Toddler Feeding Schedule – Know When, How, and How Much

toddler feeding schedule time

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While most of you might be sure of the kinds of foods your little munchkin must eat, what about the days when feeding them becomes a larger task than anything else? 

While the menu set for the toddler might seem to be rather different from what their menu looked like when they were babies, the portions are one aspect that most parents tend to confuse with. Should they nurse less, feed more solids? How to maintain a good balance between meals to assure a good diet and also a healthy eating lifestyle?

If questions like these arise in your mind, then you are in the right place. With the help of this blog post, you will be able to understand what works and what does not work for your little one – also how you can benefit your toddler the most. 

Toddler Feeding Schedule - How Often and When To Feed The Toddler?

While most kids between 1 to 3 years do well with a 3-time eating schedule with 2-3 snacks a day, a toddler is rather active and might want an extra portion to fill their nutritious needs— roughly in two to three hours to stay well-fueled.

Therefore, it is important for parents to offer snacks to the toddlers at regular intervals instead of on-demand. You might want to start with a mid-morning/afternoon nosh with an added third snack if there is a long stretch between meals.

For instance, the early risers might want to have a snack when they wake up before everyone is ready for breakfast, as opposed to those who go to bed late might need a snack before they head to sleep. Consistency is the key with both these kinds of meals. 

Adding on, just because you offer food at the same time each day doesn’t mean the toddler will consume the same amount of food. They are notorious for feasting on one meal or a snack and nibbling at another, which is in fact normal. The job here is simply to provide meals at the planned times and allow the little one to eat as per the fullness or hunger cues.

Toddler Feeding Schedule Chart: How Much Should The Toddler Eat?

In one sitting, a toddler must eat until they are satisfied. Remember, the toddler’s tummy is rather tiny and if they are still a little hungry, it’s perfectly ok for you to offer more/less as per the need. 

To help you understand better, here are the typical serving sizes that you could start with, (know, this is a typical amount and you can increase or leave as per the toddler’s need):

Grains:

  • ¼ to ½ slice of bread
  • ¼ cup cooked grains or pasta
  • ½  muffin or bagel
  • 1 to 3 crackers
  • ¼  cup dry cereal

Fruits:

  • ¼ cup canned or cooked fruit
  • ½  fresh fruit

Vegetables:

  • ¼  small raw vegetable
  • 1 tablespoon cooked vegetables

Protein:

  • 1 to 2 ounces of tofu or meat
  • ½ to 1 egg
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons of legumes or beans 
  • 1 tablespoon smooth nut butter 

Dairy:

  • ½ cup milk
  • ⅓  cup yogurt
  • ½ ounce cheese 

Sample Toddler Feeding Schedule Time

Predictable snacks can do a lot more benefits than you might think and keep the little one fueled best, with steadier moods and energy levels. Not only that, but having a schedule in place also helps your toddler understand and have a sense of routine, helping them understand when to expect what and learn what it feels like to stay a little hungry versus when full.

The best schedule is generally one that includes three portions of meals with 2-3 three snacks, across two to three hours apart. It must fit the overall routine, including when they wake up, play, go to the daycare, and sleep for the night.

Here are a few sample toddler feeding schedules that you might want to look into depending upon the preference:

1. Toddler Feeding Schedule: General

  • 7:00 a.m: Wake up
  • 7:30 a.m: Breakfast
  • 10:00 a.m: Morning snack
  • 12:30 p.m: Lunch
  • 1:30 p.m: Nap
  • 3:30 p.m: The afternoon snack
  • 5:30 p.m: Dinner
  • 7:00 p.m: Bed 

2. Toddler Feeding Schedule: Early Risers

Here, although the toddler wakes up early, you might not be ready to make some breakfast. Therefore, you could offer a small pre-breakfast snack to them in order to satisfy the rumbling tummy (like a banana or whole-grain crackers accompanied with a glass of milk)

  • 6:00 a.m: Wake up + pre-breakfast snack
  • 7:30 a.m: Breakfast
  • 10:00 a.m: Morning snack
  • 12:30 p.m: Lunch
  • 1:30 p.m: Nap
  • 3:30 p.m: The afternoon snack
  • 5:30 p.m: Dinner
  • 7:00 p.m: Bed 

3. Toddler Feeding Schedule: Night Owls

For night owls, you might want to give them a small after-dinner snack, typically an hour or more after dinner. The best snacks could be a whole-grain peanut butter toast or a banana.

  • 7:00 a.m: Wake up
  • 7:30 a.m: Breakfast
  • 10:00 a.m: Morning snack
  • 12:30 p.m: Lunch
  • 1:30 p.m: Nap
  • 3:30 p.m: The afternoon snack
  • 5:30 p.m.: Dinner
  • 7:30 p.m: Pre-bed snack
  • 8:00 p.m: Bed

4. Toddler Feeding Schedule: Daycare

Is your toddler famished by the time you make it to the daycare’s door? Here, the best solution is to offer a pre-dinner nibble while you prepare dinner. 

Try to give them some veggies from what you are preparing. This will help take some pressure off and also won’t spoil the little one’s appetite for when it’s dinner time.

