Experts offer guidance for keeping your 1-year-old well nourished.

What Experts Want Parents to Know About Toddler Nutrition: 12 to 24 Months

As your little one enters toddlerhood, she continues to grow and learn new things each day. One thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of nutrition to help support healthy development. Here, experts offer guidance for keeping your 1-year-old well nourished.

Don’t worry if your child seems less interested in food. It’s perfectly normal for a toddler to wolf down everything one day and seem indifferent to food the next. The rate of growth slows after the first birthday, so the demand for energy to fuel growth is less urgent. (Whereas a baby typically triples her birth weight during the first year, the average toddler’s weight goes up by one quarter or less between ages 1 and 2.) Most 1-year-olds need about 1,000 calories a day.

It’s time for a transition to cow’s milk. Your toddler can start drinking cow’s milk at 12 months. Most doctors recommend starting out with whole milk during the first year, because its fat content is beneficial to the growing brain. However, 2 percent milk is recommended for children at risk of becoming overweight due to a family history of high cholesterol, obesity, or heart disease. You may also want to look into toddler formula, sometimes called toddler milk drink. It’s a specially designed formula that has important nutrients to help support healthy development.

She needs practice feeding herself. It may be messy, but practice is the only way her skill level will increase. At first your child will prefer to use her fingers to scoop up food, but by 18 months she should be pretty good at handling a spoon and fork.

Bottles should come out of the crib. She may doze off more quickly with a bottle, but this object of comfort can lead to ear infections and tooth decay as milk pools in your child’s mouth. Even a bottle of water isn’t recommended, since toddlers should give up the bottle between 12 and 18 months, the period when it’s easiest to break the habit.

A conversation with your child’s doctor about vitamin supplements is smart. Some supplements, like zinc, iron, and vitamin A, can be dangerous if your child takes in much more than she needs. At the same time, supplements, such as vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium, and vitamin D, may be necessary, particularly if your family is vegetarian or vegan.

She’s not ready for some foods. Toddlers are often in a hurry to finish their food, and they have small windpipes where food can get caught. Avoid giving your child foods that are hard or round, such as raw veggies (baby carrots), chunks of cheese, olives, grapes, hot dogs, firm meats, and hard candies. Be cautious with popcorn as well, and if you offer peanut butter, make sure to spread it very thinly.

Sweets leave little room for good foods. That first birthday cake may have been delicious, but don’t make a habit of it. Your toddler needs many different nutrients to support her development. She can get them by eating a variety of healthful foods every day. Because she may have a fairly small appetite, you don’t want her to fill up on empty calories at the expense of nutrient-rich foods.