Now that your baby is one year old, it’s time to start exploring and adding more foods to their diet. It’s important to understand what your baby should be eating to gather ideas for a meal plan for a 12 to 18 month old.
Babies and toddlers need to receive half of their calories from fat. We might have an unhealthy relationship with fats, but natural, healthy fats are vital for normal growth and development of a toddler.
However, it’s important to know that not all fats are equal. Your toddler needs healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, fish, dairy, and nut butters. Skip fried foods, fast food, and too many packaged foods for your toddler.
Remember, toddlers have little tummies, so you want to serve foods full of nutrients and vitamins their growing bodies need.
Let’s take a look at what parents need to know about feeding their 12 to 18 month old and some meal plan ideas!
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Related: 21 On-The-Go Dinner Ideas for Busy Families You’ll Love
What Should a 12 to 18 Month Old Be Eating?
When your child reaches 12 months old, they need to eat 1,000 calories per day. They need around 700 mg of calcium, 600 IU of vitamin D, and 7 mg of iron each day.
It can be hard to ensure you are meeting all of these needs, but feeding your toddler a balanced diet is the best way to do so. You should give your toddler servings from all the food groups – fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, meats, and fats.
Your child can eat anything at this age, so give him foods that your family eats as well. You don’t have to limit seasoning or anything – give your toddler the family meatloaf, seasoned chicken breasts, or whatever else you make for the rest of your family to enjoy.
How Much Should a 12 Month Old Eat at Each Meal?
Typically, a one-year-old will eat between 3/4 to 1 cup of food at each meal. They’ll eat three to four times per day with one to two snack times between meals.
It’s not uncommon for mothers to continue breastfeeding their 12 month old, and some opt to use toddler formula to ensure their child receives all the nutrients they need.
At this age, breast milk or formula should take the back seat as far as nutrients go, but allow your child to breastfeed as much as they want. Talk to your doctor about toddler formula if you want to use it!
How Much Milk Should a 12 to 18 Month Old Drink?
Milk continues to be an important part of your toddler’s diet because it is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D. Your toddler’s bones are still continuing to grow and get stronger.
Most toddlers under the age of two years old need to drink whole milk, but some circumstances may dictate 2% milk instead. If your child cannot drink cow’s milk, try unsweetened milk alternatives like almond milk, oat milk, or coconut milk.
6 Tips for Feeding Your 12 to 18 Month Old Toddler
1. Remember the Calcium
Most parents wean their babies from formula at 12 months old; the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years old. However, your toddler will nurse far less than an infant.
So, it’s important to make sure your toddler gets plenty of calcium from other sources in their diet. Introduce dairy products, such as whole milk, cheese, and yogurts.
2. Exploring is Good!
I know; no parent wants to clean up huge messes after meal time, but it’s a great way for your baby to discover what they think about a food. Let your baby have fun at meal time and explore the foods themselves.
3. Have Nightly Family Meals
Family dinners are vitally important, and not enough families gather together. Sometimes, when you have a busy schedule, some nights, those family dinners won’t happen, but try to make them a priority.
Studies show that having daily meals together improves the family bond, increases a child’s vocabulary, and helps children make healthier choices with food.
4. Provide Finger Foods for Independence
It takes time for your child to master using utensils, so finger foods are must-have in your rotation of foods.
Here are some finger foods for your toddler:
- Cooked vegetables
- Diced fruits
- Crackers and cookies
- Hard-boiled eggs
5. Give a Good Mix of Foods
Toddlers love exploration, so it’s a great time to try all sorts of foods. Try to give your child a few foods he likes and a few foods that are new or he may not have liked before. It takes an average person several times to discover if they really like a particular food due to how it may be prepared.
6. Never Force Eating
If your toddler refuses to eat solid foods, don’t force it or pressure him to eat. It leads to negative associations with meal times and unnecessary stress.
Continue to offer different foods and encourage your child to try new foods and textures.
Sample Meal Plan Ideas for a 12 to 18 Month Old Toddler
If you’re like me, it’s easy to get stumped at each meal time. Your toddler should receive three meals a day, but you don’t want to provide your child with the same foods each day!
This is great time for your toddler to be exploring and discovering new foods. They may find some they like, and plenty they really don’t like right now.
Let’s take a look at some great meal plan ideas!
- Breakfast: 1/3 cup oatmeal & 1/2 banana in slices
- Lunch: 1/2 tuna sandwich & 1/2 cup green veggies
- Dinner: 1/4 cup diced chicken breast & veggies with whole wheat bread
- Snacks: string cheese
- Breakfast: 1 cooked egg & 1/2 cup yogurt
- Lunch: sliced cucumber, cheese stick & 1 piece of toast with peanut butter
- Dinner: 1/2 cup whole-grain pasta with tomato sauce & cheddar cheese
- Snacks: avocado, 1/2 cup of milk
- Breakfast: 1 scrambled egg with mild cheddar cheese
- Lunch: 1/2 peanut butter sandwich & 1/2 cup cooked vegetables
- Dinner: 1oz chicken with 1/2 cup veggies
- Snacks: 1/2 cup of yogurt
- Breakfast: French toast with or without egg
- Lunch: 1/2 cup rice with soft boiled carrot sticks
- Dinner: 1/2 cup ground meat with 1/4 cup of whole-grain rice
- Snacks: 1/3 cup berries or fruit
- Breakfast: 1 slice whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, 3 strawberries & 1/2 cup of milk
- Lunch: 1 scrambled egg with cheese
- Dinner: 1/2 cup whole grain pasta with 1/2 cup of vegetables
- Snacks: cheese stick & 1/4 cup of berries
- Breakfast: 1 cooked egg 1/2 cup yogurt
- Lunch: 1/2 hamburger with 1/2 cooked veggies
- Dinner: 1 oz chopped chicken with 1/2 cup of noodles
- Snacks: string cheese & graham crackers
- Breakfast: 1/3 cup oatmeal & 1/2 banana, sliced
- Lunch: 1/2 cup macaronic & cheese with 1/2 cup cooked broccoli
- Dinner: 1/2 cup rice and beans with 1/4 cup of applesauce
- Snacks: 1/3 cup berries
Writing a meal plan for your 12 to 18 month old toddler helps you ensure your toddler is trying new foods and also receiving all the nutrients needed for a balanced and health diet.
What do your toddlers love to eat? Share meal ideas below!