As a first time mom, there has been many and will be many new adventures throughout motherhood and with every new challenge I learn what works best for both me and my child.  The new chapter that I’ve embarked on is feeding my toddler balanced healthy meals.  Being a dietetic student, I feel compelled to make certain that my son’s meals are nutritious.  It wouldn’t be the best choice just to feed him all the pre-packaged food that is supplied by many national brands, by simply allowing the brands to plan for me.  In moderation, most things are good but to depend solely on a national retail brand to supply my son his so-called balance diet is just not right in my eyes.  Consequently, I have challenged myself to feed my son freshly prepared nutritious meals.  And my husband doesn’t mind my strong ambitions towards this since he also gets to eat these home cooked meals.

My passion for cooking was just turned up another notch, as I have been inspired, so I began to research along with learning in my classes what a balance diet consists of.  Specifically, I searched the area of infants and toddlers.  My discussion will be supported by material that I have found searching various registered dietitians’ articles.

The question is what you should feed your toddler (12-23 month), what guidelines should be used when planning and preparing a meal.  Below is an example, supplied by Brenda Davis, R.D. and Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D., of the recommended, if you will,  “food guide” for early toddlers specifically on a vegetarian based diet.


Calcium-Rich Foods
20-24 oz. (600-720 ml) of breast milk, commercial soy formula, or full-fat fortified soymilk(or a combination)
This will allow for three 6-8 oz. (180 – 240 ml) servings of milk.

Breads and Cereals

4-6 oz. iron-fortified infant cereal (can be mixed with porridge, cold cereals, pancakes, muffins, etc.)
1-2 toddler-size servings of other breads and cereals per day:
½ slice of bread
1/4 cup (60 ml) rice, quinoa, enriched pasta, or other cooked grain
½ cup (120 ml) cold cereal

2-3 toddler-size servings per day:
½ cup (120 ml) salad or other raw vegetable pieces
¼ cup (60 ml) cooked vegetables
1/3 cup (80 ml) vegetable juice

2-3 toddler-size servings per day:
½-1 fresh fruit
¼ cup (60 ml) cooked fruit
¼ cup (60 ml) fruit juice

Beans and Bean Alternates
2 toddler-size servings per day:
¼ cup (60 ml) cooked legumes
2 oz. (55 g) tofu
½ – 1 oz. (14-28 g) veggie “meat”
(i.e. 1 deli slice; 2 Tbsp. veggie ground round
1½ Tbsp. nut or seed butter

Vitamin B12Vitamin B12
Aim for 1 mcg B12 in fortified foods

Vitamin D
Get sufficient sunlight, or at least 5 mcg vitamin D from fortified foods or supplements

Essential Fatty Acids
Aim for 1.1 g of omega-3 fatty acids/day

For conversion’s sake, as most aren’t mathematicians, 1 mcg = 0.001 mg. As you see it’s a small amount but essential to the dietary needs of any toddler.  Most of these like the B12 and Vitamin D can be supplemented in a vitamin form or as mentioned fortified in foods.

One thing I would like to add about the calcium intake is that almond milk is also a great substitute to soy milk, as my toddler didn’t take well to soy milk.  The almond like soy has been fortified with the calcium in most cases store-bought almond milk has 45% of the DV (daily value) in one serving 240 ml.  Almond milk does have 30% of your daily calcium naturally so only a small portion is fortified as with soy milk it has 80 mg of calcium from one serving of soy milk not making it a rich source of calcium it its natural state.

The challenges to getting your toddler to eat healthy may not be easy but persistence will conquer all. Yes most time children will frown upon green vegetables, but what worked in my case is adding flavor.  I have found that adding flavor to any green or what would be considered a bland vegetables to your child creates interests to their tiny little taste buds. Mild spices like cumin or lightly seasoned with garlic may improve the chances a toddler eating vegetables. In a future post, I will become more detailed in the area of menus and possible recipes,offering what worked for our family and pass it along in hopes that it helps with whatever situation anyone have going on.

Other great tips are:

* Offer your toddler three meals and two snacks a day

* Allow your toddler to respond to their own internal cues for hunger and fullness.

* Don’t push food on a child who’s not hungry

* Don’t allow your toddler to eat on demand all day long, overeating is not acceptable

* Keep a regular schedule of meals/snacks, a routine will be made and good eating habits are developed

In addition to the vegetarian version there is also a more basic toddler food guide which includes meat sources. Here are the links: or both are credible websites.


Until next time……Happy eating

Elexius B. Skerrit