Menu Suggestions for Toddlers

Susie McGee
toddler eating

Menu suggestions for toddlers can help you meet the challenge of feeding your picky eater. With a variety of foods on hand, it's easier to find foods that your toddler will eat.

Planning Your Toddler's Diet

If you haven't already realized it, your toddler's eating habits can change from one month to the next. Some of this may have to do with how quickly he is growing. During growth spurts, his body uses more energy and he'll have a larger appetite. However, while your toddler grew in leaps and bounds the first year of his life, his development has probably slowed down, and he simply doesn't need as much to eat. While you should spend some time creating a healthy diet for your child, menu suggestions for toddlers should begin with a few "don'ts" as well.

  • Don't allow her to fill up on liquids. Obviously, milk is important in your child's diet, but don't give her more than 16 to 24 ounces per day. You should also watch her juice intake, limiting it to no more than one cup per day as well.
  • Don't give her snacks before her meals. This is common sense, of course, but some parents give in to their children's hunger pangs and allow them to nibble on snack food too closely before the main meal.
  • Don't have unrealistic expectations. Remember, your toddler is a little person who doesn't need to be served a plate full of food. Keep portion sizes small and manageable.
  • Don't play the "war of wills" game with your child. If you try to force him to eat, you'll both end up losing. If he refuses to eat, don't force the issue, but make it plain that he can't fill up on snacks later. Also, remember that he has definitive taste buds just like you, and there will be foods that he just doesn't like.

Basic Menu Needs

As you plan your child's menu, keep in mind that there are specific needs that must be met according to nutritional guidelines. Try to stick to the following:

  • Grains-4 to 6 servings
  • Vegetables-3 to 4 servings
  • Fruits-2 servings
  • Milk/dairy-2 to 3 servings
  • Meat/protein-2 to 3 servings

Keep in mind that toddler serving sizes will be about 1/4 of an adult serving size.

Meals for Toddlers

The following menu suggestions for toddlers can be modified to meet your toddler's likes and needs.

Day One

  • Breakfast-Whole grain cereal (1/2 cup), milk (1/4 cup), juice or fruit slices (such as a half of banana)
  • Lunch-Half of a sandwich (tuna, peanut butter, or lean meat and cheese), milk (1/4 cup), one serving of fruit
  • Supper-Chicken (1 or 2 oz), veggies (1 serving), whole wheat bread, milk or juice (1/4 cup)
  • Snacks-One or two snacks per day, which could include string cheese and whole wheat crackers, pudding, Jello, sliced apples and peanut butter, fruit, yogurt, graham crackers with peanut butter or applesauce

Day Two

  • Breakfast-Oatmeal (1/2 cup), one slice whole grain toast, half of a banana, milk (1/4 cup)
  • Lunch-Pita bread (filled with tuna, ground turkey, or refried beans), applesauce, steamed broccoli, milk or juice (1/4 cup)
  • Supper-Turkey burger with cheese slice, carrot sticks, diced apples, and milk (1/4 cup milk)
  • Snacks-Any of the above snacks

Day Three

  • Breakfast-Whole wheat pancakes, turkey bacon (1 slice), applesauce, and milk
  • Lunch-Pasta salad, corn on the cob, whole grain muffin, juice or milk
  • Supper-Grilled chicken (cubed), sweet potato, steamed broccoli with cheese sauce, whole grain toast, juice or milk
  • Snacks-Any of the above snacks

Day Four

  • Breakfast-Scrambled egg sandwich with whole grain toast, cooked apples, turkey sausage link, milk or juice
  • Lunch-Turkey meatballs, whole grain muffin, green beans, string cheese, and milk or juice
  • Supper-Hot dog (cut into bite sized pieces), oven fries, apple slices, milk or juice
  • Snacks-Any of the above snacks

Day Five

  • Breakfast-Ham and cheese omelet, applesauce, whole wheat toast, milk or juice
  • Lunch-Whole grain sandwich with tuna or lean meat and cheese, carrot sticks and dip, fruit smoothie, yogurt
  • Supper-Chicken tenders, corn on the cob, yogurt, and whole grain toast
  • Snacks-Any of the above snacks

Remember, the above menus and portion sizes are just suggestions. Your child may feel less hungry as the day progresses, so don't force her to finish each portion that you serve. Obviously, if your child has any food allergies, modify the menu accordingly.

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Menu Suggestions for Toddlers