Toddler Food from 12 months

Toddler food on this page refers to the food you are feeding your child who is now over a year old (for information on the food to feed babies under a year of age, click here.

You can click on a link below to go straight to a specific question, or just keeping reading for a full overview.

To read about the nutritional requirements for toddlers, click here (opens in a new page).


How is toddler food different from baby food?

n the first year, your baby is just getting used to having digest food. By 12 months, she is having solids and feeding herself finger food.

After 12 months of age, you can start giving your toddler food that the family eats.

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How much milk should my toddler have?

After 12 months of age, your baby can have cow's milk rather than formula or breast milk. Your toddler will only need about 2 cups of milk per day (so 16 ounces or 480 mls per day). Drinking more milk than that isn't good for toddlers as it can lead to iron deficiency.

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How does drinking milk cause iron deficiency?

Cow's milk is a poor source of iron - unlike formula milk which is usually fortified with iron. Cow's milk can cause minor irritation of the stomach lining which can lead to slight blood loss and that lowers iron even more.

Toddlers love milk and would drink it all day but too much isn't good for them. Your toddler doesn't have high iron stores anyway and when she becomes low in iron (iron deficient) she will lose her appetite and only want more milk. Often mothers are so worried that their toddler is not eating that they are happy to give more milk - but that only keeps the problem going.

Your toddler shouldn't be having more than 2 cups of cow's milk per day (so 16 ounces or 480 mls per day).

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How can I prevent iron deficiency?

Iron is important for learning so it's important you give your toddler food rich in iron like fruit, vegetables, lean meat, chicken and fish.

Don't give tea as this contains substances that stop iron being absorbed by the body.

Iron rich foods include:

  • red meat
  • beans
  • fish
  • eggs

cereals that say they are fortified with iron

You can increase the iron your toddler absorbs by giving her lots of Vitamin C as well. Foods high in Vitamin C include:

  • oranges and other citrus fruit
  • tomatoes
  • berries

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Can I use low fat milk?

Toddlers need full fat milk until they are at least 2 years old. Children under 5 years should not be given non-fat milk but can have low fat milk after the age of 2 years.

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Are there any restrictions for toddler food?

  • Your toddler does not need salt on her food. You may need to cook food separately if the family is used to salted food.
  • Don't give whole peanuts to young children under 5 years of age- they can choke or the nuts can go into the airway. However, giving nuts in the form of peanut butter is not a problem.

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How much food should I offer my toddler?

Offer small amounts frequently. I suggest 3 meals and 2 - 3 snacks per day - so breakfast, lunch and dinner are the meals and give snacks mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and perhaps before bed.

Approximate serving sizes for toddler food are one serving is the size of your toddler's palm of the hand.

For a main meal, there would be one serving of protein (eg. meat, eggs), one serving of carbohydrate (eg. bread, pasta, potato) and 2 servings of vegetables, so the equivalent of 4 servings which would be the size of 4 palms of your toddler's hand.

Alternatively, you can use the guide below which gives approximate sizes for toddler food between the ages of 2 and 6 years.

  • bread: 1/2 slice - choose wholegrains or unrefined varieties
  • cereal or pasta: 1/3 cup - choose wholegrain or unrefined varieties
  • ready eat cereal: 0.6 oz (24 g)
  • vegetables: 1/3 cup
  • leafy vegetables: just over 1/2 cup
  • potato: 1/2 medium potato
  • fruit: 1/2 piece
  • juice: 1/2 cup
  • canned fruit: 1/4 cup
  • milk: 1 cup
  • yoghurt: 6 oz (240 g)
  • cheese: 1 oz (30 g)
  • cooked meat: 1.5-2 oz (45 - 60 g)
  • beans: 1/3 cup
  • egg: 1/2 - 3/4 cup

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How can I encourage healthy eating habits?

  • Have a healthy diet with 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day - read more
  • Offer water as a drink for thirsty children. Milk or juice would count as a snack
  • Encourage plain foods - avoid too many sweet foods
  • If your toddler doesn't like cooked vegetables, offer raw vegetables - for example, carrots and tomatoes
  • Encourage wholegrains rather than white cereals, bread and flour - read about the White Out movement

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Should I be worried my toddler isn't putting on much weight?

After the first year, weight increases are not as great as in the first year. Toddlers are often picky eaters but they only have to put on about 2 kg (4.4 lbs) per year. So toddler food only needs to contain about 1000 calories per day. To read more about picky eatersclick here

To ensure your child is growing appropriately for her age, view growth charts.

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  • Ministry of Health, New Zealand. Eating for Healthy Babies and Toddlers 0 -2 years. June 2006.
  • AMA. Dietary recommendations for children and adolescents: A guide for practitioners. Pediatrics. 2006 Feb; 117 (2):544-559

To go to the top of the Toddler food page, click here

For details on Toddler Nutritional requirements, click here

To go to the Growing page, click here

If your child is a picky eater, click here

To return to the Home page, click here

Last reviewed 20 Msrch 2015

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Dr Maud MD

Dr Maud MD (MBChB, FRACP, FRCPCH), a specialist pediatrician, provides health information and medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers. Read more about Dr Maud.

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