Toddler Food Guidelines

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideYour Toddler: Typical Second-Year Milestones With Pictures

Your Toddler: Typical Second-Year Milestones With Pictures

Toddler food facts

  • Toddlers eat because they are hungry and it is fun. Eliminate either of these and an unnecessary battle between toddler and parents may ensue.
  • Children less than 2 years of age have no restrictions on fat/cholesterol intake. Those over 2 years of age should participate in the heart healthy diet that their parents (hopefully) follow. As such, parents should lead by example.
  • Poor nutrition is brought upon by excessive sugar ingestion, foods high in fat/cholesterol, empty calories (for example, high fructose corn syrup), trans fats, and excessive salt intake.
  • Food protein allergy may be severe, moderate, or mild in manifestation. Food allergies may be evaluated by either blood tests or scratch tests of the skin.

Newborn babies are expected to double their birth weight by 4-6 months of age and triple their birth weight by their first birthday. As an example, a 7-pound newborn will weigh about 21 pounds by 12 months of age. If this pace were to continue, a 2-year-old child would weigh approximately 60 pounds! It is obvious that the infant/toddler's rate of growth progressively slows. The need for fewer calories is coupled with a progressively more mobile and active individual who "burns up" more calories than the sedentary infant who spends large blocks of their day asleep. Toddlers have advanced from passively ingesting pure liquid nutrition (breast milk or formula) to self-feeding of table foods. This independence may be a double-edged sword from a parent's point of view -- self-feeding vs. "playing" with food. Toddlers enjoy exploration, whether it is at the park or investigating various tastes and textures of foods and enjoying gravity (dropping food to the floor). It is not unreasonable, therefore, that being "trapped" in the high chair with the expectation to happily eat all food types may lead to frustration for everyone!

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