Appropriate Serving Sizes for Toddlers

Toddlers are obviously much smaller than grown-ups, and it stands to reason that they will therefore require smaller servings of foods than an adult would. Many parents, however, serve toddlers much larger portions of foods than they should really be eating. This doesn’t matter all that much if they are having a double portion of vegetables, but when it comes to portion sizes of some other foods, it can lead to serious problems.

Serving Sizes and Labels

The nutrition label of most food products states what a serving size should be for that particular food, but beware! The serving size usually stated on the package refers to a 2000 calorie per day diet, and most toddlers need about half of that. In fact, on average a toddler’s serving of any food should be about ¼ of what a standard adult serving should be. Don’t go by the label; instead learn how to properly measure the appropriate amount of food for your toddler.

The Right Serving Size for Toddlers

For each food group, you can learn to recognize what a serving size looks like by taking the time to measure out your toddler’s food for a while. Eventually, you won’t need to measure as you will easily be able to recognize what constitutes an appropriate amount. Here are some easy measurements you can perform to start serving proper portions.

For dairy foods, your toddler needs the equivalent of about 16-20 ounces of milk in a day. Not all of the dairy servings need to come from milk, but if your toddler is fond of milk you might find that no other dairy is really needed. If your toddler doesn’t like milk, you can replace a serving of milk with a serving of cheese or yogurt. The average serving size for either milk or yogurt is about ½ cup, or 4 ounces. ¾ of an ounce of cheese will also make up the equivalent of one serving of dairy.

Proteins such as meat or beans aren’t needed in large quantities. A serving of meat for a toddler is about 1 ounce. Other protein sources that make up a serving include ½ an egg, a few tablespoons of beans or a tablespoon of peanut butter. Your toddler only needs two servings a day, so keep a close eye on how much protein you are serving.

For grains, you can measure out ¼ cup of cooked cereal such as oatmeal, or ¼ cup of rice or pasta. ½ of a slice of bread or the same amount of a tortilla make up another serving of grains.

Fruits and vegetables can be the hardest to get into your toddler, but it’s a bit easier when you realize how small the serving size actually is. A serving of fruit juice can make up one of your child’s fruit servings for the day, but should be no more than 6 ounces. For the rest of your child’s servings, about ¼ cup of cooked or fresh fruits and vegetables provides a serving. This is equivalent to about half of a banana or other whole fruit.

For foods like candy, baked goods and other snacks, there is no real serving size as they are not part of your child’s balanced diet. Add these treats with caution and bear in mind that a small amount is as much as your child needs. A toddler doesn’t need a whole cookie, and will likely be happy to get anything at all!

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