M.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200
Andie is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Lactation Consultant, and Certified Personal Trainer who thinks of nutrition counseling as equal parts science and sensitivity. She specializes in lactation, sports nutrition, exercise fitness, and weight loss programs.
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By 18 months, your child can eat the same foods as the rest of the family, making mealtime much easier to figure out. At this age, offer your little one food every 2 to 3 hours since their tummies are still pretty small and they’ll need to eat frequently throughout the day to get the nutrients needed for development.1 This usually ends up being 3 meals and about 2 to 3 nutritious snacks daily.
Your little one may be able to verbalize when they are hungry and when satisfied. Their developing communication skills may also include voicing their likes and dislikes when it comes to which foods they prefer to eat. Make sure to listen to your little one’s hunger and fullness cues to help them build strong internal feeding cues as well as a healthy relationship with food.2
To help nurture your child’s internal cues, provide meals without distractions such as the TV or other screens.3
Read more: Understanding Your Baby’s Hunger and Fullness Cues
You may find your little one becoming a bit picky at this age. Try not to let this be discouraging. Your goal as the parent is to provide healthy food choices and set specific times to eat. Your child’s job is to decide how much of the foods you provide to eat, or if they eat them at all!4, 5 This is called the Division of Responsibility.
While them leaving food on the plate may feel frustrating, don’t force your little one to eat something. Over time, and as they watch you eat these foods, they will become more comfortable and may eventually eat them.6 Keep mealtime a positive experience and offer disliked or new foods over and over again!
Read more: Avoiding Picky Eating
By 18 months, your little one may be fairly proficient at eating with a spoon. At each meal, provide toddler utensils to allow your child lots of practice.7, 8 The same goes for cups. At meals, provide water or milk in a plastic cup to help your little one develop their skills.1
Read more: Transitioning to Cups for Babies and Toddlers
By now, your child should have transitioned from infant formula to whole milk or soy milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends drinking about 16 ounces per day, with a max of 24 ounces (2 to 3 cups).9 If you are still breastfeeding, you can continue to do so as both you and your child desire.10, 11
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that your little one be fully weaned from a bottle between 12 and 24 months.12
Read more: What Type of Milk Should my Toddler Drink?
The below meal plan for 18 – 24-month-olds provides snack and recipe ideas that will help you to provide your child with nutritious choices that will continue to influence their taste development and food preferences.
As your child gets older and life gets busier, it may seem easier to choose quicker, more convenient foods. However, many ready-to-eat convenience foods are highly processed and contain added sugars and excess salt; read the label before you offer these to your tot.13
Your child’s taste preferences are still developing so be sure to offer them mostly whole, fresh foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. The food you serve your child during this stage can influence what they prefer to eat later in life.14
Need healthy snack ideas? Check out: Healthy Snacks for Babies and Toddlers
For more information on picky eating, please visit our Picky Eating Hub.
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond. Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!
Why folate matters for babies, tots and mama
Why omega 3s matter for babies, tots and mama
Healthy snacks for babies and toddlers
Avoiding picky eating
Family meals: modeling and enjoying healthy eating patterns
Our meal plans offer recipe and meal suggestions for your child. They are not designed to replace your doctor’s recommendations, nor do they take into account special nutritional needs, including allergies and intolerances. The meal plans suggest serving sizes that may or may not be appropriate for your child. Please consult your doctor to determine what is best for your child.
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Our Happy Family Organic Superfoods Cookbook for Baby & Toddler is chock-full of yummy, easy-to-prepare meals your whole family will love.