How many calories should a 1 year old eat? Calorie requirements for infants depend on several factors including age, weight and activity level. The nutrient needs of an infant are not the same as those of an adult. Different foods provide different amounts of calories. It is important to know that the same number of calories does not have the same effect on all people.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a healthy quality diet for a 1-year-old should be between 1,000 and 1,500 kilocalories (kcal) per day. I don’t think I need to tell you that toddlers are fast growing kids and consume their fair share of calories. But what is the right amount they should consume?
Feeding your 1 year old
You’ll probably notice a sharp drop in your toddler’s appetite after his first birthday. Suddenly he’s picky about what he eats, turns his head away after just a few bites, or resists coming to the table at mealtimes. It may seem as if he should be eating more now that he’s so active, but there’s a good reason for the change. His growth rate has slowed, and he really doesn’t require as much food now.
Your toddler needs about 1,000 calories a day to meet her needs for growth, energy, and good nutrition. If you’ve ever been on a 1,000-calorie diet, you know it’s not a lot of food. But your child will do just fine with it, divided among three small meals and two snacks a day. Don’t count on her always eating it that way, however, because the eating habits of toddlers are erratic and unpredictable from one day to the next. She may eat everything in sight at breakfast but almost nothing else for the rest of the day. Or she may eat only her favorite food for three days in a row, and then reject it entirely. Or she may eat 1,000 calories one day, but then eat noticeably more or less on the subsequent day or two. Your child’s needs will vary, depending on her activity level, her growth rate, and her metabolism.
As a general rule, it’s a real mistake to turn mealtimes into sparring matches to get him to eat a balanced diet. Besides, the harder you push him to eat, the less likely he is to comply. Instead, offer him a selection of nutritious foods at each sitting, and let him choose what he wants. Vary the tastes and consistencies as much as you can.
If she rejects everything, you might try saving the plate for later when she’s hungry. However, don’t allow her to fill up on cookies or sweets after refusing her meal, since that will just fuel her interest in empty-calorie foods (those that are high in calories but relatively low in important nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals) and diminish her appetite for nutritious ones. Beware of foods marketed for toddlers that are high in sugar.
There is no nutritional value to fruit juice and sweetened beverages. We recommend that your child only be offered milk and water with juice as a special treat.
When planning your child’s menu, remember that cholesterol and other fats are very important for his normal growth and development, so they should not be restricted during this period. Babies and young toddlers should get about half of their calories from fat. You can gradually decrease the fat consumption once your child has reached the age of two (lowering it to about one-third of daily calories by ages four to five). Offer 12-20 ounces of whole milk each day. More than 20 ounces of milk a day can interfere with the absorption of iron and can cause iron deficiency anemia. As well, excess milk consumption can interfere with your baby’s appetite for other nutritious foods.
Feeding & Nutrition Tips: Your 1-Year-Old
After your child’s first birthday, you’ll probably notice a sharp drop in his or her appetite. Maybe your child is suddenly turning his or her head away after just a few bites and/or is resisting coming to the table at mealtimes. Despite this behavior and increased activity, there’s a good reason for the change. Your child’s growth rate has slowed; he or she really doesn’t require as much food now.
Tips for Parents:
- One year olds need about 1,000 calories divided among three meals and two snacks per day to meet their needs for growth, energy, and good nutrition. Don’t count on your child always eating it that way though—the eating habits of toddlers are erratic and unpredictable from one day to the next! For example, your child may:
- Eat everything in sight at breakfast and almost nothing else for the rest of the day.
- Eat only the same food for three days in a row—and then reject it entirely.
- Eat 1,000 calories one day, but then eat noticeably more or less over the next day or two.
- Encourage, but don’t pressure or force your child to eat at a particular time. Hard as it may be to believe, your child’s diet will balance out over several days if you make a range of wholesome foods available.
- One year olds need foods from the same basic nutrition groups that you do. If you provide your child with selections from each of the basic food groups and let him or her experiment with a wide variety of tastes, colors, and textures, he or she should be eating a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins.
- Don’t restrict fats from your one-year-old’s menu. Babies and young toddlers should get about half of their calories from fat. Cholesterol and other fats are also very important for their growth and development at this age. Once your child has reached age two, you can gradually decrease fat consumption (lowering it to about one-third of daily calories by ages four to five). See Preschoolers’ Diets Shouldn’t Be Fat-Free: Here’s Why for more information.
- Be sure the food is cool enough to prevent mouth burns. Test the temperature yourself, because he or she will dig in without considering the heat.
- Don’t give foods that are heavily spiced, salted, buttered, or sweetened. These additions prevent your child from experiencing the natural taste of foods, and they may be harmful to long-term good health.
- Your little one can still choke on chunks of food. Children don’t learn to chew with a grinding motion until they’re about four years old. Make sure anything you give your child is mashed or cut into small, easily chewable pieces.
- Never offer peanuts, whole grapes, cherry tomatoes (unless they’re cut in quarters), whole carrots, seeds (i.e., processed pumpkin or sunflower seeds), whole or large sections of hot dogs, meat sticks, or hard candies (including jelly beans or gummy bears), or chunks of peanut butter (it’s fine to thinly spread peanut butter on a cracker or bread).
- Hot dogs and carrots— in particular—should be quartered lengthwise and then sliced into small pieces.
- Make sure your child eats only while seated and while supervised by an adult. Although your one-year-old may want to do everything at once, “eating on the run” or while talking increases the risk of choking. Teach your child as early as possible to finish a mouthful prior to speaking.
How many calories does a toddler need?
