Toddler-friendly servings make healthy and happy mealtimes

MyPlate offers healthy eating guide for preschoolers.

As adults we often struggle to eat the recommended servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. So if we struggle, how do we know if our toddlers are getting the recommended servings they need? Toddlers can be picky eaters as they are still being introduced to new tastes and textures of food. During the transition from liquid to solid food, make sure your toddler is getting the nutrients he or she needs by offering a variety of foods he or she can choose.

According to the United State Department of Agriculture MyPlate for preschoolers, two-year-old toddlers should consume 1,000 calories a day. Serve your toddler a healthy plate by following these guidelines:

Three ounces of grains

One ounce is the same as one slice of bread, one cup of breakfast cereal, or ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal. Make at least 1 ½ ounces whole grains.

One cup vegetables

Serve a variety of colors such as dark green, red and orange. Do not forget beans and peas as they are good sources of fiber! Serve vitamin C rich vegetables like tomates and broccoli when feeding your toddler iron-rich foods such as meat, beans, and enriched grains to improve the absorption of iron. Cook vegetables until soft and cut up in bite-sized pieces to prevent choking. 

One cup fruit

Offer a variety of fruits, but limit fruit juices. Serve vitamin-C rich fruits like oranges and strawberries when feeding your toddler iron-rich foods such as meat, beans, and enriched grains to improve the absorption of iron. Peel and serve bite-sized pieces to prevent choking. 

Two cups dairy

Serve low-fat yogurt, milk and cottage cheese, which have the same amount of calcium but less fat than whole milk. One and a half ounces of natural cheese or two ounces of processed cheese equals one cup of dairy for your toddler. Toddlers get enough calcium if they are eating two cups of dairy a day, but not enough vitamin D. Ask your doctor about a vitamin D supplement for your toddler. 

Two ounces protein

You can vary your toddler’s protein sources too! One ounce of meat or fish, one egg, or a ¼ cup of cooked beans equals one ounce of protein. Keep portions small and lean. 

Limit fats, sugars and sodium

Read food labels to limit oil to three teaspoons (or 12 grams) a day. Sodium should be no more than 2,300 mg a day. Your toddler should not eat more than 140 calories from solid fats and sugars in a day. 

You can use the MyPlate meal plan to help keep your toddler on track. Do not worry if your toddler does not eat the recommended servings at every meal or every day. When toddlers are growing and full of energy, chances are they are getting the nutrients they need to be healthy. 

Michigan State University Extension offers nutrition education for parents in counties throughtout Michigan. To contact an expert in your area, visit the exert page, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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