A Guide to Treating Your Toddlers to a Balanced Diet

Give your kids a balanced diet

Balanced Diet Guidelines for Toddlers

Feeding toddlers can be quite a tricky business. Between the ages of one and three, toddlers are going through rapid development, both physically and mentally. They are learning more about themselves, including what foods they like and which they aren’t so sure about yet. Many parents also find that their toddler’s appetite isn’t quite as voracious for a period of time, which makes picky eating a particularly tough obstacle to overcome.

Here are some helpful guidelines on feeding your toddler well and getting them accustomed to trying new types of foods.

A balanced diet should be based on these five main categories.

A nutritious balanced diet for a toddler isn’t so different from a nutrition diet for an adult. A toddler’s primary daily diet should include the five classic food groups you’re already familiar with. The only difference is the specific types of foods you might try in each category.


Protein includes lean red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and non-meat protein sources like legumes, beans, and nuts. Toddlers should have about 13 to 18 grams of protein per day. Protein is important for healthy growth, muscle, and tissue.

Examples of one serving:

  • 1 hard boiled or scrambled egg
  • 3 tablespoons of ground meat
  • ¼ cup of cooked beans
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter

Your toddler should have two servings per day.

Vegetables and Fruit

Though they are two separate categories, vegetables and fruit are important for health for many of the same reasons. They provide crucial vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber. Fresh produce includes low-sugar fruits, leafy greens, crunchy vegetables,  and low-sodium options for canned or frozen vegetables.

Examples of one serving:

  • ½ cup of leafy greens
  • ½ cup of raw vegetables
  • ¼ cup of cooked vegetables
  • ½ of a banana
  • ½ cup of fresh fruit
  • ½ of a small orange

Your toddlers should have two or three servings per day.


Grains are a great source of fiber. Multigrain products are recommended as they are a healthier option and tend to have more vitamins and minerals as well as a little protein. Whole wheat bread, plain oatmeal, and brown rice are great options.

Examples of one serving:

  • ½ slice of whole wheat toast
  • ½ cup of oatmeal
  • ½ cup of whole wheat crackers
  • ½ cup of cereal

Your toddlers should have six servings per day.


Many toddlers love dairy, which makes your job as a parent even easier. Look for low-fat or no-fat options for milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Examples of one serving:

  • ½ cup of milk
  • ½ cup of yogurt
  • 1 string cheese

Your toddlers should have two or three servings per day.

What if my diet eliminates certain food groups?

Pediatricians recommend including all five food groups unless a food allergy requires the elimination of certain products. If you aren’t sure about providing certain food items because of your own health beliefs, your child’s pediatrician or a knowledgeable pediatric nutritionist will be happy to discuss alternative options.

Your toddler’s diet is connected to their oral health.

As a dedicated pediatric dental care practice, we have a unique look at how diet impacts kids’ oral health

Our pediatric dentists take a keen interest in your child’s entire physical health, and you might have already been asked about their diet at home. By understanding the type of foods that make up your child’s staple meals, we can better understand why certain things may be occurring with their oral health.

For example, fresh fruits are a great source of vitamins and minerals, but too much fruit or relying on fruit juice can spell trouble for a toddler’s smile. Fruit sugar may be healthier than refined white sugar, but bad bacteria can’t necessarily tell the difference. This is why we encourage parents to offer whole fruit and limit fruit juice — yes, even 100% juice! — to only six ounces maximum for toddlers.

How to Start Your Toddler on a Healthy, Smile-friendly Diet

Now that you have the knowledge and some ideas for meals, it’s time to put it all together. Changing a toddler’s diet isn’t exactly easy, but here are some helpful tips for starting.

  • Navigate picky eating with care. Arguing or forcing foods is not only stressful but can reinforce picky eating even further.
  • Set regular meal and snack times, and do your best to stick to them.
  • Encourage your child’s natural curiosity with food and rotate through different meals to keep things interesting.
  • Keep food waste to a minimum by remembering that a toddler’s meal only needs to be about 1/4 the size of what you’d eat.
  • Double-check meals to ensure all food is bite-size and adheres to food safety guidelines before serving.
  • Reduce the possibilities of choking by supervising all meals and snacks, and always have your child sit down and still while they are chewing and swallowing.
  • Sudden fussy eating, mouth pain, or an aversion to hot or cold foods could be due to an oral health issue. See a pediatric dentist right away, and in the future maintain a schedule of visits every six months. 

Have you found your toddler’s childhood dental home?

Establishing a dental home for your toddler can’t begin soon enough. The team at Must Love Kids can provide complete dental care for the entirety of your toddler’s childhood and adolescence, right up until they turn 18. We also offer guidance to parents on healthy diets for their kids and teach youngsters important oral care habits for cavity prevention.

You can schedule your toddler’s appointment with us today by calling our Vancouver, WA, office or using this online form.