Toddlers this age are moving toward a diet more like your own. Keep introducing new flavors and textures. Food preferences are set early in life, so help your child develop a taste for healthy foods now.
Toddlers have little tummies, so serve foods that are packed with the nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong, and limit sweets and empty calories.
Your toddler will continue to explore self-feeding, first with fingers and then with utensils at around 15–18 months of age. Give your child lots of chances to practice these skills, but lend a hand when frustrations arise. As skills develop, step back and let your little one take over.
Toddlers also like to assert their independence, and the table is one place to give yours some sense of control. Remember: You decide what variety of healthy foods to offer at a meal and your child decides which of those foods to eat, how much to eat, and whether to eat at all.
What About Milk?
Milk is an important part of a toddler's diet because it provides calcium and vitamin D, which help build strong bones. Most kids under age 2 should drink whole milk for the dietary fats needed for normal growth and brain development. If a toddler is overweight or there is a family history of obesity, high cholesterol, or heart problems, your doctor might recommend switching to reduced fat (2%) milk.
When your child is 2, you can make the switch to low-fat or nonfat milk.
Between 12 and 18 months of age is a good time for transition to a cup. Instead of cutting out bottles all at once, slowly eliminate them from the feeding schedule, starting with mealtime. Offer whole milk in a cup after your child has begun the meal.
Some kids don't like cows milk at first because it's different from the breast milk or formula they're used to. If that's the case, it's OK to mix whole milk with formula or breast milk and gradually adjust the mixture so that it eventually becomes 100% cow's milk.
Why Is Iron Important?
To help prevent iron deficiency:
- Limit your child's milk intake to 16 ounces (480 milliliters) a day.
- Include iron-rich foods in your child's diet, like meat, poultry, fish, beans, and iron-fortified foods.
- Continue serving iron-fortified cereal until your child is eating a variety of iron-rich foods (at around 18–24 months old).
Talk with your doctor if your child drinks a lot of cow's milk or isn't getting enough iron-rich foods, or if you're thinking of giving your child a vitamin supplement.
What Foods Should We Avoid?
By now your child should be eating a variety of foods. Continue to watch for allergic reactions when introducing new foods. Kids are at higher risk for food allergies if they or a close family member have allergies or allergy-related conditions (like eczema or asthma).
Avoid foods that could cause choking, like popcorn, hard candies, hot dogs, raw vegetables and hard fruits, whole grapes, raisins, and nuts. Supervise your child at all times when eating.
How Much Should My Toddler Eat?
Offer your toddler three meals and two or three healthy snacks a day. But expect your toddler to sometimes skip meals. Letting kids skip a meal is hard for many parents, but kids should be allowed to respond to their own internal cues for hunger and fullness. Don't push food on a child who's not hungry.
Kids shouldn't be allowed to eat on demand all day long either. Keep a regular schedule of meals and snacks so your kids will know that food is available at certain times of the day.
If you have any questions about how much your child is eating or should eat, talk with your doctor.Back to Articles
Growth and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old
You're in for a year of changes! Midway through this year, most babies are walking and starting to lose that "baby" look.Read More
Medical Care and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old
The toddler months might continue to bring colds, bruises, and other minor emergencies, but you'll also find yourself dealing with your toddler's emerging independence.Read More
Communication and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old
Your toddler is probably saying a few first words now, but you may not be able to understand them all. Learn about how your child is communicating.Read More
Learning, Play, and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old
Kids go from babies to toddlers during this time, from first steps to walking well. They also make major strides in language and communication.Read More
Movement, Coordination, and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old
Most toddlers this age are walking and gaining even more control over their hands and fingers. Give your child lots of fun (and safe) things to do to encourage this development.Read More
Sleep and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old
Nighttime feedings may be a thing of the past, but in this second year of life your tot might be rising for other reasons. Learn more.Read More
Nutrition Guide for Toddlers
While growth slows somewhat during the toddler years, it's a new era where kids will eat and drink more independently.Read More
Iron is an important ingredient needed to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying part of every red blood cell.Read More
Milk and other calcium-rich foods help build strong, healthy bones. But most kids and teens don't get enough calcium. Here's how to make sure that yours do.Read More
Toddlers at the Table: Avoiding Power Struggles
By anticipating problems and offering choices, you can teach your toddler healthy eating habits and avoid power struggles about food.Read More
Feeding Your 8- to 12-Month-Old
At this age, babies start to explore table foods.Read More
Snacks for Toddlers
Some toddlers may seem too busy exploring to slow down and eat. Others may be fickle about food or refuse to eat at mealtime. That's where healthy, well-timed snacks come in.Read More
If the right foods are offered at the right times, snacks can play an important role in managing kids' hunger and boosting nutrition.Read More