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How much food for babies and toddlers? Standard serves and portion sizes

Toddler eating a standard serve of fruitWhen your baby is just starting solid food it can be hard to know exactly how much food they should be eating. How much food should you put on their plate? Should you worry if they hardly eat a thing?

And it doesn’t get much easier as they grow! It’s frustrating when your toddler refuses to eat anything except bananas, toast or yoghurt. And it’s hard to know how much is too much.

So what are the standard serve sizes and how much food should babies and toddlers be eating as part of a healthy balanced diet?

Here’s our guide to understanding portion sizes and standard serves for babies and toddlers.

Portion sizes and standard serves for babies and toddlers

Babies: starting solids and portion size

When your baby is having their first tastes of solid food you only need to start small. In fact, a teaspoon or two is usually enough for their first meal. This will progress to a couple of tablespoons and then maybe half a cup at any or some meals. Start small and be guided by your baby. Increase the amount of food as their appetite increases.

Between 6-9 months of age the key is that solids should follow fairly soon AFTER their milk feed not before. This will mean that they will have all the milk they need and then will stop eating solids sooner rather than later. Then they will be more likely to take their next milk feed when we would expect.

Around 9 months of age try offering them their food before their milk feed as milk will no longer be the main source of their nutrition. They may always want their milk first when they wake up in the morning however. Start offering them water in a sippy cup after their solids from 6 months so they can learn a new skill as well.

READ: You can read more about starting solids in our Starting Solids hub

By the time a baby is 12 months old they will have been introduced to a wide variety of food from across the different food groups. They can be eating the same healthy foods as the rest of the family – and enjoying family meal times together.

But how much food is recommended as part of a healthy diet for babies and toddlers? How many standard serves should they be eating? And what exactly is a ‘standard serve’ anyway?

What is a standard serve?

According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines one standard serve is:

  • Vegetables – ½ cup of cooked green or orange vegetables (carrot, broccoli etc), ½ medium potato/sweet potato
  • Fruit – one medium apple/banana/orange/pear or 2 small apricots/plums or 30g dried fruit
  • Grain – 1 slice of bread, ½ cup cooked rice or pasta, 2/3 cup wheat cereal, ¼ cup muesli
  • Meat/Eggs/Nuts – 65g red meat (90-100 grams when raw), 80g chicken, 100g fish, 2 large eggs, small tin of fish, 30g nuts, 1 cup of legumes/beans, 170g tofu
  • Dairy products – 1 cup milk, 3/4 cup of yoghurt, 2 slices (40g) hard cheese

So how many standard serves for babies and toddlers (ages 1-2 years)?

We all know now that as healthy adults it is recommended we eat five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit each day. But what about toddlers—how many serves of vegetables and fruit should toddlers eat each day? And what about the other food groups?

According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines toddlers (aged 1-2 years) should aim for the following recommended daily intakes.

  • Vegetables – 2-3 serves a day – eg. 1 cup of steamed vegetables AND half a medium potato.
  • Fruit – 1/2 a serve each day – eg. half a medium-sized banana OR a plum
  • Grain – 4 serves a day – cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and pasta with dinner
  • Meat/Eggs/Legumes – 1 serve a day – an egg for breakfast and half a serve of meat with dinner.
  • Dairy products – 1-1.5 serves a day – half a serve of yoghurt and 1 slice of cheese

The thing is though—you have to remember that the recommended daily intakes are averages (based on the average healthy child) and are just something to aim for each day.

Your toddler probably isn’t very interested in meeting guidelines or learning about standard serves. Some days they’ll eat more, some days they won’t.

The best we can do as parents is to buy and offer a wide range of healthy food from across the food groups and encourage our children to try new foods. We should be aware of the Australian Dietary Guidelines and what they recommend and we should work towards them. We can also be good role models by choosing healthy food for ourselves as well.

As you have probably noticed, your toddler is a little person who is trying to take a certain amount of control over their own life! Try not to get into a power struggle with them over food. They can find it hard to make choices so try not to overwhelm them with choice. The more stressed we become over what they eat or don’t eat, the power struggle will continue.

The content in this article should be used as a guide only. If you experience any health-related concerns you should contact your local healthcare provider or nearest emergency department.

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