Daily Vegetable Goals for Toddlers

Child eating vegetables

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Figuring out vegetable serving sizes for toddlers can be tricky, because while we have general recommendations for what and how much a toddler might eat, each child explores foods at their own pace. It's normal for a toddler to have some fluctuations in appetite or varying interest in different foods from day to day.

The role of caregivers is to nurture a healthy relationship with food and to ensure that a variety of vegetables are offered, so that toddlers gets lots of exposure to different foods. While a toddler may not be eating a cup of roasted broccoli in one sitting, even having the food on the table with them counts as an exposure. And remember, it can take 20 to 30 exposures before a toddler embraces a food.

When reviewing the recommendations below, keep in mind that what's most important is offering vegetables at meals so your child gets exposed to them. The more exposure, the more likely it is that your child will eventually eat veggies in the recommended amounts.

Suggested Veggie Servings for Toddlers

The USDA recommends aiming for 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables in total per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests two to three servings of veggies each day for toddlers. A toddler-sized serving is one tablespoon for each year of age.

Ideally, a toddler should be exposed to a few different veggies every day. This might mean a tablespoon or two of baked sweet potato at breakfast or lunch, a quarter-cup of green beans during a snack, and a spoonful of tomato sauce at dinnertime.

Try Different Preparations

If your toddler doesn't enjoy eating dark, leafy greens on their own, try chopping the greens up very finely and adding them to simmering soup in the last minute of cooking.

It's good for kids to learn that there are lots of different ways to eat any one food. This also allows kids to explore different textures and flavors and figure out what they enjoy most. They may not like cole slaw, but they may love cabbage sautéed with a little olive oil and smoked sausage. They may not like big chunks of butternut squash, but they may love that same vegetable puréed and used as ravioli filling or sauce.

Should You Hide Veggies?

You may have heard about or read books that suggest puréeing vegetables and secretly adding them to macaroni and cheese or meatloaf. This can work to provide an increase in veggie intake for the short term, but it doesn't allow kids to explore the flavor and texture of various veggies.

If you're adding puréed vegetables to your toddler's dishes, tell them about it. This can be a teaching moment that provides exposure to the veggies. For instance, you might say, "Want to help me add some carrot to this smoothie?"

Be a Veggie-Eating Role Model

A powerful way to get kids interested in vegetables is to eat them yourself. Watching adults eat is how children learn. All this modeling counts toward the exposure your child is getting to vegetables, too.

And it can take 20 or more times of exposing your child to a new food before they become comfortable with it. Keep that in mind for foods you already serve regularly, like broccoli, but also for veggies you might serve less often, like Swiss chard or fennel.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Riley LK, Rupert J, Boucher O. Nutrition in toddlers. Am Fam Physician. 2018;98(4):227-233.

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture ChooseMyPlate. All About the Vegetable Group - Daily Recommendation

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Serving sizes for toddlers.

By Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown is a parenting writer with experience in the Head Start program and in NAEYC accredited child care centers.