By the time your child reaches 2 years old, your days of cooking special meals and nursing throughout the night are generally over. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a 2-year-old can eat the same food as the rest of the family, consuming three meals and one or two snacks a day. Generally, a toddler of this age needs around 1,000 calories a day, coming from a variety of foods from all the food groups.
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The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a breakfast menu of iron-fortified cereal or an egg for a 2-year-old, along with 1/2 cup of juice or 1/3 cup of fresh fruit, and a half-slice of toast topped with a 1/2 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of jelly. Finish the meal off with 3/4 cup of milk. This might seem like a lot of food, but the portions are small. An appropriate serving size for a toddler is between one-quarter and one-half of an adult's serving, says Eat Right, the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Safe and Healthy Lunches
Life with a toddler is hectic enough; don't make it more difficult by trying to create complicated lunches.The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a lunch as simple as a half sandwich, made with one slice of whole-wheat bread and 1 ounce of meat, plus 1 teaspoon of butter. Add 2 tablespoons of dark green vegetables, 1/2 cup of 2 percent milk and a small, low-fat cookie for dessert. Certain foods that are traditional for toddlers might not be as good of an idea as you think -- hot dogs, raw carrots, spoonfuls of peanut butter, nuts and whole grapes can pose a choking hazard for your 2-year-old. Ensure that food is soft and small while your child is still learning how to chew efficiently.
Dinners for the Family
Encourage your child to try new foods and expand his tastes, particularly when you're cooking dinner for the whole family. Pair these new foods with familiar options, such as mixing a new vegetable with one of his favorites; however, don't force your child to eat certain foods, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics. A healthy meal for a toddler at dinner includes around 2 ounces of meat or vegetarian protein; 2 tablespoons of vegetables; 1/3 cup of starch, such as pasta, rice or potato; and a 1/2 cup of 2 percent milk.
Filling the Gap with Snacks
Your child still has a small stomach, so he might get hungrier more often. Feed him one to two snacks throughout the day to keep his energy up. Lancaster General Health recommends considering these snacks to be "mini meals," consisting of foods from two or more food groups. Skip traditional snack foods like salty pretzels, fried potato chips or sugary cookies. Instead, offer up sliced or chopped fresh fruit, cut-up steamed vegetables, diced cheese, yogurt or crackers and tuna fish.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- HealthyChildren.org: Sample Daily Menu for a 2-Year-Old
- HealthyChildren.org: Feeding and Nutrition: Your Two-Year-Old
- HealthyChildren.org: Selecting Snacks for Toddlers
- Kids Eat Right: Size-Wise Nutrition for Toddlers
- Lancaster General Health: Nutrition for Your Child: Age 2 Years (24 to 36 months)
- BabyCenter: The Lowdown on Children's Vitamins