Feeding Toddlers the Right Portion Size

Are we expecting too much when feeding toddlers during mealtime?

Meal Time

Picture this….

You’ve planned your weekly meals with your young kiddos in mind. You include all the food groups, it’s healthy, it’s perfect for your toddler, and the recipes say “toddler-friendly”. 

You follow that Instagram account that says her little 3 1/2 year old LOVES these meals. So, you work hard to make your family-friendly meal that, of course, your toddler is going to eat. The best part is that you don’t have to hide the vegetables. 

You serve the meal and your toddler eats one, if you’re lucky, two bites. And then, they are done. Toddler is leaving the table before you’ve even sat down. Sound familiar? 

It sounds familiar at my house! Every time, my initial thought is, “You’re going to starve! Come back here and eat more…maybe I should make you something else.” But then I remember that my toddler probably ate plenty. Toddlers are actually really good at listening to when their bodies tell them if they need food or not (except for when it comes to ice cream).

Let’s listen to….

So maybe it’s time we listen to them. If we are providing structured, balanced 3 meals a day and 2-3 snacks per day, then our little one is likely getting all they need. This is because he/she is allowed the freedom to decide when they are done with each food item.

We usually give kids too much of each food type, to begin with. Our worry about our child getting enough nutrition may decrease once we give the correct portion sizes for their age and see our toddler is eating.

irl Eating Sliced Watermelon Fruit Beside Table

Portion Sizes and Sample Meal Plan 

So, what is the correct portion size when feeding toddlers? Hopefully, your little one is being offered balanced meals with foods from each food group. This means:

  • Protein
  • Whole grain
  • Dairy (2-3 servings/day for the toddler age group)
  • Fruit
  • Vegetable
  • Healthy fat

Here is an example meal plan:


  • 1 scrambled egg with spinach or tomatoes
  • 8-oz glass of milk
  • ½ whole-grain toast with 1 tbsp of peanut butter
  • ¼ cup blueberries


  • 1 tbsp hummus
  • ½ apple sliced
  • 3-4 whole-grain crackers


  • Bean and cheese quesadilla with chopped spinach and 1/2 cup corn or whole-grain tortilla
  • ½ banana
  • 8-10 dried pea pods


  • 8-oz yogurt


  • ¼ cup whole-grain noodles with marinara sauce
  • ½ – 1 meatballs
  • 2-4 roasted carrots

When your toddler has a diet with a variety of foods at meals and snacks, the ideal portion for each food group is only the size of the palm of their little hand. So next time your toddler runs away after eating 3 bites of that chicken, try to take a deep breath and remember what his portion size is. Relax, knowing if he’s growing, thriving, and has energy, you’re probably doing a great job!

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