Children 2-3 years old need a lot of nutrients, but their stomachs are small and need smaller amounts of food. Portion sizes have increased over the years making it a challenge to determine appropriate serving sizes for children.
Serving Size vs. Portion Size
• A serving size is the recommended amount of food your child should eat.
• A portion size is the amount of food that is actually eaten.
It is the parent's job to offer a variety of healthy foods, decide when meals and snacks are offered, determine where the child eats, and offer a friendly environment. It is the child's job to decide how much they are going to eat! Every child grows differently and needs different amounts of food. Some days you may notice your child eats a lot and other days he/she may eat very little. This is normal. The way to tell if your child is eating the right amount of food is by seeing how he/she is growing. If your child is staying consistent on the growth charts and you are offering a wide variety of foods, then he/she will do just fine.
Every day offer your child...
Breads, grains, and cereals:
(6-10 of these choices) Dry cereal- ½ cup
Rice, pasta, cooked cereal- ¼ cup
Bread, roll, tortilla, pancake, muffin, etc.- ½
Vegetables: 1-1.5 cups Raw or cooked- offer a variety of color
Fruits: 1-1.5 cups Fresh, frozen, or canned- offer a wide variety
Juice- no more than ½ cup a day
Dairy Products: low-fat
(4 of these choices) Cheese- ¾ ounce
Milk/breast milk- ½ cup
Yogurt or pudding- ½ cup
(2-4 of these choices) Meat, chicken, fish, turkey- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons)
Cooked dry beans, peas, lentils- ¼ cup
Peanut butter- 1 tablespoon
Fats, Oils, & Sweets Limited: only once in a while
Give your child about 1 tablespoon of each food for each year of age they are. For example, if your child is two years old, offer them 2 tablespoons of vegetables, 2 tablespoons of pasta, etc. To help your child eat during meal times offer milk with meals and water between meals. This will help your child not get full of milk right before mealtime.
Remember: It is the parent's job to offer a variety of healthy foods and it is the child's job to decide how much they are going to eat!
Source: California WIC Program Feed Me 1-3 and "Helping Your Child to Eat Well" by Ellyn Satter