Food pyramid baby

Food Pyramid for Toddlers - Mama Knows Nutrition

Do you remember learning about the food pyramid as a kid?? I remember learning it, and then promptly not caring about it AT ALL because I didn’t want some triangle telling me what foods to eat. Because I was a kid and I just wanted pop-tarts and Lucky Charms.

Guidelines have changed a lot since then, but people still wonder about the food pyramid for toddlers (as in, what to feed when they move past the baby stage and are done with bottles and boobs!) They’re a real human now, eating “real people” food, and it feels like you’re feeding them ALL THE TIME.

So, what should a toddler eat?

Enter: the food pyramid for toddlers!

What is the food pyramid for toddlers?

Real quick, just in case you didn’t grow up with this food group framework, it’s worth explaining that the food pyramid for toddlers is another way of breaking down the nutritional requirements of toddlers and kids ages 2-5. They’ve since changed it to MyPlate, and no longer use the pyramid depiction. It lists the official daily needs guidelines as per the USDA, as they relate to the food groups.

There are 5 food groups for toddlers and kids, which are:

  • Fruit
  • Veggies
  • Grains
  • Protein
  • Dairy

It can be a really handy guide, and it’s great to keep in your toolkit as you go about meal planning and preparing food for your kids.

How To Use the Food Pyramid for Toddlers

A few notes when considering the Food Pyramid for toddlers:

1. I’m still calling it the Food Pyramid even though it’s no longer called that by the USDA because people search for it on google, so I’m just trying to help everyone find the right info.

2. This is a guide and NOT a prescription. Your child may eat more or less than these amounts on different days (or always), and I do NOT suggest limiting or restricting them in any way. Read this post to understand more about that.

3. The 1,000 calorie suggestion is an average amount for this age, but in reality, your toddler’s eating will likely vary widely. Don’t be surprised when some days it’s less than that, and some days it’s more.

4. You do want to offer a balance of food groups at meals as much as possible, but it is expected for a toddler or preschooler to heavily favor carbohydrate foods. That’s totally ok!

Even as a dietitian, I never measure or count my kids’ food to make sure they get enough from each group. I do a mental checklist in my head instead of what I’m offering. Fruit and/or veggie? Check. Some sort of starchy carb? Check. Meat or non-meat protein? Check. And I always aim for a healthy fat, too.

What about fats? Are they good for toddlers and kids?

Interestingly, both the old food pyramid and the MyPlate plan totally skip over fat, besides saying to limit saturated fat. But I kind of disagree with this. Fat is brain fuel! We need it, and so do our kids. And as long as we stick to the right amounts of the healthy fats, they can totally have them.

Here are the fats I recommend for toddlers:

  • Avocado
  • Nuts and/or seeds (either as nut butter or ground up and sprinkled on things).
  • My go-to favorites are peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter, ground cashews (often stirred into yogurt), ground walnuts mixed into breading (like for chicken tenders or crusted fish), and ground flax and chia in oatmeal.
  • Butter (Not exactly a health food but there are much worse things, and I’m okay with a little butter every day)
  • Cooking Oils. I like avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and sunflower oil
  • Coconut butter (Warm it up and it becomes liquid. SO GOOD on toast!)
  • Fatty fish, like salmon
  • Cheese
  • Whole milk
  • Whole milk yogurt
  • Egg yolks

More On the 5 Food Groups for Toddlers

Fruits (#1) & Veggies (#2)

Fun fact: fruit offers the same nutrients as veggies.

I’ll be honest, my kids don’t get close to 1 cup of veggies most days, because there are only a few veggies they like. That’s normal for toddlers. Instead of stressing over what they’re not getting, I recommend focusing on veggie exposure (read this post for ideas) and letting go of the pressure of eating a certain amount.

Fresh vs. Frozen

For both fruit and veggies, fresh is great, but frozen and canned are healthy choices too. Just watch out for unnecessary added salt and sugars. (Freeze dried fruit is also a GREAT snack for toddlers, and doesn’t have any added sugar).

Here are a few things to look for when you’re shopping:

  • Canned Veggies: Low or no added salt
  • Canned/Packaged Fruit: “Packed in 100% juice or water” (not syrup!)


Grains (also known as starches and carbohydrates) are a super important (and generally preferred) food group for toddlers.

