Feeding Toddlers and Young Children

As your child grows, she will want to feed herself and choose her own food. Mealtimes can be challenging. Your child may be very picky or easily distracted. One day she may eat a lot and the next day almost nothing. Or she may want to eat only one food.
How can you encourage her independence while helping her eat healthy foods? Be patient and offer healthy choices for meals and snacks. Avoid battles over food. Let your child decide how much to eat. Over time, she will learn to enjoy many new foods and develop good eating habits.

Feeding Toddlers and Young Children

How Much Food Does Your Child Need?

Give your child regular meals and snacks. Serve small portions. Let your child have more if she’s still hungry. If she does not want to eat, don’t force her. Visit
If you think your child is eating too much or too little, do not put her on a diet. Talk to your doctor or a dietician at your county Health Department.

Iron Is Important

Toddlers and young children often become anemic because they don’t get enough iron.
Make sure their everyday diet includes foods high in iron, like:

  • peas or beans
  • meat
  • enriched breads and grains
  • dry cereals with added iron
  • leafy green vegetables

Snacks Are Important

Healthy snacks are an important part of a young child’s diet. Young children need to eat often because they eat small amounts at each meal. Choose snacks like fruits, vegetables, unsweetened cereals, tortillas, crackers, bread, cheese or yogurt. These foods are healthy and don’t have added sugar.

Things You Can Do

Where to Find Help

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Show Your Love

Show Your Love

When you show love— through care, affection, play and gentle guidance—your baby feels secure.


  • Make meals a time for your family to come together and enjoy one another. Allow your child to stop eating when he is no longer hungry. Let him leave the table to do something else.
    Don’t feed children in front of the TV—it can make them anxious. It also keeps them from paying attention to the food they’re eating.