A Quick Food Guide for Toddlers

Motherhood is challenging first-time mothers in many ways, whether we talk about it online or not. I prefer to keep being positive for the sake of my child, hence whatever mountain I find my way I learn how to surpass it together, as a family, with my husband and child by my side.

Things are quite easy when the baby is breastfeeding and under a year of age, but situation suddenly changes when they start showing interest for foods, for your dinner and whatever you are eating. You are suddenly facing an extremely important part of toddlerhood, that is of proper nutrition. ”Proper nutrition” can mean different things for everyone but generally means the correct intake of all the necessary nutrients, vitamins and minerals for the correct function of the body.

In this post I will focus on what proper nutrition for my child means to us. Please realize every child is different, they will react differently to foods (even from day to day) and they will have personal favorites and things that they dislike, and that is OK. Never force a child to eat. Just try later and if not, save it for another day.

How much of everything does my child need?

There are nutritional formulas to determine the needs of every child. Also, every single child has different absorption rates so how much he/she will need will highly depend but here I will write down the formula used to determine the calories needed for a child from 13 to 35 months as well as the agreed requirements of the rest of the main nutrients.

Estimated Energy Requirement (kcal) = (89 x child’s body weight in kg) – 100 +20

Using this formula you will find out depending on your child’s bodyweight how many kcal they should get in every single day for a steadily growth. Children over 35 months of age will need to be grouped by age and sex in order to get more indepth nutritional information.

Protein 1 – 3 years of age: 13g/day

Iron* 1 – 3 years of age: 8mg/day

Iron is of EXTREME importance during infancy due to the fact that anemia (iron deficiency) affects development of the child. This period that is marked by rapid growth has to do with the increase of hemoglobin and total iron mass, hence you must make sure your child gets in the right iron intake every single day at this stage especially (and even breastfed, remember that the iron in mother’s milk no longer is sufficient).

Calcium 1- 3 years of age: 700mg/day

Zinc 1 -3 years of age: 3mg/day

Sodium (different quantity than salt) 1 – 3 years of age: 0,8g/day (this means around 2g of salt/day)

Vitamin D 1 – 3 years of age: Will depend on the country you live, so make sure to check with your health institutions. A daily dose of cod liver oil will make it (find out how much).

As a first-time mother you might also wonder what is a correct portion size for my child and how can you know that. An honest answer is that you cannot possibly know how much you should feed your child, nor I personally believe anyone should tell you. Your child will reject food when he/she has had enough and simply let it be there. If you are worried they’re not eating enough here are some ideas for portion size but please take it with a pinch of salt because some children can eat less OR more, this is just for your own peace of mind:

Bread: 1 slice/day (simply because the amount of sugars and salt added to the dough)

Rice, pasta, potatoes: 1/2 cup max

Cooked oats: 1/2 cup max

Homemade tortilla bread: 1 max

Cooked veggies: 2-4 tablespoons

Raw veggies: If your child can chew well, serve few pieces.

Raw fruit: 1/2 or 1 fruit max

Mashed fruits: 2-4 tablespoons

Milk & dairy products: 120ml – 200 ml at once

Meat (& protein in general): 50g at once of meat

Eggs: 1/2 to 1 piece at once

Nut butter: 1 tablespoon served with food (it can be very difficult to swallow if not served with something more liquid)

Cooked dried beans: 4-5 tablespoons at once

With this you can easily make a meal plan for your child taking into consideration how much he/she usually eats and what nutrients they need or have left of the day. Think about calories (a good fat source), about calcium, iron and vitamin D. Combine foods in a way that will be pleasant for your child to eat (some like to hold foods in their hands, others like things more soft and mushy). Don’t force a child to eat if you estimate they have gotten all their nutrients. If such is not the case, insist with the food at different times of the day, present it differently or just hide it in something tasty (to them).

Eggs are superfood for babies, so do not shy out trying to make a snack out of them or a meal.

Should I give snacks to my 1 year old?

That depends. Your child might take time to accustom her/himself to extra food suddenly, hence never force a meal if the child rejects and has eaten decently. Snacks also depend whether your child has gotten the right nutrient intake already or not. I am not sure how many mothers do it but I made a little plan for Astrid and with her own nutrient requirements I know more or less where we stand every single day.

What sort of foods are good snacks? Here are my examples:

  • Cheddar cheese
  • Boiled or scrambled egg
  • Roasted veggies
  • Full fat yoghurt
  • Rye bread with butter/nut butter/liver topping
  • Egg & meat muffins
  • Apricots (high in iron)
  • Apples
  • If you wish banana/avocado
  • Little blood sausage bites
  • Basically any food that can be picked up by your child, pinching
Cheddar cheese makes a great snack (watch out for the salt) as it’s filled with fats and calcium. Also babies love pinching their little fingers to grab it.

Examples of meals that Astrid likes

  1. Minced meat with homemade bolognese sauce
  2. Minced meat patties with yoghurt and mint
  3. Chicken soup with bone broth and veggies (you can mash them with the fork if you wish for safety)
  4. Blood pudding, fried with onion and lingonberry jam
  5. Scrambled eggs in lots of butter topped with cheddar cheese
  6. Baby pancakes with lots of whipped cream
  7. Roasted beef with root veggies
  8. Blood bread in yogurt with an added fruit sauce
  9. Liver sandwiches & Poor Knights
  10. Ham and cheddar cheese muffins

If you are interested in recipes for toddler food or overall ideas, let me know in my Instagram comment section and I will try to compile some more ideas for you and your little one.