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12 mo to adult

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Beginning at 6 months


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Mealtime Guide - Toddler

Toddler Mealtime Guide

The servings below show an overall average, but can vary based on your child's specific age, gender and activity level.

A simple tip: For toddlers (ages 1-4), initially offer 1 tablespoon of foods (fruits, vegetables, and protein/main course foods) for every year of age, with more provided according to appetite.

Serve a variety of color and texture. By age 2, your child should be eating 3 meals plus 1-2 snacks each day.

Bye, bye bottle!

Weaning from the bottle is important to prevent the health consequences of prolonged bottle use - this includes iron deficiency, poor nutrition and growth as well as tooth decay.


The sippy cup is not a developmental milestone and in fact, the AAP says that transition to an open cup directly is optimal. You can introduce an open cup as early as 6 months and generally by 12 months. Aim for a gradual transition off all bottle feeding by no later than 18 months of age.

Choking prevention

Children less than 4 years are at most risk for choking. They have smaller airways, incomplete dental formation, immature swallowing coordination and high activity levels during eating.


* Start with soft, mashed or ground foods and build to table foods by 12-18 months. Cut food into smaller pieces as they move past the soft food stage. Avoid high-risks foods like hot dogs, hard candy, peanuts, seeds, whole grapes, raw carrots, popcorn, and chewing gum.

* Children should be seated while eating and caregivers should always be present to observe your toddler during meals and snacks.

Food acceptance and patience

Our job as a caregiver is to offer healthy foods and regular mealtimes, and your toddler’s job is to decide whether she wants to eat and how much she wants to eat. Kids are naturally intuitive eaters and will eat to satisfy hunger.


Acceptance of some foods, like vegetables, is not immediate. It can take 8-10 times before children accept a food! Continue to offer tastes of less preferred, nutrient-dense foods without expectations that your child will consume a full-serving. Remember to offer it in a pleasant manner without forcing, distracting or rewarding during mealtime.

Portion Distortion

Over the past 20 years, portion sizes have increased dramatically. The National Institute of Health calls it portion distortion. Try using smaller bowls (like our 8 oz / 1 cup) bowl to help create appropriate age-based serving sizes.

A food preference is the concept of liking certain foods over others. This is associated with many factors, most of which are learned and shaped by our experiences. We are born with some, however. For example, babies prefer sweet and fatty foods. Why? Breast Milk is sweet and high in fat! However, there are many other factors that start early in life that shape this preference that is forming in the first 2 years of your child’s life. Studies show that these early food preferences directly affect eating habits and are linked to a child’s overall health.  
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Learn about plant-based diets for children with Dr. Derek Kwan one of San Diego’s Top Doctors. Dr. Kwan will answer some frequently asked questions about plant-based diets, share tips on how to make healthy plant- based meals at home and quick tips for beginners.
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Learn about plant-based diets for children with Dr. Derek Kwan one of San Diego’s Top Doctors. You will get a special view of some of his personal tips & tricks on how to design an appropriately planned diet, and the science behind a healthy plant-based plate.
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Sources: Pediatric Nutrition. 8th Ed. 2019. American Academy of Pediatrics. Frank R. Greer, MD, FAAP; Ronald E. Kleinman, MD, FAAP. *This website has been developed by Ahimsa LLC. This site offers health and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. While many of our experts are practicing clinicians, viewing this site, receipt of information contained on this site or the transmission of information from or to this site does not constitute a physician-patient relationship. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Any information provided is not meant to address a specific situation, person or event, even if you provide information about a specific person or situation to Ahimsa. Always seek the advice of your child’s own physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Please click here for more information on our disclaimer. Effective Date: October 7, 2019, Updated 6/17/2021. © 2021 Ahimsa LLC, All Rights Reserved