Is Your Toddler Eating Enough? Tips From Our Expert

It can be challenging to get a toddler to eat and this can cause a lot of parental distress. There are however certain ways in which you can tell if your child is eating enough. Extreme fluctuations in appetite are fairly typical toddler eating habits. Here are my toddler nutrition tips. 

What Should We As Parents Be Monitoring?

  1. Notice the frequency in which they eat: A typical food related habit that toddlers do is that they graze. Grazing will often result in them not eating their main meals and this can be frustrating. Try to aim for regular meal and snack times to ensure there is minimal grazing in place.1
  2. Look at how much they eat: A toddler’s stomach is very small. Children often have great hunger and satiety cues and we need to ensure as parents we are not changing that. Don’t force feed yourself and let them lead the way. 
  3. Monitor your child’s growth and weight: As long as your toddler has a lot of energy and is growing properly, they are likely eating fine. Factors like genetics, general development, and ethnicity all come into play when determining a healthy weight and height for toddlers. However keeping an eye on their trajectory and centile of weight is a great way to put your mind at ease. 
  4. Provide all five food groups at each meal: Make sure your toddler has grains, vegetables, fruits, protein, and dairy at every meal. Add a very small amount of fats as well. Offering your toddler a variety of foods from all of the major food groups throughout the day will ensure they have access to all the nutrients they need to grow and stay healthy. It will also help to prevent your child from wanting to eat the same foods all of the time and of getting bored with their food options. This lets them play a role in their own eating habits.

How Much Should My Toddler Eat In A Day?

While your toddler may not always cooperate, here’s what you should aim to serve them on an average day. 

  • Grains: 6 servings 
  • Vegetables: 3 servings
  • Fruits: 2 servings
  • Protein: 2 servings
  • Dairy: 16 to 24 ounces of milk (or equivalent amount of calcium-rich foods like cheese and yogurt)
  • Water: 8 to 32 ounces
  • Sweets: Very sparingly

What Is A Typical Toddler Serving Size?

It’s not uncommon for parents to put an adult-size portion on their child’s plate, and then worry that their toddler with the tiny tummy isn’t eating enough because they can’t finish it.

The thing to remember, though, is that toddler portions are only about a quarter to half of a normal adult portion. If you are worried that your child is not meeting their micronutrient requirements for vitamins and minerals you can supplement with a multivitamin. 

Take Home Message

Being a parent can be stressful when you don’t think your child is eating, however keeping an eye on certain aspects will prevent parental overwhelm and put your mind at ease. This is likely a typical phase and will pass. If your child has been extremely selective , then I would suggest speaking to a paediatric dietitian for expert advice.

  1.  Ramos, M., & Stein, L. M. (2000). Development children’s eating behavior. J Pediatr (Rio J), 76(Supl 3), 229-37.
  2.   Jackson, R. L., Hanna, F. M., & Flynn, M. A. (1962). Nutritional requirements of infants and children. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 9(4), 879-910.
  3.   Nair, R., & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, 3(2), 118–126.
  4.   Andıran, N., Çelik, N., Akca, H., & Doğan, G. (2012). Vitamin D deficiency in children and adolescents. Journal of clinical research in pediatric endocrinology, 4(1), 25.
  5.   Andıran, N., Çelik, N., Akca, H., & Doğan, G. (2012). Vitamin D deficiency in children and adolescents. Journal of clinical research in pediatric endocrinology, 4(1), 25.
  6.   Munns, C. F., Shaw, N., Kiely, M., Specker, B. L., Thacher, T. D., Ozono, K., … & Högler, W. (2016). Global consensus recommendations on prevention and management of nutritional rickets. Hormone research in paediatrics, 85(2), 83-106.
  7. Misra, M., Pacaud, D., Petryk, A., Collett-Solberg, P. F., & Kappy, M. (2008). Vitamin D deficiency in children and its management: review of current knowledge and recommendations. Pediatrics, 122(2), 398-417.

Jenaed Gonçalves Brodell

Jenaed Gonçalves Brodell

Writer and expert

Jenaed Brodell is one of UK's leading Paediatric Dietitians. She is the lead dietitian and director of the nutrition company Nutrition and Co. She has a wealth of experience in the private sector and NHS. Her focus area's are cows milk protein allergy in children, autism , sensory eating, ARFID and fussy eaters.