meet all recommendations for nutrients in every stage of human life. Vegan diets tend to be higher in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and phytochemicals; and lower in calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12.

Infant feeding is the practice of feeding infants. Breast milk provides the best nutrition when compared to infant formula. Infants are usually introduced to solid foods at around four to six months of age.

Pregnancy vegetarianism is the practice of adhering to a vegetarian diet during pregnancy. Vegetarianism is "the principle or practice of excluding all meat and fish, and sometimes, in the case of vegans, all animal products from one's diet." Although some people frown upon pregnant women practicing vegetarianism, there is no evidence that vegetarianism—practiced properly—is unhealthful during pregnancy. There are millions of healthy babies born each year from vegetarian households.

Nutrition is the intake of food, considered in relation to the body's dietary needs. Well-maintained nutrition includes a balanced diet as well as a regular exercise routine. Nutrition is an essential aspect of everyday life as it aids in supporting mental as well as physical body functioning. The National Health and Medical Research Council determines the Dietary Guidelines within Australia and it requires children to consume an adequate amount of food from each of the five food groups, which includes fruit, vegetables, meat and poultry, whole grains as well as dairy products. Nutrition is especially important for developing children as it influences every aspect of their growth and development. Nutrition allows children to maintain a stable BMI, reduces the risks of developing obesity, anemia and diabetes as well as minimises child susceptibility to mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Establishment of breastfeeding</span>

Establishment of breastfeeding refers to the initiation of providing breast milk of mother to baby. According to the World Health Organisation(WHO), breastfeeding is the best way to provide nourishment, including essential nutrients, energy and antibodies, to infants and toddlers. The start of breastfeeding is supported by the milk production which depends on the development of internal and external breast structure and hormonal control on milk secretion. Besides milk supply, adopting the correct approach of breastfeeding helps build up the maternal bond, which in turn promotes breastfeeding. Not only does nursing strengthen the mother-child relationship, but it also improves the intelligence and immunity of breastfed children and diminishes breastfeeding mothers' risks to have ovarian and breast cancer.


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  8. "Healthy Eating for Preschollers" (PDF). US Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 27 July 2017.PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain .
  9. Ma, David. "Reduce deadly choking risks in children". AAP Publications. American Academy of Pediatrics.
  10. "Maira Nutrition". Tuesday, 16 October 2018