Apr 25, 2018, 10:33:41 AM CDT Mar 17, 2023, 11:02:35 AM CDT

Nutrition for infants and toddlers

A guide to making healthy feeding choices from the beginning


As babies grow, their nutritional needs can change quickly. Encourage healthy growth and development by following this quick nutrition guide for infants and toddlers.

Nutrition for infants to age 1

Meghana Sathe, M.D., Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Children’s Health℠ and Professor at UT Southwestern, says that until age 1, most of the calories your child consumes every day should come from breastmilk or formula.

“If a mom is unable to breastfeed or chooses to use formula, there are many high-quality formulas to choose from,” Dr. Sathe says. “But the more specialized the formula, the more expensive it may be, and the majority of babies do great on standard cow’s milk protein formula.”

Dr. Sathe says some babies can have intolerance to milk protein or soy protein formulas, leading to blood in the stool. If your baby has this symptom, she recommends you talk to your child’s pediatrician to find a formula your baby can tolerate.

After 6 months of age, most babies are ready to try solid foods. Although, babies with good head control may try iron-fortified cereals as early as 4 months. Parents can begin incorporating soft, healthy snacks or jarred baby foods at this age. Consider starting with iron-fortified cereal, soft vegetables and soft or pureed meats. It’s recommended that parents start to incorporate common food allergens into their baby’s diet early on. However, honey should absolutely not be introduced until after 1 year of age. Download a chart for more information on what to feed your baby in the first year.

Nutrition for children between ages 1 to 2

As your child continues to grow, most of their caloric intake will come from food. After 1 year of age, breastmilk or formula may not be a part of their daily nutrition. However, it is still important to ensure children receive plenty of healthy fats as part of their daily nutrition. “Healthy fats are important for brain growth and development,” says Dr. Sathe. “If you transition from formula or breastmilk, you should still give your child 16 to 24 ounces of whole milk every day.”

Dr. Sathe also recommends that toddlers eat healthy fats that come from foods such as avocados, peanut butter, full-fat Greek yogurt and hummus with olive oil. These healthy foods support development and provide plenty of nutrients.

It’s important to start and keep healthy routines as your child grows. Try to incorporate the following into your daily life to help your child develop healthy routines:

  • Provide three meals and several planned snacks each day
  • Choose foods from all five food groups
  • Eat together as a family
  • Encourage exercise and plenty of play time together
  • Drink plenty of water daily

Nutrition for children over age 2

As your child hits age 2 and older, you should keep encouraging healthy eating habits and model good eating routines for your child.

“Sitting down to enjoy a meal together as a family, whether your family consists of two people or six people, encourages young children to form good, healthy habits,” Dr. Sathe says. “As a parent, if you are eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water, you’re providing good modeling for your child.”

Dr. Sathe encourages parents to avoid giving their children juice, sports drinks and soda. Instead, children should drink milk and water.

Otherwise, Dr. Sathe says it’s important to provide your child with iron-rich foods, which helps with healthy brain development. There are many good sources including oily fish, eggs and green, leafy vegetables, blueberries and iron-fortified cereal. At this age, each meal should consist of lean protein, whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Healthy nutrition will help your child grow and develop into a healthy adolescent.

Learn more

Children’s Health gastroenterologists help children learn about the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. Learn more about how we manage children’s digestive health.

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breastfeeding, food and drink, infant, nutrition, toddler

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