Using the Food Pyramid with Toddlers

calcium and your toddler

Using the Food Pyramid to Feed Your Toddler

To use the Food Guide Pyramid with your toddler – keep the same number of servings from each group, but give smaller than adult-size servings. It’s really that simple!

According to the “new” Food Pyramid, a 2 year old male or female, who engages in  30 to 60 Minutes of physical activity per day, should eat the below amounts from the following food groups daily.  Based on a 1000 calorie pattern*.

Below we have outlined the “old” Food Pyramid guidelines for preschoolers within the age range of 2-6 years old. Many pediatricians say that this guideline continues to be appropriate.

Please note that these recommended serving sizes are for kids who are between the ages of 4-6 years old.You may adjust servings for kids who are ages 2-3 years old using smaller portions – approximately 1/2 to 2/3 of a serving:

Grains: (serving size example: 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta, 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal)

Vegetables: (serving size example: 1/2 cup of chopped raw or cooked vegetables, 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables)

Fruits: (serving size example: 1 piece of fruit or melon wedge, 3/4 cup of juice, 1/2 cup of canned fruit, 1/4 cup of dried fruit)

Milk or Dairy (Calcium): 2 servings a day (serving size example: 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 2 ounces of cheese)

Meats (Protein): 2 servings (serving size example: 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish, 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter count as 1 ounce of meat)

Fats & Sweets: Limit calories from these as they are “empty” calories and often times of little nutritional value. We suggest making your own “sweets” in the form of carrot cookies, trail mixes, dips made from yogurt and fruits etc. The new Food Pyramid does include “fats”, some in the form of oils – such as olive oil in cooking. The “fats” limit refers to food such as doughnuts, fried foods etc.

Daily suggested foods for a 2 year old male or female, who engages in 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day

Grains: 3 ounces

Vegetables:  1 cup

Fruits:  1 cup

Milk (Calcium):  2 cups (16 oz)

Meats (Protein): 2 ounces

Based on a 1000 calorie pattern*

Click to Download the pyramid specifically for 2-3 yr olds

To obtain the USDA’s Food Pyramid Guide for Young Children, follow this link – (pdf) You will find a nice chart to track your Toddler’s intake of the above food groups!  Also seeWAIT!  Didn’t the Food Pyramid Change? What are the real changes in the “new”  Food

quick tip for toddlersQUICK TIP

Experts say that a good rule for serving sizes for toddlers is:

1 tablespoon per year of age or

1/4 of an adult serving per year of age.


Actually, the changes are more in the presentation of the “food groups” rather than in the suggested serving sizes and portions etc. You will notice that oils have been added to the pyramid. Specific serving sizes/requirements for age groups have been taken out and now you must visit the  website and enter information for a “customized” food pyramid based on age and activity level.

“Released in early January, 2005, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 continues to reflect the tense interplay of science and the powerful food industry. Several of the new recommendations represent important steps in the right direction:

The new guidelines emphasize the importance of controlling weight, which was not adequately addressed in previous versions. And they continue to stress the importance of physical activity.

The recommendation on dietary fats makes a clear break from the past, when all fats were considered bad. The guidelines now emphasize that intake of trans fats should be as low as possible and that saturated fat should be limited. There is no longer an artificially low cap on fat intake. The latest advice recommends getting between 20% and 35% of daily calories from fats and recognizes the potential health benefits of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Instead of emphasizing “complex carbohydrates,” a term used in the past that has little biological meaning, the new guidelines urge Americans to limit sugar intake and they stress the benefits of whole grains.

The USDA also chose not to put recommended numbers of servings on the new Pyramid because these differ from individual to individual according to weight, gender, activity level and age. Instead, it offers personalized Pyramids at”  Courtesy of  .  Harvard School of Public Health

Resources & Learning More

– Ideas on fun preschool lessons to help instill healthy eating

You can enter your Toddler’s age (begins at 2yrs) and get a “customized” pyramid for your Toddler!

– Read about how and why the Food Pyramid has been updated and revised.

.  Harvard School of Public Health

at Pediatrics at