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Portion Sizes for Toddlers


First realize, children’s calories will vary day to day, and its important not to get too concerned if one day they hardly eat anything, yet another day they eat everything. This is normal for them, as well as us.

I understand however, some parents need some hard/ fast numbers. So here they are, from www.mypyramid.gov

Based on 1000 calories needed for an average 2-3  year old for the whole day (not each meal obviously):

Grains 3 oz (one ounce = 1 mini bagel, one slice bread, 1 small muffin)
Vegetables 1 cup
Fruits 1 cup
Milk 2 cups
Meats & Beans 2 oz (one ounce = one egg, 1/2 oz of nuts, 1/4 cup of cooked beans)


This is not much food. It isn’t necessary to pile food on your child’s plate, and especially expect them to eat everything on their plate.  You be in charge of WHAT they are eating, and they can be in charge of how much they eat… as long as they aren’t skimping out just to get dessert.)

With 2 cups of fruits and veggies per day, we’ve got a lot of prepping to do!  This week I plan to make our vegetables really tasty (even if it means adding a little salt or butter..just a little). I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Thanks for this post. I have been really struggling with my son. He is always TOO FULL for healthy food but then wants big portion desserts. I’ve been really frustrated with him not wanting to eat anything that I make.

The answer is, as much as the toddler decides he wants! (of healthy food)
I would say to start with one tablespoon per year of age with each food at a meal (2-3 items), then offer more as needed.
Damaris, I suggest leaving desserts other than fruit for special occasions, no more than once a week. Toddlers don’t have enough extra room in their stomachs.

You’re welcome Liz.
Damaris-if it makes you feel better, you’re not alone. I’ve been most successful when there isn’t much to choose from. We had salad and chicken last night and that was it. When they were still hungry, they got more salad. When I offer 3 or more things on their dinner plate, I usually don’t get them eating the things I really want them to eat. Same thing when I send a lunch to school. They never eat the carrots, unless the only thing in their lunch is a sandwich, apple and carrots. When I start putting in the granola bar, pretzels, treat, etc.. the carrots always end up in the trash.

Well said, Hannah! Thanks for your input!

Thanks so much for the reminder. I find that with an older child I tend to load the toddlers plate too full. We choose to limit desserts and NEVER use them as a bribe to clean their plate. If we eat early on a particular day or they are very active after dinner I will offer a bedtime snack but we try for a protien(usually dairy) and produce or carb(crackers/popcorn/mini bagel). Goddies happen but we dont want them to become the expected.

Is there a reason protein (such as chicken, turkey, etc) is not included in these portion suggestions?