How to teach healthy eating habits to Toddlers
On average, toddlers typically need around 1,000 calories per day. But that can vary. The number of calories he needs depends on his size, activity level, and growth rate.
Meals and Snacks
A toddler needs about three meals and two snacks each day. But some days, he may not want all those meals and snacks. A toddler's appetite is unpredictable. He may eat a big lunch and then not eat much the rest of the day.
Keep in mind that your child's diet will balance out over several days, especially if you remember who's in charge of what. Your job is to provide a variety of healthy foods and a regular routine of meals and snacks for your toddler, and his job is to decide what, and how much, he wants to eat.
Hunger and Fullness Cues
Growth slows around age 1, so your toddler may experience a small drop in appetite. He may no longer need as much food as you think he does. That's why it's important to let your child decide how much to eat from the food he is offered, rather than insisting he eat a certain amount.
Look for these behaviors to help you identify when your toddler is hungry:
- Uses words or sounds to indicate he wants certain foods
- Uses phrases such as "want that" or leads you to the refrigerator where he points to the food he wants
Look for these behaviors to help you identify when your toddler is full:
- shakes his head to say "no more" or "get down"
- plays with his food instead of eating it.
Teach your toddler about his hunger and fullness cues by asking questions like, "Has your tummy had enough?" or "Is your tummy still making its hungry growling noise?" Ask your child to sit down for every meal and snack—away from TV or games. That way he has time to pay attention to his tummy and eat until he's satisfied.
Allowing your child to follow his hunger and fullness cues helps him learn to regulate his own appetite. But if you're ever concerned about your child's appetite, nutrition, and growth, be sure to talk with his health care provider.
Find ideas for your toddler's next breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner with our easy-to-use Menu Planner. For serving size examples by food group and to learn more about nutrition for toddlers, watch our new video or visit our "How much to feed your toddler" slideshow.