Feed your toddler plenty of vegetables.

Growth Spurts in Toddlers

by Natalie Smith

Your toddler is growing more rapidly now than she will at almost any other time in her life, with an average growth of 3 to 5 inches per year. To encourage her healthy, steady growth, introduce age-appropriate foods carefully and make sure that she is receiving enough of each of the food groups to promote her development. Limit candy and other non-nutritive foods to make sure that every calorie is contributing to her development.

1. Dairy Products

Dairy products are an important source of calcium, which help to grow strong teeth and bones during your toddler's growth spurt. Choose whole milk and whole-milk yogurt and cheeses fortified with vitamin D to help aid calcium absorption. The recommended serving size for toddlers is 1/4 cup of yogurt or milk and 1/2 oz. of cheese. You should aim to serve your toddler a total of 1 cup of dairy products per day.

2. Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are essential to your toddler's healthy growth. These foods contain a wide variety of vitamins, so serve him a selection of different fruits and vegetables for meals and snacks to make sure that he gets the vitamins he needs each day. Introduce your toddler to yogurt or creamy dip as a fun way to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Your toddler should eat 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh fruit or cooked fruit per serving, or 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables per serving to help him maintain his rate of rapid growth. Two-year-olds should have 1 cup cooked vegetables or fruits, and 3-year-olds should have 1 1/2 cups.

3. Grains

Your toddler needs grains, such as cooked and ready-to-eat cereals, rice, pasta and breads each day. These grains provide your toddler with fiber, which will help her to eliminate waste and prevent indigestion. Grains also supply iron and B vitamins, which help her maintain healthy blood and high energy levels. Feed your toddler 1 oz. portions of whole-grain bread, cooked cereal or whole-grain pasta. A 2-year-old should have 3 oz. of grains daily, and a 3-year-old should have 4 oz. to 5 oz. of grains.

4. Proteins

Proteins are an important part of your toddler's diet. Lean proteins will help him to build strong muscles needed for his development of fine and gross motor skills. Feed him a variety of lean proteins to make sure that he gets the recommended amount of proteins, oils and minerals. Toddlers should get about 1 oz. of meat or fish, 1/4 cup beans, 1 oz. tofu or 1 egg per serving. Two-year-olds need 2 oz. of protein daily, while 3-year-olds need 3 oz. to 4 oz. of protein per day.

5. Foods to Limit or Avoid

While it is impossible to completely avoid sweets or junk food, serve them as treats for special occasions and limit the portion size to no more than 1 oz. for your toddler. These foods may fill him up but won't contribute to his growth or development. Over time, if he eats too much junk food he may become overweight and his growth might be curtailed. Teach your toddler to enjoy healthy foods now and he can enjoy his healthy eating habits for a lifetime.

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