Toddlers naturally have much smaller stomachs than adults, but they have much higher energy and nutrient requirements. For this reason, a proven approach to feeding toddlers is to give them 3 small, balanced meals a day with 2 in-between meals in the form of fruit, milk or diary. It's best to feed your child at intervals of 2 to 4 hours, ideally at the same times of the day. Leaving too much time in between meals could cause your child to eat too much at his or her next meal. This isn't such a big problem if it happens occasionally, but it could lead to unhealthy eating habits if kept up for a long time. Breaks are nonetheless important and can teach your child the difference between what it feels like to be hungry and what it feels like to be full.
A useful guide for figuring the right portion sizes are the child's own hands: 1 toddler hand corresponds to 1 portion. For bread, this is around 25 grams, depending on the thickness of the slice. For vegetables and fruit, this is about 7 large grapes, 2 slices of apple or half of a mandarin. A "palm of the hand" of meat comes to about 35 grams. Milk and dairy products, consumed 3 times a day, are also part of a balanced and healthy diet. A toddler-appropriate amount of milk is a small, 100 millilitre glass.
Your child's hand is the best tool you can use to figure out how much he or she should be eating. The hand grows with the body, and is therefore a reliable indicator of how much your child needs.
- 1 handful for vegetables or fruit
When it comes to fruit, vegetables, meat and bread, a hand-sized portion for a child will always be smaller than that of an adult. A toddler-appropriate amount of milk is a small, 100 millilitre glass.
- 2 hands cupped together
This is an appropriate portion size for small fruits, chopped vegetables, potatoes, pasta and muesli.
- 1 hand with fingers stretched out
This is the right portion for bread.
- 1 palm of the hand not including fingers
This is how big meat and fish portions should be.