Nutrition for toddlers is an extension of introducing new tastes, textures and the continued development of feeding skills.  This stage will last for 1-3 years for your toddler, and often until school age.  From around one year of age children will be self-feeding a wide range of foods of different tastes and textures. Early exposure to self-feeding, as soon as they can hold food in their hands, helps young children become more familiar with texture.  This in turn leads to a better acceptance of the variety of foods during the fussy phase toddler most children go through . Young children need a nutritious and balanced diet to meet their needs for growth, development and physical activity.   This can best be achieved with a planned intake of three meals and 2 – 3 snacks per day. Water is the best for drink for children with meals, and so what about milk?

how much milk should my toddler drink?

Eatwell GuideYoung children should be encouraged to satisfy their appetite from 3 of the 5 nutritious food groups: breads & cereals, fruits & vegetables and meat, fish & vegetarian alternatives.  They should be limited in the quantity consumed from the other 2 groups; milk and milk products and foods high in sugar (they do actually need plenty of fats in their diet for energy and brain develoment).  Whilst milk and milk products are nutritious and an excellent source of calcium, they are filling and can displace other foods being eaten, contributing also to constipation in toddlers. In addition, the comforting and familiar experience of milk drinking slows down the acquisition of new feeding skills, which limit achieving a varied and nutritious diet.  In addition. excessive milk drinking reduces iron absorption, a common cause of iron deficiency anaemia in toddlers. Calcium needs are highest during the first year and toddlers do need less milk than babies.  For toddlers, offer milk and milk products three times daily and avoid giving with the main meal.

what is a good portion size for my toddler?

Foods high in fat are high in calories, and are an important source of energy for toddlers and young children. Include each day in addition to, but not instead of other food groups. Portions sizes are not fixed for toddlers as food intake varies from meal to meal and day to day. Many parents worry that their child is not eating enough, and this may lead to offering extra snacks between meals.  High calorie snacks such as biscuits and savoury snacks may reduce appetite for meals, and again overall limit the learning and familiarity of foods which contribute to a well balanced diet.

Check out this portion size guide for toddlers, giving a visual idea of standard portion sizes.  Remember your own toddler may take more or less, which as long as they are following their own growth curve, is absolutely fine!