Toddler foods and nutrition

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  • Your Toddler needs nutritious foods in small portions to get the energy, nutrients and food groups she needs, you can help her make every bite count.
  • When developing healthy eating habits in your Toddler, it is best to offer meals and snacks at regular times to establish a routine.
  • Read about Toddler foods and nutrition to learn what you can do to lay a solid foundation for healthy eating.

Developing healthy eating habits

As you probably already know, Toddlers are incredibly active and energetic! For their body size, Toddlers need to make every bite count with nutritious meals and snacks.

In order for your Toddler to get the nutrition she needs for healthy growth and development, meals should provide essential nutrients in a small portion and be served frequently during the day—typically three balanced meals and two or three nutritious in-betweens snacks during the day.

Your 12—24 month-old (regular dash) needs foods from each food group every day. Below are suggested servings for each food group

Food Groups Daily Intake* Serving Size Examples Product Examples
Dairy 2 cups (16 fl. oz.) ½ - 1 cup (4 fl. oz.-8 fl. oz.)

GERBER® Yogurt Blends Snack

GERBER®  GRADUATES® YOGURT MELTS® Snacks

Stage 3 GERBER® GOOD START® Grow Toddler Drink
Grains and cereals 2 oz. grain equivalents (about 28 g) 

(At least ½ of grain servings should be whole grains)
Each of the following contributes about ½ oz. equivalent grain:
½ slice whole grain bread
¼ whole wheat bagel
1 pancake
¼ cup cooked pasta
¼ cup Gerber® cereal

Each of the following contributes about ¼ oz. serving:
2 animal crackers
¼ cup toasted oat cereal
1 serving (7g) Puffs
3 servings of GERBER® BREAKFAST BUDDIES® Hot Cereal
GERBER® HEARTY BITS® Multigrain Cereal

GERBER® GRADUATES® Puffs

GERBER® GRADUATES® WAGON WHEELS® Snacks

GERBER® GRADUATES® LIL’ CRUNCHIES® Snacks

GERBER® PASTA PICK-UPS® Meals

GERBER® BREAKFAST BUDDIES® Hot Cereal with Real Fruit
Vegetables ¾ cup ¼ cup vegetable puree, or mashed vegetables, or soft cooked, chopped peeled vegetables

GERBER® 3RD FOODS® Lil’ Bits™ veggie varieties

GERBER® GRADUATES GRABBERS® veggie varieties

GERBER® Veggie Pick-Ups™ Diced Veggies

GERBER® 100% Fruit & Vegetable Juice

GERBER® LIL' ENTRÉES® Selections

Fruits 1 cup ¼ cup fruit puree or mashed fruit or soft, chopped, peeled, fruit or ½ pouch
¼ cup sliced banana GERBER® 3RD FOODS® Fruits
GERBER® GRADUATES® Grabbers Squeezable Fruits

GERBER® Fruit Pick-Ups™

GERBER® 100% Single Fruit Juices and Juice Blends

GERBER® 100% Fruit & Vegetable Juices

GERBER® Yogurt Juice
Meat/Beans 1 ½ oz. 3  Tblsp. plain, easy to chew, thoroughly cooked meat or poultry
OR
About 1 scrambled egg
GERBER® LIL’ STICKS® Meat or Poultry Sticks

GERBER® LIL’ ENTRÉES® Meals
* Your Toddler's needs may be greater or less than these stated; always follow your child's hunger and fullness cues
**One toddler serving is equivalent to ¼ cup of fruit

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Laying a healthy foundation for your Toddler

These quick tips can help you teach good eating habits to your Toddler that she'll need as she grows 

  1. Choose foods wisely. During your Toddler’s transition from breastmilk or formula to solids, nutrition gaps become more common. The 2008 Nestlé-sponsored Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) found that on a given day, Toddlers aren’t eating enough fruits and veggies, and are not meeting the recommended amount of Potassium and fiber. Also, more than half of Toddlers are not getting enough Vitamin E from the foods they eat.

    That’s why it’s important to offer a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats and low fat dairy. Also include vegetable fats with Omega-3 fat, like canola or soybean oil. You can offer your toddler a nutritious toddler drink, which provides essential nutrients to help fill the common nutrient gaps toddlers experience.  Keep offering your toddler a variety of foods even if you decide to introduce a nutritious toddler drink.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
  2. Mix it up. A balanced diet is made up of a variety of foods from every food group every day—whole grains, fruit, vegetables, meat and beans and dairy. Also be sure to include foods with nutrients that your child may be lacking: Iron, Zinc, Potassium, Vitamin E, and fiber.                                                                                                                     
  3. Serve a rainbow of fruits and veggies. A variety of colorful foods expands your child’s tastes and provides a variety of nutrients for her tummy. Introducing new foods with old favorites may improve acceptance and help to create healthy eating habits in your Toddler. For example, if she likes corn, try adding small red pepper dices.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
  4. Let your child decide how much to eat. Teach your child to respect her appetite by letting her decide what and how much to eat. If she’s hungry, let her eat heartily. But if she’s full, let her stop.                                                                                                   
  5. Snack smart. Serve three small meals and two to three snacks a day. Because Toddlers typically get 25% of their calories from snacks, make sure to offer nutritious choices for every snack. Avoid high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, like chips, cookies and sugary drinks.                                                                                                                                                                       
  6. Drink responsibly. Beverages are important for hydration, but too many of them can make your Toddler too full to eat. Your Toddler’s foods and nutrition should include healthy beverage choices like: nutritious toddler drink, milk, 100% juice, water or juice-and-water blends without added sweeteners.

    Limit your toddler’s milk to 2 cups per day for your growing Toddler. If serving 100% fruit juice, limit the amount to 4 fl. oz. (½ cup) per day; the rest of your Toddler's fluids should be from water.                                     
  7. Offer healthy fats. Your Toddler's foods and nutrition should also include calories from fat for growth and brain development. Incorporate healthy sources of predominately unsaturated fat—fatty fish, avocados, foods made with vegetable oils—into your Toddler’s diet.

    Once your Toddler switches from breastmilk or formula to cow’s milk, prepare foods with one tablespoon of soy or canola oil or use salad dressing as a dip to provide her with essential fats.                                             
  8. Choose foods lower in sodium. Even if you think your child’s food tastes too bland, remember that she doesn’t need all the salt that tastes right to you. There is no need to add table salt to her foods.

Watch this helpful video and learn how to encourage healthy eating habits in your Toddler.

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