  • 7:00 a.m: Wake up
  • 7:30 a.m: Breakfast
  • 10:00 a.m: Morning snack
  • 12:30 p.m: Lunch
  • 1:30 p.m: Nap
  • 3:30 p.m: The afternoon snack
  • 5:30 p.m: Pre-dinner snack
  • 6:00 p.m: Dinner
  • 7:00 p.m: Bed  

Feeding toddlers surely isn’t an easy task but having a predictable schedule can help you make the mealtimes much smoother while also keeping the little one fueled and active.

In order to make sure that the toddler gets enough nutrition to help develop the body, you might want to aim for breakfast, lunch, dinner, with at least 2 healthy snacks in between. Let’s understand the same in-depth below:

Toddler Feeding Schedule, Quick Details To Conclude:

1. Morning Breakfast:

Start by offering the toddler a balanced meal and making it a regular ritual. As opposed to the infants who must be fed on demand, toddlers are much more prepared to structure their eating schedule. 

Adding on, unlike older kids, breakfast doesn’t need to be the largest meal of the day since toddlers have tiny tummies and won’t be able to eat large portions. Therefore, the best way to keep them fueled is by offering healthy snacks throughout the day.

Start with a toddler-size serving followed by more, that is, if the toddler is still hungry. The goal here is to not overwhelm them with too much food on the plate. 

In fact, a nutritious breakfast must include grains such as a whole-grain waffle cut into bite-size pieces, milk, and banana slices.

2. Mid Morning Snack:

Make sure to provide snacks at regular intervals between meals, starting at least an hour and a half before lunch. Think of nutritional complements in order to avoid processed sweets and foods with at least two food groups with a snack. Think toddler-friendly nutritious snacks like a pair of cottage cheese, pineapple, wheat crackers with deli turkey, etc.

3. Afternoon Lunch

You might want to offer food groups that are different from what you offered earlier in the day for obvious reasons. Think yogurt, whole-grain bread spread, mashed avocado, black beans, cooked peas, etc.

While the appetites for toddlers are expected to change on a regular basis, you must take notice when the child picks. In case you serve snacks too close to the meals, they might skip lunch or dinner. In this case, you might want to skip the snack and push the meal earlier. 

Or, if they are filling on high-calorie liquids, make sure to limit it to 2 cups of milk to 4 to 6 ounces of 100 percent juice each day. 

4. Midafternoon Snack

A midafternoon snack must be given to a toddler about 2-3 hours after lunch in order to keep the energy up and help them stay focused. Serve apple slices with cubes of cheddar cheese or an egg. 

5. Evening Dinner

This is the meal most toddlers often tend to eat the least due to various reasons (they are tired, have met the nutrient needs, or just had a snack). 

In this case, you must not stress but trust the toddler’s appetite when they say they are full. You need not push the kid as they have to regulate their intake well with structure and balanced meals. 

On the contrary, some of the healthy dinner ideas could include meatloaf, sweet potato, baked beans, wheat pasta, shredded baked chicken, broccoli, etc.

6. Evening Snack

As per what the toddler ate throughout the day, the evening snack might differ. Offer a snack that is easy on tiny tummies to help transition to bed. Think half a cup of milk, applesauce, etc.

Toddler Feeding ScheduleFAQs

1) What is the ideal portion size for toddlers?

Here are the ideal portion size for toddler:
Grains:
  • ¼ to ½ slice of bread
  • ¼ cup cooked grains or pasta
  • ½ muffin or bagel
  • 1 to 3 crackers
  • ¼ cup dry cereal
  • Fruits:
  • ¼ cup canned or cooked fruit
  • ½ fresh fruit
  • Vegetables:
  • ¼ small raw vegetable
  • 1 tablespoon cooked vegetables
  • Protein:
  • 1 to 2 ounces of tofu or meat
  • ½ to 1 egg
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons of legumes or beans
  • 1 tablespoon smooth nut butter
  • Dairy:
  • ½ cup milk
  • ⅓ cup yogurt
  • ½ ounce cheese
  • 2) What is the best toddler feeding schedule for night owls?

    For night owls, you might want to give them a small after-dinner snack, typically an hour or more after dinner. The best snacks could be a whole-grain peanut butter toast or a banana.
  • 7:00 a.m: Wake up
  • 7:30 a.m: Breakfast
  • 10:00 a.m: Morning snack
  • 12:30 p.m: Lunch
  • 1:30 p.m: Nap
  • 3:30 p.m: The afternoon snack
  • 5:30 p.m.: Dinner
  • 7:30 p.m: Pre-bed snack
  • 8:00 p.m: Bed
  • 3) How does having a toddler feeding schedule help?

    Predictable snacks can do a lot more benefits than you might think and keep the little one fueled best, with steadier moods and energy levels. Not only that, having a schedule in place also helps your toddler understand and have a sense of routine, helping them understand when to expect what and learn what it feels like to stay a little hungry versus when full.

    4) What makes an ideal lunch for a toddler?

    You might want to offer food groups that are different from what you offered earlier in the day for obvious reasons. Think yogurt, whole-grain bread spread, mashed avocado, black beans, cooked peas, etc.
    While the appetites for toddlers are expected to change on a regular basis, you must take notice when the child picks. In case you serve snacks too close to the meals, they might skip lunch or dinner. In this case, you might want to skip the snack and push the meal earlier.
    Or, if they are filling on high-calorie liquids, make sure to limit it to 2 cups of milk to 4 to 6 ounces of 100 percent juice each day.

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