An easy to follow guide to daily toddler nutrition needs that can help reduce the stress of planning meals.
Feeding a toddler can be stressful. Not only do you need to think of 5 meals a day to serve but each is with the apprehension that they might not even want to eat it. And when you come across the hundreds of nutritional guidelines available, the stress can start to build up!
But what if I told you that there is a simple and easy way to track your toddler's nutritional recommendations? Would that help ease your mind?
I hope so.
That's why I've summed up all the 1-3 year old toddler nutritional recommendations in one printable one-page chart. The only thing you'll really need when planning your toddlers daily meals.
Toddler nutrition is a complex term. Yes, we probably all know that they should be eating healthy and nutritious food full of calories that will support their growth and development, but is it really that simple?
Especially when we know that toddlers are special little people who adore one food or meal one day and the next start screaming at the sight of it. I've been there. Wait, I still AM there. And it is a daily battle. But one that my sanity is determined to win.
That's exactly why I thought this daily toddler nutrition chart would be a great thing for all parents battling the same thing I am on a daily basis. A simple yet comprehensive chart of the daily nutritional requirements and examples how to fulfill them.
As per the American Dietetic Association guidelines, food is divided into 6 food groups. Fruit, veggies, grains, dairy, fats/oils and protein foods. And each has their recommended number of servings per age and gender. So for our 1 - 3 year old toddlers it looks like this:
Fruit: 1 serving / day
Veggies: 1 serving / day
Grains: 3 servings / day
Dairy: 2 servings / day
Fats/oils: 3 servings / day
Protein foods: 2 servings / day
Note: Breastmilk and/or formula doesn't count towards dairy intake after the age of 1.
How To Use The Daily Toddler Nutrition Chart?
The idea is that you take this printable daily toddler nutrition chart and mix'n'match your ingredients in meals so that you try and reach the daily recommendations for each food group.
But please, please do not be a slave to the chart. You don't need to have the exact amount of servings from each of the food groups each day. It's all about balance. So one day you might serve more fruit and the other one a bit more dairy or protein. And of course on some days your toddler will want 3 servings of pasta for lunch and you will give it to him because you trust him.
How Do I Know My Toddler Is Eating Enough?
Trust them. Yes, I know it doesn't sound that reassuring and there are times that you think they haven't eaten as much as you'd like them to... but trust them. And this is both from my professional and personal experience.
Believe me, there were times when I was sure my son should have eaten way more for dinner and I was petrified that he would be going to be hungry. But guess what? He was fine... and most importantly, he still slept through the night and woke up happy and not asking for breakfast straight away. So I've learned to follow his lead on food intake.
Kids are way more aware of their hunger needs than we are and we often need to learn to trust them. Pushing them to eat more, or restricting them when they're hungry can be counterproductive and lead to bad relationship with food. So long as it's nutritious food, we should simply follow their lead!
For toddlers aged 1 - 3 years I always recommend 3 main meals and 2 snacks per day. But this can vary and is to be adjusted to your toddlers daily schedule.
For example we do follow the 3 + 2 plan but sometimes my son doesn't want breakfast for even up to 2 hours after he has woken up. So with late breakfast it just doesn't make sense to squeeze in a morning snack as it will just interfere with lunch. I usually try to follow a 2.5 - 3 hour gap between meals. Of course this depends on your schedule and for kids getting to school/nursery, you obviously have to feed them first thing before getting out the door!
The daily toddler nutrition chart is here to help you out and not for you to become obsessed with! The main thing is to trust your toddler, their hunger needs and food choices.
Remember: "You are in charge of what you serve and when, and they are in charge of what they eat and how much".
Click here to download your FREE Daily Toddler Nutrition Chart in PDF.
To learn more about toddler nutrition and see toddler nutrition charts see the 3 toddler meal plans and schedule, Toddler 12-15 month old sample meal plan, Toddler 16-18 month old sample meal plan, 19-21 month old toddler baby food chart and meal plan and the 2 year old food chart, food menu and meal ideas.