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Feeding Your Child (1-5 Years)

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Is your child eating enough? Too much? Or not enough of the foods needed for growth and development? This guide will show you how much food it takes to provide the right amounts of the nutrients your child needs to grow and be healthy. Children who are between the ages of 1-5 years may not seem to be as hungry as they appeared as infants. This is normal. Children at this age are not growing as fast as they did as infants; therefore, their appetites will decrease. Children may go 3-4 months with very little or no weight gain. Do not be alarmed if they only gain 4-5 pounds in one year. This is normal.

Sample Menu:

  • Breakfast: milk, orange juice, cereal toast, butter or margarine
  • Snack: milk
  • Lunch: milk, meat sandwich, carrots, apples
  • Snack: grape juice, graham crackers
  • Dinner: milk, pot roast, boiled potatoes, green beans, canned peaches, pudding or ice cream
  • Snack*: milk, peanut butter sandwich

*Some children may need an evening snack.

Whole milk should be used starting at 12 months of age. When your child reaches 24 months of age, a change to 2% or skim milk is usually recommended.

Feeding Tips:

  • Children may have food likes and dislikes. Please respect them. Offer new foods one at a time and with foods you know they like/will eat. If refused, offer the food again in a different way. Remember, food preference change with time. Most important, be patient and set a good example. Also, try not to limit your child's taste experiences to the foods that you prefer.
  • Introducing many different foods early will most likely give your child a more varied and balanced diet later in life.
  • Eat a variety of foods in each food group since all foods in the same group do not contain the same amount of vitamins and minerals.
  • Make meal time a happy time.
  • Do not force your child to clean his/her plate. Remember, the parent's role is to provide a variety of healthy foods on a regular schedule. The child's role is to decide if and how much of the food they are going to eat. Most children will eat as much as they need for proper growth.
  • Do not use food as a reward. Instead, give children praise, stickers or hugs for rewards.
  • Encourage exercise and play everyday. Children often watch too much TV, and exercise or play too little.
  • Do not serve snacks too close to mealtime.
  • Encourage eating in one place (the kitchen table) and discourage snacking in front of the TV.
  • Teach your child to eat slowly.
  • Eating less sugar, salt and fat is a good habit to teach your children. Offer more fruits and limit high calorie foods for desserts.
  • Children will eat less while sick. Let them choose the foods they want to eat. Make sure they get plenty of liquids - fruit juices, soups, popsicles, and carbonated beverages are all okay.
  • Warning: Young children can easily choke on nuts, seeds, popcorn, peanut butter, meat sticks, grapes, and hot dogs. They should be closely supervised while they are eating.


Snacks are needed for most children. Some good snack ideas include cheese cubes, graham crackers, milk, raw fruits and vegetables, crackers, hard cooked eggs and ice cream.

GroupFoods included in this group areServing SizesDaily recommended servings 
1 Year2-3 Years4-5 Years 
Milk4 servings daily in the amounts recommended 
Milk, yogurt and milk base soups1/4 C - 1/2 C1/2 C - 3/4 C3/4 C4 servings daily 
Cottage cheese, custard, milk, pudding and ice cream2 - 4 T4-6 T6 T 
Cheese (1 oz= 1 slice or 1 cube)1/3 oz - 2/3 oz2/3 oz - 1 oz1 oz 
Meat2 servings daily in the amounts recommended 
Beef, pork, lamb, veal, fish, poultry1 oz1-2 oz4 T or 2 oz2 servings daily 
Eggs1/2 egg3/4 egg1 egg 
Peanut butter2 T3 T3 T2 servings daily 
Cooked legumes, dried beans or peas1-2 T3-4 T4-5 T 
Fruits and
4-5 servings daily in the amounts recommended 
Vitamin C source fruits and vegetables -
Citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes and broccoli
1-2 T 3-4 T 4-5 T1 vitamin C source daily 
Vitamin A source fruits and vegetables
(deep green and yellow)
1-2 T 3-4 T 4-5 T1 vitamin A source daily 
Fruits/fruit juice1 T / 2 oz1-2 T / 3-4 oz4-5 T / 4 oz2 servings of other fruits
and vegetables daily
Vegetables1-2 T 3-4 T 4-5 T 
Breads4-5 servings daily in the amounts recommended 
Whole grain, enriched breads1/2 slice 1/2 - 1 slice1 slice6 servings daily 
Cooked cereals, rice and pasta1/4 C1/3 C 1/2 C 
Ready-to-eat cereals1/2 oz3/4 oz1 oz 
Fats/OilsButter, margarine, oils, mayonnaise and salad dressingsUse in moderation 
OtherJams, jellies, soft drinks, candy, sweet desserts, picklesUse in moderation 

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 11/2008

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