Feeding Guide

Human milk (as desired), water, plain cow's milk, fortified unsweetened soy milk, 100% fruit juice (limited to no more than 4 ounces per day)
Grain Group Ready-to-eat or cooked cereal, breads, bagels, buns, roll, muffins, pasta, rice, crackers
Fruit Group Cooked/canned fruit, soft fresh fruit (only when toddler can chew well), 100% fruit juice (limited to no more than 4 ounces per day) 
Vegetable Group Cooked or canned vegetables
Dairy Group Cow's milk, fortified unsweetened soy milk, cheese, yogurt (including soy-based yogurt), cottage cheese
Protein Group Meat, poultry, fish*, legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
Do Not Feed Your Toddler Potential choking hazards, sugar-sweetened beverages, caffeinated beverages, adult cereals, added sugar, added salt, syrups, artificial sweeteners, unpasteurized foods and beverages

*Discuss types and amounts of fish with your health care provider to limit mercury exposure.

Prevent Choking

A toddler reaching for produce in a grocery store.
  • Make sure your toddler is sitting upright while eating.
  • All finger foods should be small, bite-size food (less than 1/2 inch).
  • Never leave your toddler alone while eating.

Some potential choking hazards for children under 4 years of age: 

Hard raw vegetables or fruit (such as carrots and apples), whole round or tube-shaped foods (such as cherry tomatoes, grapes, and hot dogs), dried fruit, tough or large chunks of meat and cheese, unthinned nut and seed butters, whole or chopped nuts and seeds, popcorn, pretzels, and ice cubes.

Let's Talk About Juice

  • Your child can start having 100% pasteurized fruit juice once they have reached 12 months of age, but it is not needed. Choosing whole fruit over juice is preferred because the whole fruit will provide your toddler with more nutrition.
  • Juice should be limited to no more than that 4 ounces per day. 
  • Juice should be given to your toddler in a cup without a lid as part of a meal or snack. Juice should not be given in a sippy cup where it can be sipped on throughout the day.

Feeding Tips

  • Feed your toddler the same foods you feed your family
  • Offer your toddler 3 balanced meals and 2-3 snacks every day. Let them decide what they eat from what you offer.
  • Offer smaller portions of food, about 1/4 of an adult serving
  • The amount of food your toddler eats will change over time; a 1-year-old may eat more than a 2-year-old.
  • Set a good example. Your toddler will tend to eat the same foods as you like.
  • Let your toddler sit at the table in a booster chair.
  • Encourage your toddler to drink from a straw or open cup instead of a bottle.
  • "Food jags," when a child will only eat one food item meal after meal, are common at this age. Don't make a big deal out of them.
  • Respect your toddler's likes and dislikes. Try offering rejected foods again at another time. It may take 8-10 interactions with a new food befoire a child accepts it.
  • Never use food as a reward, bribe, or punishment. Aviod forcing your toddler to clean their plate or eat one thing before another is provided. Try to stay food neutral.
  • Make meals interrdting. Serve foods that are:
    • Colorful - cooked carrots and peas
    • Crunchy - crackers and toast
    • Smooth - yogurt
    • Warm - neither too hot nor too cold 
  • Always talk to you rhealth care provider if you have any questions about feeding your toddler. 

Signs of Hunger and Fullness

  • As your child grows, signs of hunger and fullness may differ from when they were an infant. 
  • Reaches for or points to food
  • Opens their mouth when offered food
  • Gets excited when they see food
  • Pushes food away 
  • Closes their mouth when offered food
  • Turns their head away from food


For more Mealtime tips for toddlers, check out the Meals With Growing Children fact sheet and Engaging Kids in the Kitchen montguide. 

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