And even though we all know of certain diets that try to vilify them, it’s important for you to know that grains are NOT bad, for you or your kids, in any way. Our bodies actually rely on the type of energy that grains provide for a lot of things. Your toddler needs that energy to run, play, and grow, among other things.

Big Note Here: You do not have to do 100% whole grain for everything. You want to make sure they’re getting a good amount of whole grains (some ideas below), but it’s okay if they have that boxed mac and cheese or wonder bread sandwich once in a while.

Here are my top choices for toddlers:

  • Oatmeal
  • Low sugar cereal (grab my guide here)
  • Rice (white, brown, wild)
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Farro
  • Bread (we typically do either whole
    grain bread or sourdough, but get what you like!)
  • Corn
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Pasta
  • Whole grain waffles or pancakes

Of course there are others beyond what’s listed here, but that’s the basis of a healthy rotation of varied grains.


Notice the daily recommended amount is only 2 ounces of meat(around 2-3 tablespoons), which is a really easy amount for your little one to get! That means you don’t need to overthink protein sources for your toddler.

Also, protein doesn’t necessarily mean meat! If your toddler doesn’t eat meat (either because they don’t want to, or your family chooses not to), that’s okay. In that case, I highly recommend reading this post so you know how to provide all the nutrients that come from meat in other ways.


This category includes milk, yogurt, and cheese.

How much dairy to give a toddler:

I suggest limiting milk to 16 oz (the equivalent of 2 cups) a day, but if they eat a lot of other dairy, you may even cut back to one cup a day. This is because too much milk can fill them up and prevent them from getting a good variety of other necessary nutrients. It can also increase picky eating.

What types of dairy to give a toddler:

  • Until your child is 2 years old, serve whole milk. Note: Even if you reduce the AMOUNT of milk you give your toddler for the reasons explained above, don’t switch the TYPE of milk they get under they’re older. I do NOT recommend fat-free milk for toddlers.
  • Once your child is 2 years old (or older), you can choose to continue with whole, or switch to low fat.

For more about milk, see this post.

Want to learn more about what to feed your toddler?

Here are a few of my favorite resources:

  • To figure out how much they should be eating, read this post or watch this video.
  • For easy, balanced lunch ideas, check out my Healthy Packed Lunch Guide! It includes lists of no-prep, packable foods for each food group so it makes for the easiest, fastest, healthiest lunches! Perfect for daycare, preschool, or quick at-home lunches.

Want even more information, check out these posts:

The 48 Best Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids and Toddlers

How Much Sugar is Okay for Toddlers?

Healthy Meal Plan for Picky Eaters

18 Healthy Toddler Breakfast Ideas

Toddler Food Pyramid – First 1000 Days

Healthy eating is about having a varied, balanced diet and enjoying lots of different foods. The food pyramid will help you choose a healthy and varied diet for your child.

Children can decide how much food they need, so don’t make them eat until their plates are empty.

The Toddler Food Pyramid:

Sparingly; Others

2: Meat, Fish and Alternatives.

3: Milk, Cheese, and Yoghurt.

2-4: Fruit and Vegetables.

4: Cereals, Bread and Potatoes.

Food groups

The following are suggested servings from each of the Food Pyramid shelves. Offer the recommended serving from each Food Pyramid shelf every day.





Recommended servings per day:

1-3 years: 4 servings

3-5 years: 4-6+ servings

1 Serving = any of the following

  • 1 slice of bread or a small bread roll
  • 1 small bowl of cereal (eg 30g variety size pack)
  • 2 cream crackers
  • 1 medium potato
  • 3 dessert spoons of boiled rice or pasta

Active children may need more servings from this food group to give them enough energy.

Remember — children’s appetites can vary, offer younger children smaller portion sizes more often.



Recommended servings per day:

1-3 years: 2-4 servings

3-4 years: 4 or more servings

5 years and over: 5 servings

1 Serving = any of the following

  • 1 medium sized fresh fruit for example
  • Small glass of unsweetened pure fruit juice — dilute with plenty of water
  • Small bowl of tinned fruit in natural juice, small bowl of chopped fruit, fresh fruit salad
  • 3 dessert-spoons of stewed fruit
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetables or 3 dessert-spoons of salad
  • Bowl of home-made vegetable soup



Recommended servings per day:

1-3 years: 3 servings

3-5 years: 3 servings

1 Serving = any of the following

  • 1 glass of full fat milk (1/3 pint of milk)
  • 1 carton of yoghurt
  • Matchbox sized piece of cheese (1oz)
  • 2 cheese slices
  • Small bowl of milk pudding
  • 2 fromage frais

Low fat milk is not suitable as the main drink for children under 2 years of age. You can gradually introduce it after 2 years of age provided your child is a good eater and has a varied diet. Skimmed milk is not suitable for children under 5 years.