Raising a child is a lot of work, in more ways than we sometimes realize. Not only do you have to keep them alive, but you also have to keep them happy, healthy, and fed. Those last three don’t always live in perfect harmony. It might make Baby happy to eat cotton candy the size of his head, but it won’t keep him healthy or fed. And though broccoli is packed with vitamins, that won’t get you very far if Baby won’t eat it. So how many calories should Baby be getting every day?
At two years old, according to U.S. Choose MyPlate guidelines, children should be eating about 1,000 calories of food per day. After that, guidelines start to vary a little based on how active your child is. A 3-year-old who isn’t very active might eat 1,000-1,200 calories of food. One who is more active might eat 1,200-1,400. These ranges increase with age, topping off at around 1,600 calories for an active 5-year-old.
We’re talking in calories right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to calorie count for Baby. Here’s a sample food plan from Choose My Plate:
- 1 ounce grains
- ½ cup fruit
- ½ cup dairy
- ½ ounce grains
- ½ cup fruit
- ½ ounce grains
- ¼ cup vegetables
- ½ cup dairy
- 1 ounce protein
- ¼ cup vegetables
- ½ cup dairy
- ½ ounce grains
- ½ cup vegetables
- ½ cup dairy
- 1 ounce protein
Fruits and vegetables are pretty self-explanatory, but grains, dairy, and protein are a little vague. Wheat bread and crackers will fulfill the grain portions. Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese are perfect for dairy, and chicken, meatballs, and rice and beans are great proteins. Peanut butter and apple slices are a classic protein/fruit combo.
Once you have a good idea of what an ounce or grain or half a cup of fruit looks like, making meals and snacks should start to come pretty naturally. As Baby gets older and starts to be a little more adventurous with his food choices (a.k.a. doesn’t cry when dinner isn’t mac & cheese), you can start adding new things into the meal routine and increasing portion sizes.
And don’t forget, parents need to eat too! Remember to grab something for yourself at dinner so you have all the energy you need to put Baby to bed.
How much should my toddler eat in a day?
While your toddler may not always cooperate, here’s what you should aim to serve him on an average day.
- Grains: 6 servings
- Vegetables: 3 servings
- Fruits: 2 servings
- Protein: 2 servings
- Dairy: 16 to 24 ounces of milk (or equivalent amount of calcium-rich foods like cheese and yogurt)
- Water: 8 to 32 ounces
- Sweets: Very sparingly
Try to limit overall fat intake to between 20 and 30 percent of daily calories with less than 10 percent coming from saturated fat.
Foods that are good for a 1-year-old
Toddlers can eat the same foods that their family members eat, though it may be necessary to modify some foods to make them easier and safer to eat.
Children may need to try a food many times before they like it. Parents and caregivers should never force a food, and never punish children, but continue offering a wide variety of nourishing options.
Some toddler-friendly foods to consider include:
- Fruits: Avocados, bananas, oranges, berries, mangoes, and other fruits are great choices. It is important to cut berries, grapes, or hard fruits into small pieces.
- Vegetables: Toddlers can enjoy all of the same vegetables as adults, so parents and caregivers can introduce new ones on an ongoing basis. Some toddlers enjoy baby food purees that include both vegetables and fruits, providing a sweet taste.
- Protein: Toddlers can eat bits of meat in baby-sized bites. They may also enjoy other proteins, such as lentils, beans, or tofu.
- Grains: Grains such as oatmeal offer healthful fiber that can prevent constipation.
There is no need to disguise food, add sugar to it, or try to make it taste better in other ways. Children learn to eat the things that parents or caregivers give them.
Toddlers respond to texture and shape changes. If a child dislikes a specific fruit, try cutting it into different shapes, arranging it into a smiley face, or offering it in a smoothie. Make food fun and creative, and do not try to control how much the child eats.
Eat together at mealtimes, and offer the toddler the same foods as the rest of the family rather than creating special toddler meals. Offer the child something that they like and be willing to give them a second portion if they indicate that they want more.
Where possible, it is best to develop an eating schedule and stick with it. Although toddlers should not have unhealthful snacks, such as cookies, with no nutritional value, they may need several healthful snacks throughout the day, particularly during a growth spurt.
The schedule only applies to foods, as it is important to give children water whenever they indicate that they want some.
Foods to avoid
Between the ages of 1 and 2 years, toddlers can begin enjoying the same foods as their parents or caregivers, as long as the food is in a child-friendly form.
Young children face a very high risk of choking on certain foods. Choking is a leading cause of childhood injury and death. Parents and caregivers can reduce the risk of choking by:
- Being mindful of dense foods that change shape: Peanut butter, squeezy cheese, and similar foods can block the airway. Avoid giving them on a spoon or in large globs. Some people prefer to thin these foods with water or spread a small amount over a cracker.
- Giving peanuts in smaller pieces: Doctors used to think that parents and caregivers should delay giving babies peanuts, but research now shows that the early introduction of peanuts reduces the risk of allergies. Cut peanuts into small pieces or blend them into peanut butter.
- Cutting small, round foods: Blueberries, grapes, and similarly sized foods present a significant choking hazard. Cut them into very small pieces — for example, divide a large grape into eighths. The same is true of canteloupe or other dense melon-type fruits.
- Avoiding choking hazards that offer no nutritional value: Popcorn and some other snacks, such as tortilla chips, present a high risk of choking. As they also offer few health benefits, it is best to avoid them.
It is also advisable to monitor children while they eat, discourage them from eating while playing, and remind them not to talk and eat at the same time. In addition, never allow a child to eat alone or in the backseat of a car, as choking is usually silent.
Sweet beverages, such as sodas and sugary juices, encourage tooth decay. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) note that there is no reason to give healthy children juice. If parents or caregivers want to give juice, the AAP recommend no more than 4 ounces of juice per day.