Foods for your toddler

Little by little Your toddler is eating many different foods. He’s getting better and better at using a cup, spoon, and bowl. When you think he’s ready, offer him a small fork. It’s fun watching him as he grows and changes!

Feeding a toddler Toddlers are people too! They want to do things for themselves. They like to do what the adults around them are doing. They also like to say “no.” Read more about toddlers>>

Breastmilk is food! Breastmilk is much more than a drink. Breastmilk is an important food. You can continue breastfeeding your toddler as long as you and your toddler want to. And while you’re breastfeeding, it’s important to continue offering other foods too. Read more about the importance of breastfeeding>>

Toddlers eat less Toddlers need less food than adults. Their bodies are smaller, and their tummies are smaller. Don’t expect your toddler to eat as much as you do.

How many meals and snacks? Offer your toddler food at least 5 times a day. WIC suggests 3 meals each day and snacks in between meals 2 or 3 times each day.

Why snacks? Toddlers get hungry often and need to eat again and again. Give your child healthy foods as snacks.

Your toddler decides how much Let your toddler decide how much of each food to eat. If he doesn’t want a food that you offer, let him decide to leave it on his plate. Read more about toddlers’ appetites and how they eat>>

Start by giving your toddler a small amount of each food. If he finishes 1 of these foods and wants more, offer him a little bit more.

You decide which You decide which healthy foods to offer. Read more about parents>>

Which foods Your toddler can eat almost anything you eat. But the pieces need to be bite-sized. And the food needs to be soft enough for him to chew.

Everyday Offer your toddler each kind of food everyday: fruit, vegetables, protein, dairy, and grains. Read about foods WIC suggests here>>

Healthy, whole foods Feed your toddler and your entire family a variety of healthy, whole foods:
• fresh fruit
• fresh vegetables
• lean meats
• beans
• low-fat dairy, such as milk and low-fat yogurt
• grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa

Foods–healthy or not? Foods that come in packages often have many ingredients, including chemicals and added sugar. Chemicals and added sugar are not healthy.

But you have choices. For example, you can cook meat yourself. That meat will be healthier than hot dogs and deli meats. You can mash your own potatoes. Your potatoes will be healthier than mashed potatoes from a box.

You can tell if a food has chemicals, added sugar or added sodium (salt) by reading the list of ingredients that you’ll find on the box, package or can. Sugar has many names. Read more about added sugar here>>

Grains Brown rice and quinoa are healthy for you and your toddler, and are easy to cook.

Much of the grain we eat is in cereal, tortillas and bread. Some of these foods are healthier than others.

Whole grains Cereal, tortillas and bread are healthier for you and your family when the grain in them is whole grain. One example of this is whole wheat bread. You can tell if a food is “whole grain” by reading the list of ingredients on the box or package. The first item on the list should have the word “whole” in front of it (for example, whole wheat, whole oats, whole rye).

Fruit Offer your toddler many kinds of fruit, especially those that have vitamin C. Some of these are oranges, strawberries, melons mangos and papayas. Fruit is less expensive when it is in season.

Vegetables Offer your toddler dark green vegetables and orange vegetables every day. Some dark green vegetables are broccoli, greens and spinach. Some of the orange or yellow vegetables are carrots, sweet potato and squash. Vegetables are less expensive when they are in season.

Protein Offer your toddler foods that contain protein every day. These can be chicken and turkey, especially the dark meat, egg, cooked dry beans, lentils, red meat, tofu and peanut butter. Meat and beans also have the most iron. If your child has a need for more iron in his blood, then more red meat is important.

Dairy Offer your toddler dairy products every day. Some dairy choices are breastmilk, cow’s milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt. Soymilk is a good substitute for cow’s milk if your child does not eat dairy.

Oils Offer your toddler foods with oil. The best oils are in plants. Some of these are avocados, olive oil, and canola oil. Adding oil to salads is a healthy way to give your toddler oil. Deep frying foods in oil is not a healthy way.

Drinks Water is the healthiest drink for you and your toddler. Offer him water many times during the day.

A little juice is fine. No more than 4 ounces or ½ cup in a day. More juice is a problem, because it has so much sugar in it. Your toddler doesn’t need juice.

Don’t give your toddler soda! Don’t give him Kool-Aid or punch. These drinks have sugar and chemicals. These drinks often cause toddlers, children and adults to become overweight and even obese. Drinks that have sugar also cause the teeth to rot. And a toddler with rotten teeth needs dental work.

MyPlate can help! MyPlate helps us find healthy ways to eat. You may have seen the MyPlate picture. It shows us how much of each kind of food to put on our plate. The MyPlate website is also helpful. You can find it at

Read “10 Tips for Healthy Snacking” here>>

And read “Kid-Friendly Veggies and Fruits” here>>.

Are you a WIC parent? If you are a WIC parent, your WIC educator will talk to you one-on-one about ways to keep your toddler healthy.

You can also go to parent sessions. You will meet with other parents and a WIC educator, and learn about feeding your toddler and how to keep him healthy as he grows.

WIC food checks WIC offers food checks for toddlers and other family members who are eligible for WIC. These are checks for buying healthy foods. Read more about WIC food checks>>