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Expanding Your One to Three-Year-Old's Diet

Find a toddler's feeding guide, and learn how to build self-feeding skills.

Expanding Your One to Three-Year-Old's Diet

Even though he's only one or two years old, it's never too early to help a child begin to develop healthy eating habits. You can do this in part by offering a variety of nutritious foods that are appropriate for your child's developmental stage. For the most part, you can put away the baby food now. After age one, your child can eat just about anything, as long as he's not allergic to it, and as long as it's in kid-friendly form—either pureed, mashed, or cut into small pieces.

It's one thing to prepare and serve healthy foods. What's tough is figuring out whether you're feeding a child the right amount. How do you know how much to serve?

The Pyramid Plan is based on the USDA Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children, which applies to kids age two and up. It provides the details about what and how much your two-year-old should eat.

One-year-olds are another matter. You could go by the "rule of one," as I call it: Serve one tablespoon of each food you're eating at a meal for each year of your child's life, plus the recommended 16 to 24 ounces of milk throughout the day. So, if you're having mashed potatoes, steamed carrots, and chicken for dinner, serve a one-year-old at least a tablespoon of each food.

Here's a suggested daily feeding guide for a one-year-old.


  • 4 ounces whole milk

  • ¼ cup whole grain ready-to-eat cereal

  • ¼ medium banana

  • 2 graham cracker squares

  • 4 ounces 100 percent juice, preferably fortified with vitamin C and/or calcium
  • 4 ounces whole milk

  • 1 ounce cooked chicken

  • 1-2 tablespoons cooked carrots

  • ½ teaspoon margarine or butter

  • ½ slice bread
  • 4 ounces full-fat yogurt such as Stonyfield Farms YoBaby

  • 2-3 whole grain crackers
  • 8 ounces whole milk

  • ½ cup cooked noodles with 2 tablespoons meat sauce

  • 2 tablespoons cooked green beans

  • ½ teaspoon margarine or butter, if desired

  • ¼ cup canned pears, drained and chopped
  • 4 ounces whole milk

  • 6 animal crackers
Building Self-Feeding Skills
One- and two-year-olds are thrilled with their newfound physical prowess, including learning how to put things in their mouth. Until they hone this skill at about eighteen months or so, you'll be largely responsible for getting the majority of the meal into your child's mouth. Even so, your child will surely want to join in the feeding process, and should be encouraged to join in, no matter how messy it gets. She may not be able to verbalize it, but a toddler's body language and crying fits will let you know that she wants to feed herself. Self-feeding builds a child's confidence and helps her practice her fine motor skills. As she matures, the connection between her brain and her body movements is enhanced, and her ability to self-feed markedly improves.

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