Serving Sizes and Nutrition for Toddlers

Toddler girl eating noodles from bowl

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It's easy to worry about the amounts of different vitamins and nutrients that your toddler is getting in their diet each day. You'll be reassured to know that your toddler is probably eating plenty, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines and serving size recommendations. Overall, your toddler should be getting between 1,000 and 1,400 calories from the food categories below each day.


Toddlers need 2 cups of milk each day. Until your child is 2 years old or you are advised by your health care provider, stick with whole milk.

Meat and Beans

Your toddler needs 2 ounces of meat and beans each day. This requirement is remarkably small: Just 1/3 of a can of tuna or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter will do it for the whole day. If you think you're offering too much meat, add more veggies or fruits instead.


Toddlers need 3 ounces of grains each day. At least half of these grains should be whole grains, but you leave more room for extra calories if you make them all whole grains.


Your toddler needs 1 cup of vegetables each day. In addition, try to offer a variety of vegetables over the course of a week. Choosing by color makes it easy. Think orange veggies (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes) one day, green veggies (spinach, broccoli, greens) the next, veggies with white flesh (cucumbers, squashes, potatoes) the day after that and so on.


Your toddler needs 1 cup of fruit each day. Most of this should come from fruit and not from fruit juice so that your child doesn't miss out on the necessary fiber. Try to limit juice consumption to 4 ounces a day.

Fats and Oils

Your toddler needs 3 teaspoons of fats and oils each day. Most of this will come from items used to fulfill other requirements like meat, peanut butter, milk, and cheese.

Discretionary Calories or Extras

If you have made wise choices and only used roughly 850 to 900 calories to fulfill the above requirements, then your toddler's diet has some room for 165 calories of extras like sweeteners and fats.

Which Foods Are Considered Extras?

If you were to take all the food your toddler needs ​a day, it could very easily all fit on one normal-sized plate. This is especially true depending on the food choices you make.

For example, just a 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese counts as a full cup of milk. That fulfills half of your toddler's milk requirement for the day. Add to that one slice of hard cheese and your toddler's milk requirement has been met with foods that are denser than 16 fluid ounces of milk, which would also fulfill the requirement.

If you chose cottage cheese instead of ricotta, it would take 2 cups of cottage cheese to equal just 1 cup of milk. It would take 4 cups of cottage cheese to fulfill the full milk requirement for the day.

If you have a light eater, picking foods that are more nutritionally dense and take up less room in the tummy can be key toward meeting these nutritional goals.

A Word From Verywell

Remember, however, that for most normal, healthy toddlers, offering a variety of healthy foods will be enough. Don't try to pressure your child into eating every last bite of food. Even if your toddler doesn't eat the full 3 ounces of grains today, they might tomorrow, so just keep offering.

Looking at your toddler's diet over the course of a few days or even a week can give you a better picture of what they're getting. A good way to split up these requirements is with six small meals or 3 large meals and 2 small snacks.

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