A toddler eating vegetables.
Toddlers should have five servings of vegetables and fruit per day.

Healthy Food for Toddlers

Most parents think their child is eating a well-balanced diet, but sometimes it can be tricky to see if there is an imbalance or not.

According to a study, only 30% of preschoolers take the recommendation of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. They also mention there are about 56% of toddlers and 52% of preschoolers who meet the recommendation of limiting the intake of sugary drinks.

Importance of Healthy Eating in Toddlers

The toddler stage is critical. It is at this stage where the transition from milk dependency to self-feeding happens. They need to reach the recommended daily intake of each food groups to prevent poor growth and avoid childhood obesity. It is the perfect time to establish food preferences that will be instilled into their minds until they grow up.

What Should Toddlers Eat?

As toddlers start to gain control over their food choices, this could mean they might refuse to eat some foods you are serving. Toddlers may also prefer to choose sweets like candies, chocolates and junk foods. Their table behavior, sometimes, could also become a headache.

There could be a bit of pleasing, running after them, or even offering a reward during feeding time. It might sound tedious, but this is the right time to promote a variety of nutritional foods that will benefit your growing child, so do not lose hope.

Fortified Cow's Milk

During this transition to solid food, fortified cow's milk plays an important role in providing protein, calcium, fats and vitamins A and D. The recommended intake of milk and dairy products in toddlers is two to three servings per day.

Dairy products offer several health benefits and the options you can choose from are 3.25% homogenized milk, cheddar cheese cubes or strings and low-fat yogurt (you may add fruits to attract your little one).


From a biochemical standpoint, fats contain more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein. For this reason, it makes sense that fat is necessary in a toddler's diet. In other words, your kid could get more calories in a meal that has 20g fat than from a meal that contains 20g of carbohydrates.

Concerns about giving fats to kids due to the risk of obesity is something to be discussed with doctors. Parents must be reassured that it does not go that way in the case of a toddler. Fat restriction actually has bad effects on young children, such as poor growth.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables must be offered as much as possible to help your toddler achieve a well-balanced diet. If your toddler requests fruit juice, remember to give no more than six ounces of 100% fruit juice per day.

You may have difficulty introducing vegetables, but do not stop. Once you have started, continue offering it every day. Let him or her explore the textures and tastes until they recognize it and eventually eat it.

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How to Ensure a Balanced Diet

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is promoting the idea of having meals together as a family. This could help toddlers observe their parents’ or other family members’ eating habits. Take advantage of this family activity to show a good example of eating a selection of nutritious food so they can imitate you and your choices.

AAP also suggests kids should limit fast food intake. Home-cooked meals are still the best option for your growing child, as you will know what ingredients are used and you can modify the recipe to your kid's preference. Consumption of sweets and sugary drinks is also not advisable to children. These contain calories with low nutritional value. Make sure these foods are not placed in easily accessible areas. In case you cannot prevent yourself from buying it for yourself or other adults in the family, storing sweets somewhere that is not visible to children will help.

Additional Tips

Documenting the food your child eats per day can help ensure they are eating a balanced diet. It helps to see what their daily meal and snack patterns are. If you have any concerns, you can consult your pediatrician to discuss your observation with you.

To improve snack choices, you may want to delay the introduction of sweets and junk foods so that your kid's preference will be geared toward good, nutritional foods. Research food sources of iron and introduce them one by one to your kid's meals. Build the habit of drinking milk so they will get enough calcium their body needs. More importantly, teach your kids to identify their hunger cues.