Recommended servings per day:

1-3 years: 2 small servings

3-5 years: 2 servings

1 Serving = any of the following

  • Small pork or lamb chop
  • 2 slices roast or boiled meat
  • 2 slices of chicken or turkey
  • Medium fillet of fish
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons of baked beans, peas, lentils



Foods such as sweets, chocolate, biscuits, cakes, fizzy drinks and savoury snacks, like crisps, are on the top shelf of the Food Pyramid.

These foods should not be a part of your child’s daily diet. Filling up on foods from this shelf spoils your child’s appetite for more nutritious food.

Sugary food and drinks are not good for your child’s teeth.



Fresh fruit such as pears, satsumas, bananas, kiwi fruit

Cheese cubes, slices

Crackers or rice cakes and cheese

Bread- toast, rolls, baps, pitta bread

Fruit brack, malt loaf, banana bread

Scones- plain, fruit or wholemeal

Small sandwiches


Fromage frais

Homemade milkshake using yoghurt and fruit

Unsweetened breakfast cereal with milk (don’t add sugar)

Homemade soup

Vegetable slices, sticks or wedges


Don’t give whole nuts and popcorn until your child is at least 5 years old — because of the danger of choking.

How to explain the food pyramid to children

The Food Pyramid is a very suitable tool for parents. In this way, we learn that our children's diet is rich and varied and contains the foods they need to meet their nutritional needs.

We will explain to you weekly and explain how we can follow this at home. Remember this A healthy and balanced diet provides babies with the nutrients they need for building bones, muscles and brain training for a lifetime.


  • 1 What is the food pyramid?
  • 2 Kids Food Pyramid
  • 3 More Things Beyond the Pyramid

What is a Food Pyramid?

Food Pyramid This is a chart that shows the foods we should be eating. It is very easy to interpret, even your son or daughter can do it, and I advise you so that it is always visible in the kitchen , for example, mine is stuck on the refrigerator door.

Each layer of the pyramid includes different types of food. Below are those that we (parents and children) should eat daily and in larger quantities. And, above all, that you should consume less, but not without them, you just have to take them less and less.

Also in the food pyramid daily water intake and exercise included . These elements are complete and necessary for proper nutrition.

Children's Food Pyramid

The food pyramid has a version for children, which also changes with age. The drawings that appear in it are also adapted to the culture of each country, the availability of food, but in its concept, it designs the ideal diet for children of any race.

It is based on water and carbohydrates. Children should be given several servings per day, taking care to take the largest amount in the morning and at noon. Whole grain carbohydrates contain more fiber, which is very important in the nutrition of children. Foods rich in these whole carbohydrates include brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes, whole grain pasta, quinoa, bananas, and potatoes. nine0003

In the next layer, fruits and vegetables. You already know at least 5 servings a day and olive oil, of which you should take 3 to 6 tablespoons a day, and better raw than fried. Dairy products are a very important element in the formation of the bones of children during their growth. You should take about 4 servings a day, milk, yogurt, cheese, it is better if they are low fat.

nuts, fish, lean poultry, eggs and legumes, they are the next step and these rations are beginning to be weekly. If you want to teach your kids about the importance of the food pyramid, we encourage you to search YouTube for an explanation of this kids theme and you'll see how easy and fun it will be for them to understand! nine0003

More things than the pyramid

Other issues to consider when feeding a baby, we can call social. For example, if possible sit down to eat with them Prepare a family meal in which the child shares this space with their parents and siblings and sees that they eat the same as they do.

Explain to the child why he should eat well, what is the importance of his diet. Cook food with him, to help you in the kitchen. Keep in mind that taste buds are newer than adults and all tastes are more intense, hence the rejection of certain foods by some children. Cook for them without salt or dress them up in different ways. Decorate your plate to make it more eye-catching.

Be aware that if there is no allergy or intolerance there is no good or bad food for children. They should eat everything, but in sufficient quantity and portions.

