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Feeding your toddler: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help


Just like adults, young children need food for energy, as well as for nutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals. This is to make sure their bodies work properly and can repair themselves. Here is some practical advice to help you make some healthy food choices for your toddler.

What Should My Toddler Be Eating?

At this age, children are growing very quickly and are usually very active, so they need plenty of calories and nutrients. A healthy and varied diet should provide all the nutrients your toddler needs.

Remember to include these sorts of foods every day:

  • Milk and dairy foods - these provide calories, protein, vitamins and minerals
  • Meat, fish and alternatives such as eggs, beans, peas and lentils - these are rich in nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals
  • Bread, rice, pasta, breakfast cereals and potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes - these starchy foods provide calories, vitamins, minerals and fibre.
  • Fruit and vegetables - these contain vitamin C and other protective vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre

Can My Toddler Eat the Same Food As Us?

Toddlers can eat the same food as adults but, before they're two years old, children can't eat large amounts of food at one sitting.

So until then, it's especially important to give your child meals and snacks packed with calories and nutrients (sometimes called 'nutrient-dense foods') such as:

  • Full fat milk and dairy foods
  • Meat
  • Eggs

Don't forget to give your toddler fruit and vegetables and starchy foods as well.

If you tend to eat high-fibre foods, remember that young children's stomachs can't cope with foods such as wholemeal pasta and brown rice. Also, too much fibre can sometimes reduce the amount of minerals they can absorb, such as calcium and iron.

By the time they're five years old, young children should be eating family food, which is more bulky because it contains lots of starchy foods and plenty of fruit and vegetables. But make sure it doesn't contain too much saturated fat, which is found in butter, hard-fat spreads, cheese, fatty meat and meat products, biscuits, pastry and cakes.

Semi-Skimmed and Skimmed Milk

When your toddler is two years old, if he or she is eating well and getting plenty of calories and nutrients from a varied diet, then you can start giving your toddler semi-skimmed milk. Fully skimmed milk isn't suitable as a main drink until a child is five years old because it doesn't contain enough calories or vitamins.

Vegetarian Diets

If you're giving your toddler a vegetarian diet it's important to make sure it's balanced and includes foods rich in nutrients, such as milk, cheese and eggs. This means their diet won't be too bulky and they'll get plenty of protein, vitamin A, calcium and zinc.

Iron is found in many vegetables and pulses (such as beans, lentils and chickpeas), in dried fruit (such as apricots, raisins and sultanas), and in some breakfast cereals.

But iron is more difficult to absorb from vegetable sources than from meat, so:

  • Give your toddler foods containing iron each day
  • Try to give food or drink high in vitamin C, such as fruit, vegetables or fruit juice, at the same time as foods containing iron because this makes it easier to absorb the iron
  • Don't give young children tea or coffee, especially at mealtimes, because this reduces the amount of iron they can absorb

What Foods Should Be Avoided?

Take care to avoid the following foods:

  • Don't give raw eggs, or food that contains raw or partially cooked eggs, to your toddler because of the risk of<