Developmentally, young children are generally able to eat the same foods as adults. Some of the developmental feeding milestones include:
While young children are fairly self-sufficient during feeding times, they are still learning to chew and swallow properly, so the risk of choking is still high. Therefore it is important to give young children soft foods that are cut into small pieces. Additionally, to prevent choking, young children should always be supervised while eating.
A rule of thumb for portion sizes for children 12-24 months old is one tablespoon of food per year of age. For example, a portion size for a two year old would be about two tablespoons. Adults often overestimate how much food a young child needs to eat, so start with a smaller portion size and provide more if a child asks for it.
A young child should generally eat three meals and two snacks a day. However, young children’s feeding habits tend to be erratic, so this feeding schedule will not always be possible. Do not be concerned if a young child eats a lot at one meal and is not hungry at the next meal. Young children may also eat varying amounts of food from day to day. A young child’s diet will balance out over several days as long as you provide a variety of nutritious foods.
Young children need to eat from the same food groups as adults do:
Since young children can be picky at mealtimes, offer a variety of healthy foods at each meal and let the children decide what to eat. A food typically has to be introduced 8-16 times before a young child accepts it, so don’t give up! Young children need nutrients from a variety of healthy foods to fuel their rapid growth.
Do not give a young child food that can easily be choked on. Some examples include: