Nutrition for Toddlers: 12-24 Months

fussybaby If you are a mother to a toddler, I can bet that you have thought to yourself or said out aloud a few million times that your child does not eat well. The moment babies hit the 1 year mark, there is a sudden change in eating habits. Even if your baby has up till then never fussed for milk or for food, you will notice that to feed one of these or both becomes a nightmare. The silver lining on the cloud is that you are not alone and there may not be such a big reason to worry as you may be thinking.


Why do toddlers suddenly become picky at the 1 year mark?

Experts attribute this to a variety of reasons. The most important one being that the rate of growth at the 12th month milestone slows down. This means that your toddler is not growing at the same pace as when he/she was a baby. The weight gain as well as the height gain is at a much lower rate. For example, your baby may grow 2-3 inches in height every 3 months in the first year. However, in the entire second year, he/she may gain only 3-5 inches. This directly translates into the need to eat less.

The other reasons are toddlers are too restless to sit and eat the complete meal at one go. There’s so much to do, so much to explore, eating is just a waste of time for them J. Also, by this time your toddler has begun to assert his/her independence and personality. They begin to realize that they can say no and their different actions will get different reactions from you.

 How much nutrition does my 12-24 month toddler need?

On an average, your 12-24 month old toddler needs about 1000-1400 calories (which is not much really). These should come from the following five main groups of foods:

(Please note that the daily required amount mentioned is indicative for a 2 year old baby. Between 12 and 24 months, your baby is still in the transitioning phase, so if he/she is eating less or more, it should be okay as long as you are offering all food groups.)

1. Food Group: Dairy

Daily required amount: 2 cups (1 cup=1 US cup=approx 235 ml)

Includes: Milk, Yogurt, Cheese (Processed or Homemade Paneer)

*Care should be taken to serve only whole fat (full fat) dairy – no low fat or fat free/skim milk products.

How to measure intake:

  • 1 cup milk = 1 cup dairy
  • 1 cup yogurt = 1 cup dairy
  • 1.5 oz (approx 40 gms) of natural/homemade cheese = 1 cup of dairy
  • 2 oz (approx 50 gms) of processed cheese = 1 cup dairy


2. Food Group: Vegetables

Daily required amount: 1 cup (1 cup=1 US cup=approx 235 ml)

Includes: All vegetables, vegetable juices and vegetable soups

How to measure intake:

  • Use a measuring cup to measure small cut or mashed vegetables.

3. Food Group: Fruits

Daily required amount: 1 cup (1 cup=1 US cup=approx 235 ml)

Includes: All fruits and fruit juices

*Care should be taken to serve more whole fruits than juice. Also juice should be 100% fruit juice and not have any added flavors, colors or sweeteners.

How to measure intake:

  • Use a measuring cup to measure small cut or mashed fruit.
  • An example: An 8 or 9 inch banana = 1 cup of fruit.

4. Food Group: Grains

Daily required amount: 3 oz (approx 85 gms)

Includes: Baby cereal (without added sugar), rice, wheat, suji, ragi, daliya, oats, barley, bread, pasta, noodles, cold cereal such as cornflakes, etc.

*Care should be taken to include whole grain as much as possible.

How to measure intake:

  • 1/3 US cup cold cereal = 1 oz grain
  • 2 table spoon baby cereal (without added sugar) = 1 oz grain
  • 1/4 US cup cooked pasta/rice/oats/barley/ragi/suji/daliya etc. = 1 oz grain
  • 1 slice of whole wheat bread= 1 oz grain

5. Food Group: Proteins

Daily required amount: 2 oz (approx 50 gms)

Includes: Eggs, all poultry (chicken, turkey), all meats, fish (boneless), tofu, lentils (all daals), legumes and beans (chick peas/chhola, kidney beans/rajma, black eyed beans/lobhia)

How to measure intake:

  • 1 oz meat/poultry/fish = 1 oz protein
  • 1/4 cup cooked lentils/beans = 1 oz protein
  • 1 egg = 1 oz protein

What if my child is not getting the required nutrition?

First, don’t worry because worry is not going to solve any problem. Get a measuring cup and start measuring your toddler’s intake over a period of time – a fortnight or month. This is because nutrition is not about aggregates but about averages. Given this information, you and your doctor will be able to gauge if for your child’s height, weight, age and growth pattern, he/she is getting adequate nutrition or not. To reiterate, the required amounts given above are indicative for a 2 year old.

Giving supplements to infants and toddlers is a widely debated topic. We suggest that any supplements that your child gets should be prescribed by the doctor.

Also, as a mother you have to encourage healthy eating habits right from the beginning. Do not substitute unhealthy options for food just because you want to fill your little one’s tummy up. You will be setting a wrong precedent for the child. For example, if your baby is not having milk, instead of adding sugar or chocolate mix, make a smoothie with fruit or swap it with a yogurt drink. Try giving creamy soups with cheese and milk. If you give only healthy options to your toddler, whatever your picky monster chooses to eat, you are assured it will be healthy and meets his/her nutrient requirement!

 About the Author: Yuvika is a writer at Indian baby blog.She is a mother of a adorable toddler who likes to try out different dishes for her baby girl  whenever she finds something interesting while browsing the net.

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