Toddlers and Nutrition – What Makes a Balanced Diet?

Toddlers and Nutrition - What Makes a Balanced Diet?

As your child moves into their toddler years, it remains important to provide them with all of the nutrition necessary to meet their needs. When it comes to toddlers and nutrition, the demands of a rapidly growing toddler are significant and knowing how to meet these with nutrient-dense foods is the job of any compassionate and caring parent.

It is important to get a head start and learn more about what a balanced diet looks like for toddlers before they reach the one-year milestone. Taking the time to learn more about the needs of your toddler and how this stage of life differs from infancy will allow you to make better food choices and create delicious meals that your toddler will both love and be able to consume. 

Let’s look at some of the basics of toddler nutrition and what goes into making a balanced diet for children at this stage.

Try Toddler Milks

The toddler years are a time of many changes in the diet of your child. While infant formula and breastmilk are great for young children, toddlers need to start developing a taste for foods that suit a more grown-up diet. This includes cows’ milk in its pure form.

However, cows’ milk can be difficult for some toddlers to handle. As their digestive systems are still developing, they may have a hard time digesting the proteins in pure milk. This can be an issue even if your toddler is not lactose intolerant.

In these cases, it is worthwhile to check out toddler milk products. These serve as an intermediary step between infant formulas and pure cows’ milk. They make the transition a bit easier for your child to manage and make a great addition to a balanced diet.

Know What Your Child Needs

Toddlers need to reach a certain amount of calories each day in order to fuel their rapid growth. Depending on the size of your child, this will range between 1000 and 1400 calories per day. Your doctor will be able to provide you with the most accurate information, as they will be able to take more precise measurements of your child’s physiological requirements.

Mix Up Their Diet

Balanced diets contain enough variety to ensure that your child is receiving not only carbohydrates, proteins and fats, but also sufficient vitamins and minerals. Balanced diets need to include enough servings of vegetables, fruits, grains and meats, or meat alternatives, to meet these needs.

Thankfully, toddlers are able to start exploring the world of solid foods. Make sure to explore some creative recipes that your toddler will tolerate and enjoy. You may have to mash up or cut food into small pieces to ensure that it does not represent a choking hazard. However, toddlers often enjoy starting to exercise motor control over their arms and hands. Help them move food to their mouths so that they can get used to the movements that are required.

Dietary Supplements

Beyond food, there are other things that you should consider feeding your toddler to ensure their optimal health. Most importantly, make sure that your toddler receives enough water throughout the day. Staying hydrated will keep them happy and healthy.

You may also consider toddler vitamins, usually available in a dropper format, to bolster their vitamin and mineral levels.

Continue To Explore Toddler Nutrition

Consulting with your doctor is a great way to learn more about the nuances of toddler nutrition. The internet is also filled with great recipe ideas and food combinations that are toddler-friendly. If you put in some effort to understand toddler nutrition, you can be more confident in the dietary choices that you make for them.

About the author
Mrs. Hatland is a 30-something married, mom of 7 and the face behind the popular online publication, Motherhood Defined. Known as the Iowa Mom blogger by her local peers and “The Fairy Blogmother” worldwide. She has professional experience in working closely with clients on brand ambassadorships, client outreach services, content creation and creative social media advertising exposure.


  1. Yes, do not give in to a picky eater, make them eat everything on their plate from the beginning!

  2. Diets and the food you give your kids is very important. My daughter is 4 and we’re struggling to get her to eat her veggies. I’ll be sure to keep these in mind.

  3. I try to give my granddaughters a healthy diet whenever I keep them. They love fruit for their snacks.

  4. This is a very important subject, it is really difficult to ensure children that are fussy eaters have a well balanced diet.
    My grandson went through some rough stages, refusing to eat anything new, but the good news is that he has outgrown
    it and is now eating healthy well balanced meals.

  5. Great advice. Some adults could use the refresher too. I have been trying to incorporate more fruits and veggies to my diet.

  6. food is the one thing i lucked out with my kids. they eat everything, even fruits and veggies

  7. This is great advice. It can take work to find balance in your toddler’s diet. Two of my grandchildren are around that age and I’m always finding new info on healthy food options.

  8. This is a very good article. But how do you recommend ensuring that a picky 4 yr old get nutritious foods when he refuses everything you give him? He’s been like this for several years. My daughter told me how difficult it was to feed him but I thought she was over reacting till I baby sat him 30 hrs a week and I saw for myself how difficult it was to get him to eat. She says she spoke to his doc and WIC about it but they just tell her to keep trying the same foods he won’t eat. She throws a LOT of food away. He won’t eat meat, hot dogs, lunch meat, eggs or cheese, but he will pick the cheese of pizza IF it is cooked. Other wise He won’t eat cheese sticks or slices. He has no food sensitivities that we know of & is not lactose intolerant. The only protien he will eat is turkey bacon, pork bacon, and peanut butter. BUT he will only eat pnb every other day. He basically lives in ramen, Kraft mac & chz cups, chef boy ardee spagettios (once in a while). Occasionally he’ll eat cereal, but never the same cereal…it has to be different each time. No pancakes or French toast either. He loves chz crackers, and his mom gives him snacks during the day to keep his calories up otherwise he will lose weight. Snacks consist of crackers, gummies or cookie. He will not eat fruit canned or fresh. No apple sauce, bananas, fruit cocktail, etc. I’ve tried feeding him pnb on bananas, raises, etc. Nope. He does take a gummie vitamin supplement, and he usually refuses to eat dinner. Daughter will give him a nutritional drink for children. When she tries to feed him something other than what I’ve listed he will literally go without eating. Any advice?

  9. I try to make eating fun for my grandkids. What’s good about this – in today’s society is, the commercials that are playing on the kids’ channels, try and teach kids to eat the right way. Which is wonderful! They actually like some veggies now Raw or cooked!! Corn 🌽 is their favorite! My one granddaughter had to drink Silk for a long time, until she grew out of the milk allergy. We do give them vitamins and a probiotic pill. Of course, we want the kids to be healthy- so I pinned this awesome article! Thank you for sharing!

  10. I feel this is-an important topic in today’s world full of junk and processed food.
    I see infants and toddlers in public and in private place eating so much unhealthy junk! am concerned. Many of the children are ether over-weight or pale looking. If healthy fods are introduced consistently in very small portions, the child will soon respond to eating and liking them.

  11. I have a granddaughter who is 3 and getting her to eat a balanced diet is so hard. I try buy fruits and vegetables and over half the time, she will not eat them. She of course, loves junk food. Will continue on with trying to serve her healthier items but it’s hard…lol

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