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.

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I think my child may have a food allergy. What should I do?

Food allergies generally represent an immunologic response to a protein found in the suspect food. Symptoms may range from severe (anaphylaxis, asthma, swelling of the vocal cords, abdominal pain, and vomiting) to moderate (hives, tingling of the lips/mouth, eczema) to mild (nasal congestion, sneezing, mild skin rash). Children are most likely to be sensitive to egg whites, milk, and peanuts. Older children and adults are most likely to be sensitive to fish and shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts (for example,. walnuts), and egg whites. Evaluation for food protein allergy may be done either via a blood test (commonly identified as a RAST test) or by an allergist performing "scratch" testing. Children with abdominal pain and/or diarrhea or vomiting after eating wheat, barley, or rye foods may have gluten sensitivity and should be evaluated by their doctor for celiac disease.

How can I instill healthy eating habits in my child?

Nutrition specialists recommend the following to promote proper nutrition.

  1. Lead by example. If you follow a healthy diet, it is more likely your child will also.
  2. Avoid "fast foods." These foods are much more likely to have high fat and added salt.
  3. Don't battle over eating. If your toddler isn't hungry, don't panic. He will eat when he is. If he doesn't eat a meal, don't fill him up with milk.
  4. Avoid bargaining. "If you eat this, you'll get a cookie."
  5. Allow treats, but avoid allowing them to become a mainstay of the diet. They should be "a treat."
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/5/2015

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