how much should a 2-year-old eat
Here’s how to make sure your 2-year-old is eating nutritious foods, and in the right amounts

By age 2, your child should be eating 3 meals and 2-3 snacks a day, spaced 2-3 hours apart. If you are still breastfeeding your toddler, you can try to do it during or right after these eating time slots.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), toddlers should eat approximately 40 calories per inch of height. So depending on your child’s age, size, and activity level, that can vary between 1,000 and 1,400 calories a day. Fat should account for less than 30% of your toddler's daily calories.

In general, here’s what you should aim to give your child every day:

  • ¾-1 cup of fruits and vegetables
  • ¼ cup of grains
  • 3 tablespoons of protein
  • 700 mg calcium

What foods should a 2-year-old eat?

At this age, children can have strong opinions about food as they develop a sense of independence. It’s normal for 2-year-olds to be picky eaters. So let your child have a say in what to eat, while you provide the balance, boundaries, and encouragement to make healthy choices.

The best you can do is to keep offering nutritious food options, choosing and preparing food together, and modeling healthy eating behaviors for your child. Offer them a variety of foods in all food groups:

  • Vegetables (a variety cut in small pieces and cooked through)
  • Fruits (sliced fresh or canned)
  • Dried fruit, soaked until soft to prevent choking (apples, apricots, peaches, pears, dates, pitted prunes)
  • Protein (eggs, beans, thinly spread peanut butter, small pieces of meat, poultry, boneless fish or tofu)
  • Iron-fortified cereals (oats, barley, wheat, mixed cereals)
  • Other grains (whole wheat bread and crackers, bagel pieces, pretzels, ready-to-eat cereal, pasta, rice)
  • Low-fat milk and other dairy products (diced or grated cheese, low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, pudding)

Which foods are rich in nutrients?

Doctors recommend that 2-year-olds get required nutrients from their diet. Foods that are rich in essential vitamins and minerals include the following:

  • Vitamin B12: Milk products and eggs, fortified soy beverages, cereals, and meat substitutes
  • Vitamin DBreastfed babies should get an additional 400 IU per day from fortified cow's milk or soy milk
  • Calcium: Calcium-fortified foods and beverages
  • Zinc: Beans, fortified cereal, milk, and wheat germ
  • Iron: Iron-fortified cereal
  • Vitamin C: Oranges, tomatoes, and strawberries (vitamin C also helps with iron absorption)
  • Protein: Yogurt, eggs, beans, cereals, and fortified soy milk
  • Fiber: Whole grain bread, fortified cereals and pasta, and high-fat plant foods, such as sunflower seed butter and avocados

What are developmental milestones for a 2-year-old child?

At this age, many children are beginning to find confidence and their behaviors may display a range of cognitive and physical milestones:

  • They can probably walk up the stairs one foot at a time and jump with both feet at once. Your toddler may also be running by now.
  • As they get older, your child’s bladder is getting stronger. Their awareness is growing too. They may start telling you when they are feeling the urge to use the bathroom.
  • Your child should be able to scribble and draw lines, stack blocks, and feed themselves.
  • They may have developed enough emotionally to be able to express fear, such as to certain animals or loud sounds.
  • They may be saying 50 or as many as 100 words, even combining them into two-word phrases. They should also be able to name several body parts, pick out pictures from a book, and engage in childhood games that involve pretending, such as feeding a doll.
  • They may have developed social skills and can play with other children. They may have also developed considerable thinking and learning skills.

As a parent, you’re likely concerned about your child’s growth. You can help your toddler stay at a healthy weight and contribute to their growth by combining nutritious food with physical activity. 

If you have concerns about your child’s development, talk to your pediatrician.

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Medically Reviewed on 6/23/2021
References
American Academy of Pediatrics. Sample Menu for Two-Year-Old. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/nutrition/Pages/Sample-One-Day-Menu-for-a-Two-Year-Old.aspx

WebMD. You’re Child at 2: Milestones. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/child-at-2-milestones