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How Much Food Should I Give my Toddler?

Growing a healthy toddler means knowing which foods to offer and in what serving size.

Studies show that parents may not always get the portions right. Sometimes they offer adult-sized portions, and other times they refuse second helpings when the child is still hungry. Platefuls of food can be a turnoff for little kids, and not getting enough to eat can be frustrating and uncomfortable, leaving an important question: how can parents make sure they are on target with food portions?

More and more, the research is telling parents to tune into their child’s appetite and let him or her eat to satisfy it. Start with offering a small portion of most or all of the food groups at mealtime, and allow your child to eat as much as he or she needs to satisfy his or her appetite. If your child is still hungry and asks for more food, it’s a good idea to give another helping and let the child eat until they are naturally full.

It’s helpful to know where to begin when it comes to serving sizes. It’s best to start with small portions, as your child can always ask for more. Below is a chart that outlines how much food to start out with from each food group, as well as your child’s minimum amount needed for each one on a daily basis, taking into account his or her age. Your child’s stage of growth, appetite, and level of activity will dictate how much food should be provided. This can vary day to day.

As you can see, portion sizes grow with your child. It isn’t until the teenage years that your child will need portions of food that are similar to yours.

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  • Castle JL and Jacobsen MT
  • Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School
  • Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2013.

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