Nutritional Guidelines for Toddlers

To tackle this challenging topic, it's best to start with the basics. Below are a set of guidelines for nutrients critical to toddlers, a list of the foods that provide them, and -- getting to the heart of the matter -- ideas for how to get them to eat that food.

Daily requirements for a one-to-three-year-old:

  1. Protein: A minimum of 16 grams a day. 16 ounces of milk plus one ounce of meat is ample protein for a toddler.
  2. Fat: At least 30 percent of a toddler's calories should come from fat. Too little can result in "failure to thrive," where children do not get enough food to supply their energy and growth needs.
  3. Calories: 40 calories/day/inch of height = 1000 to 1300 calories/day. Calorie distribution is apt to look like this:
    • 16 g protein = 64 calories
    • 44 g fat = 396 calories
    • 210 g carbohydrate = 840 calories
    Total = 1300 calories
  4. Sodium: 325-1000 mg.
  5. Vitamin C: 40 mg.
  6. Vitamin A: 400 ug. RE
  7. Calcium: 800 mg. Even if a child drinks the recommended two cups of milk a day, he still needs 200 more milligrams of calcium. Offer yogurt, cheese, tofu, and leafy greens.
  8. Iron: 10 mg.
  9. Zinc: 10 mg. A mild zinc deficiency in toddlers is more common than realized. Symptoms are poor appetite, sub-optimal growth and reduced sense of taste and smell. The best sources of zinc are meat, eggs and seafood.
  10. Folate: 50 ug.

The last four are the ones most often deficient in toddlers.

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