Healthy Eating for Toddlers
A varied and nutritious diet and good eating habits are essential for toddlers' health, growth and development. Toddlers' nutritional requirements differ quite markedly from those of older children and adults.
Use our portion size ranges to find out how much is too much.Find out more >
Use our toddler food tracker to check that your 1-4 year olds are getting a good balance of foods and activityFind out more >
How much sugar should I allow my 14 month old to have as a limit?
After 12 months of age children can begin to have small quantities of foods sweetened with different types of sugar.
For your child of 14 months the limit is about 18g or 3 ½ teaspoons/day – however this includes all sugar that is already in food and drinks except for whole fresh fruit and milk.
It includes honey, jam, fruit juices, biscuits, cakes, puddings and any commercial foods that are sweetened with any of the following:
Concentrated fruit juice; honey; sucrose; glucose; glucose syrup; maltose; dextrose; fructose; hydrolysed starch; corn or maize syrup; molasses; raw/brown sugar; treacle; golden syrup; Demerara.
It would be complicated to try to add up all the bits of sugar she eats in a day so limit her to 3 sweetened foods per day: one at each of her three meals such as:
Is Marmite too salty for toddlers?
No, because an average serving of Marmite eaten by toddlers is about 1g as recorded in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey 1995 and in the studies from the Avon Longitudinal Surveys of Parents and Children.
One gram of Marmite contains 0.1g salt which is 5% of the recommended maximum daily intake of 2g salt from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) for 1-3 year olds.
Marmite is a nutritious spread for toddlers providing a source of all B vitamins including vitamin B12.
Other nutritious foods are preserved with salt e.g. cheese, ham, bacon and bread and these should not be considered inappropriate for toddler's diets either.
There is no need to restrict salty nutritious foods in the diets of toddlers as they will come to no harm if they exceed SACN's non evidence based recommendation. Most toddlers do exceed this recommendation.
When toddlers eat salty foods they may become more thirsty and will drink more fluid to excrete the extra salt.
Salty foods such as crisps and other similar packet snacks that have few nutrients are not recommended for toddlers but nutrient rich foods preserved with salt such as cheese, olives and Marmite are suitable.
The disadvantage of ingesting large amounts salt on a daily basis affects adults whose blood pressure may rise.
Toddlers are not affected in this way and although they may eat some salty foods, the aim of healthy eating for them is that they also learn to like the tastes of foods that are not salty – such as fresh meat, fish, eggs, pasta, rice and vegetables that are cooked with either no or minimal amounts of salt and salt is not added to them at the table.
1. Hinds K, Gregory JR National Diet and Nutrition Survey: children aged 1.5 to 4.5 years. Volume 2. Report of the Dental Survey. London: HMSO, 1995.
2. Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/.
My 32-month-old daughter likes to drink a lot of milk at bed time. How much should she have and is there any issue with drinking all her daily milk at one time – or should it be spread out in the day?
She will only drink it in bottles, but I banned these in the day.
The result is she only drinks milk at bedtime when she is allowed a bottle, and then she wants lots – usually at least 16oz.
Many mothers feel uncertain about the amount of milk their toddlers should have.
From the age of one, toddlers need less milk than they did in their first year of life. They only need about three drinks of 120mls (4oz) per day, but less if they are also having yogurt and cheese.
More than 12 oz milk/day and you risk suppressing a toddler's appetite and they won't eat as much as they need of other foods. This can sometimes lead to a lack of iron – causing iron deficiency anaemia.
There is no problem with your daughter having all her milk at once but having about 16oz is overall too much milk especially if she is eating yogurt and cheese during the day.
It sounds like this bottle of milk is now very much part of her bedtime routine. You may have to think about changing that whole routine so that eventually it does not involve a bottle of milk at all.
In the short term giving her something to eat and offering less milk may be one way to reduce her milk intake.
It may be fun for your daughter to learn to use a straw for her milk drinks, making it easier for you to reduce the amount of milk you give her in the bottle.
You should brush her teeth after any food and milk before putting her down to sleep at night.
Older toddlers sometimes find it difficult to give up their bottles to change to milk drinks from a cup. It is easier for parents and the child to make this change when they are younger.
Once their bottle has become a form of comfort for them, older toddlers can become anxious about making that change.
It is useful to think about what is happening at the time when your daughter is having her bottle – if it is a relaxing, good quality 'calm time' you may be able to help her to enjoy this with a different interaction, without the bottle; such as story or gentle massage time, that helps her to feel equally relaxed and ready for her sleep.
Toddlers respond well to rewards at this age, and you may be able to help her to make the transition from falling asleep with a bottle to falling asleep without it, through a star chart or a similar reward system.
My daughter loves olives. How many should she have, and do they count towards one of her five a day?
The good news is that your daughter's fondness for olives is very positive.
Like all other fruit and vegetables, olives can be included in healthy, balanced diet.
Step 3 of the Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers recommends offering your toddler fruit and vegetables at each meal and some snacks.
Olives, like other fruit, count towards five a day.
But as olives are preserved with salt you should limit them to about 10 when you offer them.
My toddler won't drink water or juice, and only takes about 11-12ozs of milk per day. Is this enough to keep her hydrated?
Your toddler's total fluid intake comes from both her drinks and the water content in her food.
Some toddlers eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, soups, jelly, yogurt and foods in sauces and get a lot of fluid from those foods.
However, it is important that toddlers learn to like water as a drink, so do keep offering it.
Also drink water yourself; your toddler will eventually begin to drink it if you do so and show her that you like it.
There is no need to encourage drinks of fruit juice, as they are not necessary and because of their high sugar content they can contribute to dental cavities when drunk frequently.
11-12ozs of milk is adequate, so you do not need to try and increase her milk intake.
Her kidneys can cope well with only small amounts of fluid but you could increase her fluid intake in food by offering jelly with fruit as a second course or ice lollies made from frozen diluted fruit juice.