18-24 months meal plan
By 18 months, your child is able to eat the same foods as the rest of the family. A typical meal pattern for this age group consists of 3 meals and about 2 snacks daily.
Your child may be able to verbalize when he is hungry and when he is satisfied. His developing communication skills may also include voicing his likes and dislikes when it comes to which foods he prefers to eat. The best way to encourage healthy eating is by continuing to offer a variety of nutritious foods across all food groups, while limiting his exposure to foods with added sugars and salts, including processed foods.
Milk is still an important part of your 18-24-month-old’s diet. By now, he should have transitioned from infant formula to whole milk or toddler milk and should be drinking about 16-20 ounces daily. If you are still breastfeeding, you can continue to do so as both you and your child desire.
The below meal, snack and recipe ideas will help you to provide your child with nutritious choices that will continue to influence his taste development and food preferences.
Some important nutrients for this age (and remember that all vitamins and minerals are important for your growing toddler and variety in the diet is key!) are iron, protein, calcium, DHA, folate, and choline.
Iron is important for prevention of iron-deficiency anemia, which can affect growth and development if left untreated. Iron is an important component of red blood cells and is found most often in meat products, although it can also be found in foods like beans, spinach, and oatmeal. Kids who drink more than the recommended 16-24 oz of milk or dairy every day are at risk of low iron because too much milk displaces iron rich foods and iron and calcium compete for absorption by the body. It’s important to make sure iron-rich foods are eaten with Vitamin C-rich foods like citrus or leafy greens to help the body absorb iron.
Calcium is important for bone and tooth health, blood clotting, neuron messaging, hormones, muscle contraction (including the heart!) and other processes. Good sources of calcium include dairy and leafy greens like kale, collard, and spinach, fortified items like cereal or orange juice, canned bone-in fish like salmon or sardines, almond butter, sunflower seeds, and dried beans.
DHA is an unsaturated omega 3 fat that can be found in oily fish (salmon, sardines, rainbow trout). Your body can also make DHA from foods like walnuts and flax, and some foods, fortified with DHA like certain brands of eggs or milk. DHA is critical for brain health.
Choline is important for cell functioning and supports brain health. It can be found in foods such as egg yolks, poultry, shrimp and other seafood, beans, greens such as collards and spinach, and cauliflower.
Folate, or folic acid, is a critical nutrient during periods of rapid growth, such as during early childhood. It helps our tissues grow and function. It can be found in many whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, meats, eggs, seafood, and grains. It’s especially prevalent in spinach, yeast, asparagus and brussels sprouts.
Protein is an important component of our skin, hair, nails, muscles, blood, and bones. While most of us eat plenty of protein, it is important to offer protein rich foods at your tot’s meal and snacks. Breast milk is a source of protein if your baby is still breastfeeding, but it is also found in meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, beans, nuts and seeds, eggs, and tofu. Be sure to choose low-fat sources of protein such as beans or poultry or a protein source that is also a healthy fat such as seafood or nuts and seeds.
As your child gets older and life gets busier, it may seem easier to choose quicker, more convenient foods. Most 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. Your child’s taste preferences are still developing so be sure to offer him mostly whole, fresh foods. Including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. The food you serve your child during this stage can influence what he or she prefers to eat later in life.
For more information on picky eating, please visit our Picky Eating Hub.
- Option 1: Whole grain toast topped with nut butter and sliced bananas
- Option 2: Oatmeal made with milk and frozen berries
- Option 3: Yogurt Recipe: Fluffy Spinach Scrambled Eggs
- Option 4: Whole grain waffle with ricotta cheese and berries
- Option 5: Yogurt Recipe: Super Green Mini-Muffins
- Option 1: Whole wheat pasta mixed with white beans and tomato sauce
- Option 2: Turkey roll up: whole wheat tortilla with hummus spread, turkey and sliced cucumber
- Option 3: Yogurt Recipe: Cheesy Peasy Pasta
- Option 4: Whole grain toast with light tuna and carrots
- Option 5: Tex-Mex pizza: whole grain pita topped with tomato sauce, cheddar cheese, and black or pinto beans
- Option 1: Veggie lasagna
- Option 2: Baked fish with green beans and a sweet potato
- Option 3: Breaded baked chicken strips with steamed carrots and a dinner roll
- Option 4: Stir fry with chicken, squash, peas and brown rice
- Option 5: Black bean tomato quesadillas
- Option 1: Sliced apples with a thin spread of nut butter
- Option 2: Cottage cheese and fruit
- Option 3: Veggies with hummus
- Option 4: Yogurt Recipe: Fruit & Yogurt Pops
- Option 5: Yogurt Recipe: Blueberry Banana Blender Muffins
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.