If you need more tips on how to teach children to eat right, you can consult this article.

Healthy nutrition pyramid: structure and types


  • Introduction
  • Harvard pyramid - began
  • New Pyramid Mypyramid
  • Children's "Pyramid"
  • In vegetarians - its pyramid

    ENTER to a beautiful and slender body.

    People have understood this for a long time. At the beginning of the last century, for the first time there were attempts to divide all food products into groups, taking as a basis their benefits to humans. nine0003

    The first model of proper nutrition was proposed by nutritionists from the USA in 1992.

    It looked like a pyramid. At the base were products that bring maximum benefit to human health. As we moved to the top, their value decreased, and the least useful food was at the very top.

    The more new knowledge appeared in the field of nutrition, the more the pyramid of proper nutrition changed and improved. New types of schemes have emerged that take into account the peculiarities of food consumption by people of different nationalities, as well as certain segments of the population, for example, vegetarians or children. nine0003

    In our article you can learn more about the different types of food pyramids. We hope that reading the article will be useful not only for those who have decided to embark on the path of healthy eating, but also for those who are already firmly on this path.

    The Harvard Pyramid - the Beginning of the Beginning

    The earliest and most famous was the food scheme created by the Harvard School of Public Health (1992). The leader is Walter Willett, an American professor of nutrition.

    The Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid considers it the main one and places it on the very first step:

    • physical activity;
    • adequate fluid intake;
    • regular weighing.

    Second stage: cereals, vegetables and fruits, and vegetable oils.

    Why should they be eaten daily? Let's consider this question in more detail.

    • Cereals, bread and other products made from wholemeal flour, brown rice contain "long carbohydrates", therefore they provide more energy than other products.
    • Vegetable oils (sunflower, olive, corn, sesame, etc.) are sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids. nine0016
    • PUFAs are very necessary for the body, as they help normalize blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, burn saturated fats, thereby contributing to weight loss, help fight various inflammations and perform many other useful functions.
    • Even kids know that vegetables and fruits are healthy. Vegetables can be eaten without quantity restrictions, and fruits - no more than 3 servings per day.

    Third step: proteins, legumes and nuts are located here. nine0003

    Nuts and legumes are plant foods that contain protein. It must be consumed at least once a day.

    Proteins are proteins of animal origin. To enrich the body with them, we eat eggs, fish or poultry 1-2 servings a day.

    Milk products have settled on the fourth step. Kefir, fermented baked milk, cheese, yogurt and other "milk" is enough to consume 1-2 times during the day.

    Fifth stage. Here are located: sweet delicacies, rolls, red meat, sausages, margarine, butter, white rice, potatoes. That is, everything that it is desirable to refuse, well, or consume very moderately. nine0003

    The Harvard food pyramid allows a little bit of alcohol and not for everyone. It also allows you to take multivitamins, but only on the recommendation of a doctor.

    All people are different, and everyone has their own level of needs. Therefore, it should be remembered that the food pyramid of nutrition is just the basis, based on which you can create an individual diet for a particular person.

    New pyramid MyPyramid

    Russian scientists have not yet developed their own food scheme. They support the MyPyramid project, developed by nutritionists from America, while taking into account the differences in food preferences of Russians and Americans. nine0003

    MyPyramid is the result of numerous changes and additions to the Harvard scheme, which appeared in 2007.

    The new food pyramid is something completely different from all its predecessors. There are no “steps” here, but there are principles on which it is based. There are only five of them:

    1. the principle of diversity;
    2. proportionality;
    3. individuality;
    4. moderation;
    5. physical activity.

    The principle of diversity means that a person can eat all foods without exception, unless, of course, he has allergies to them or other contraindications. In MyPyramid, each food group has a segment of a certain color:

    The principle of proportionality is expressed in the fact that the correct ratio of food consumed should be observed. In the diagram, this is shown by different segment widths. For example, the yellow segment (fats) is the narrowest, therefore, for a balanced diet, there should be less fat in the diet than everything else. nine0003

    The principle of individuality. People have different food preferences, they differ in age, gender, etc. Using the data of the pyramid, you can choose an individual diet for any individual person.

    The principle of moderation says: "Everything is good in moderation." In order to keep your body in good shape, you should not overeat, but you also do not need to starve yourself. Compliance with the correct diet will invariably give its positive result.

