By Nancy Gottesman

Toddlers may be pint-sized, but their dietary needs are not! In fact, for some nutrients, they need to consume as much or more than we do. Here are the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for toddlers:


How much: 130 grams daily (women age 19 to 50 need the same amount!)

Why toddlers need it: Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for developing brains.

Healthy carb sources: Whole-grain cereals like Cheerios and oatmeal; all vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned, served pureed, bite-size or whole); starchy foods like corn, brown rice, potatoes and whole-grain breads, waffles and pastas.


How much: 16-19 grams daily

Why toddlers need it: Fiber prevents constipation (which can be very painful—and painful for a parent to witness!) and enhances digestion.

Healthy fiber sources: All plant-based foods: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans and legumes (like peas and peanuts)


How much: 30 to 40 grams (This is even more than we need as adults: The RDA for women age 19 to 50 is 20 to 35 grams!)

Why toddlers need it: Fat is an energy source that not only helps improve absorption of vital vitamins in small bodies, but certain fats (found in fish and nuts) are essential for proper neurological development and growth in little ones.

Healthy fat sources: Peanut butter (and other nut butters); nuts; oils such as soybean, flaxseed, olive and canola oil (use canola to make popcorn!); sunflower and pumpkin seeds; fish; shellfish; and eggs. (Just in case you were wondering: There is no nutritional need for fat-filled foods such as bakery goods, butter and margarine—so be sure to serve your toddler (and yourself) as few of these foods as possible!


How much: 16 grams daily

Why toddlers need it: Protein is the building block for all the cells in your toddler’s growing body.

Healthy protein sources: Meat, poultry, fish, milk, milk products, cheese, yogurt, eggs, nuts, beans

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends the following daily calorie ranges for toddlers. If your child is particularly active, he will need to consume the amount at the high end of the range.

(Note: The USDA identifies daily calorie levels for children age 2 to 18.)

Age 2: 1,000 calories daily
Age 3: 1,000 to 1,400 calories daily
Age 4: Boys: 1,200 to 1,600 calories daily; girls: 1,200 to 1,400 calories daily

Click here for an interactive nutrient database. Just type in what/how much you ate, and it will calculate the nutritional value for you.

Santa Monica-based writer Nancy Gottesman has been serving fish, wild game, bell peppers and other “adult” foods to her son Robby, 12, since he was an infant.

Help them grow big and strong with these recommended guidelines.

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