I’ve got two great toddlers running around my house these days. Like most siblings, they have their personality differences. My son is a bit more cautious while my daughter is bold and nearly reckless. He started walking at 10 months; she took her first steps at one year. Perhaps the biggest difference between my kids is their size! My son is pretty small for his age - he just turned three and he’s only a few pounds heavier than his 16-month-old sister. His size made me really hyper-aware of what he was eating. Was he getting enough calories? What should his meal portions look like? After months of worrying, I started to research toddler nutritional needs. Turns out, my kid wasn’t alone! Lots of toddlers don’t show much interest in food.
A One Year Old’s Nutritional Needs
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s quite common to see a sharp drop in appetite and food interest at one year of age. At this point, babies aren’t growing quite so fast and they may sense a dip in calorie need. This is also a common stage to begin fighting over food - some toddlers may turn their head away or reject previous favorite foods. In general, babies at one year need to be eating from the same basic food groups as adults. Balance is key - but don’t feel the need to cut fats from their diet. One-year-old toddlers need 1,000 calories per day.
A Two Year Old’s Nutritional Needs
Two-year-olds can subsist on somewhere between 1,000 and 1,400 calories per day.l As they’re more independent, toddlers love to feed themselves and assert their food preferences. It’s okay if your little one doesn’t always get a balanced meal every time - most don’t! The key to creating healthy habits is to model them. Keep offering balanced meals and eating together as a family as these routines can help toddlers become better eaters.
A Three Year Old’s Nutritional Needs
Three-year-olds don’t change much in their calorie needs. However, they can begin to show distinct food preferences and avoidances. AAP again reminds parents not to turn mealtime into a battle. Offer nutritious, well-balanced options and encourage your toddler to try new foods. Some parents settle on an “adventure bite” - new foods have to be tasted at minimum.
Read Nutrition Labels In Front Of Your Toddler
Part of teaching our children to become “good eaters” and live a healthy lifestyle is leading by example. Although I hate to admit it, I am not always the best in this area myself. I’m less aware of what I’m eating and my own portion sizes than I am of my kids’ diets! Because my son is quite small for his age, I am adamant that he gets as many calories as he needs. I also want to make sure he’s not eating too much sugar, sodium, or unhealthy fats. Learning to read nutritional labels - and then doing it, in the store, in front of your toddler - is a game-changer. Not only are you ensuring a nutritious diet for your family, but you’re also teaching healthy habits that your toddler will likely one day replicate!
Even if you have a picky eater, it's important to make sure your toddler has enough daily calories for healthy growth! While most little ones can become very assertive over their food, it's important that parents lead by example. Eating healthy, balanced meals and being aware of our intake will help our kids grow up to do the same!