    The principle of physical activity goes hand in hand with all the previous principles. The man in the diagram, climbing the steps to the top of the pyramid, shows that "varied food + physical activity = healthy and beautiful body. " nine0003

    Do you watch your diet?

    • No, I eat everything.
    • No, but I want to start eating right.
    • Yes, I'm taking my first steps in this direction
    • Yes, I'm a pro nutritionist
    • I just want to know the results of the survey

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    Children's "pyramid"

    The food pyramid for children is not very different from that of adults. The difference is only in the width and number of segments. nine0003

    The Healthy Eating Pyramid for Children helps create menus for the younger generation of all ages. What does it include?

    1. Dairy products

    They form the basis of children's food up to 3 years of age. This sector is wider than all the others in the "pyramid". On the day the baby should receive 400-600 grams of fermented milk products.

    2. Fruit-vegetables

    The vegetable and fruit sector is approximately equal in width to the dairy products sector. As the child grows, the number of fruits and vegetables in his daily menu increases. nine0003

    Fruit and vegetable juices are a good addition to baby food.

    3. Meat

    His child must eat without fail, even if his parents are vegetarians, since animal protein is the basis for building a growing organism.

    Small children are best given boiled or steamed meat. Lean veal or beef, as well as turkey, are suitable for baby food.

    4. Fish

    Children's food "pyramid" allocates a separate sector for fish. After all, fish contains many essential trace elements, as well as easily digestible proteins. nine0003

    Low-fat fish such as walleye, hake, cod or perch are suitable for baby food.

    It is best to alternate fish and meat dishes in order to avoid an excess of protein in the child's body.

    5. Cereals

    Flour and cereal products must be included in the children's diet. Porridges, as well as wholemeal bread, will give the baby a boost of energy for a long time.

    Buckwheat and oatmeal is a rich source of vitamins and microelements. They are suitable even for the smallest children. Older children can be given whole grain cereals, such as wheat or pearl barley. nine0003

    Pasta made from durum wheat can be fed to a child, but not often.

    6. Fats and oils

    Represented in the diagram by a very narrow stripe. However, they have a great energy value and should be on the menu. A baby can receive a small amount of vegetable oil as a dressing in a salad, porridge or soup.

    Children over 3 years of age can be fed little butter.

    7. Eggs

    In the children's food "pyramid" they have a separate, very small segment. The child needs them, as they supply him with vitamins A, D, E, trace elements and proteins. The norm for children is half an egg a day. nine0003

    8. Sweets

    Whereas the old scheme called for reducing consumption of sweets to a minimum, the new healthy eating pyramid does not consider sweets to be such a terrible sin. The main thing is that everything should be in moderation.

    Chocolate should not be given to children under 3 years of age. If there is no allergy, then you can offer honey a little bit. But the best way out will be dried fruits: dried apricots and raisins. Cookies, marmalade and homemade jam in small quantities will do.

    Vegetarians have their own pyramid

    The vegetarian food pyramid, unlike the traditional ones, does not insist that you can eat well only if you eat meat and milk, poultry, fish and eggs.

    According to the pyramid, the diet of a vegetarian is based on cereals combined with legumes and cereals.

    Animal protein contained in meat includes all the necessary set of amino acids, while plant foods lack one or the other. Therefore, only by combining and consuming beans and cereals at the same time, vegetarians can make up for the deficiency of amino acids in the body. nine0003

    Vegetables and fruits are second in importance in a vegetarian diet.

    Food rich in protein is the third step that this pyramid includes. This includes cheese, eggs, milk or low-fat cottage cheese, soy products, seeds, and nuts.

    Well, at the very top are fats and sweets. You don’t have to cut them out of your diet completely, because they contain a lot of useful substances. It is better to be wise in their choice.

    Unrefined vegetable and melted butter can be consumed from fats. And as sweets, you can eat bitter chocolate and dried fruits. nine0003

    Other pyramids

    Mediterranean pyramid. The basis is:

    • cereals;
    • fruits;
    • vegetables;
    • vegetable oils.

    Seafood and fish are in second place. But meat is recommended to consume no more than 1-2 times a week.

    In Asia, vegetables, rice, soy products and green tea are considered the main ones.


    To maintain health until old age, you should remember a simple rule: "Movement is life.

    Learn more