What Is a Toddler Serving Size of Grains?

The Best Foods to Meet Nutritional Requirements

Boy eating breakfast
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Giving your toddler the right serving size of grains (and the right type of grains) is an important part of ensuring an overall healthy diet. Refined grains (think whole-wheat, whole-grain) are a great source of vitamins and minerals and fiber. Even grains where most of the nutrients are milled out have the most important nutrients added back in.

You may know that fiber offers protection against heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes in adults, but the greatest benefit for toddlers is ...

well, poop! Toddlers need lots of regularly occurring, easy-to-pass bowel movements during potty training.

Good Sources of Grains

It's easy to serve your toddler too many servings of grains. If, for example, your toddler has eaten 1/2 cup of brown rice, some crackers or a tortilla and a piece of toast, he's met the requirements for the day. Toddlers who are served large portions of macaroni and cheese, pizza and breaded chicken nuggets will max out their grain requirement quickly and possibly exceed it.

In general, your toddler needs 3 ounces of grains per day, which can come in the form of the following foods: 

  • 1 whole-grain mini bagel
  • 1 2-inch refined grain biscuit
  • 1 slice whole-grain bread
  • 5 whole-wheat crackers
  • 7 refined grain crackers
  • 1/2 English Muffin
  • 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
  • 1 packet instant oatmeal
  • 1 4-inch whole-grain pancake
  • 2 3-inch refined grain pancakes
  • 1 cup whole-grain cereal flakes or Os
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown or wild rice
  • 1 ounce uncooked white rice
  • 1/2 cup cooked whole-grain pasta
  • 1 ounce uncooked refined grain pasta
  • 1 6-inch whole-grain tortilla

The Right Type of Grains

At least half of these grains should be whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice. By substituting whole-grain pasta for the refined grain pasta in macaroni and cheese, you'll get the benefits of more vitamins, minerals and fiber.

And, refined grains fill up your little one quicker so you can serve smaller portions and leave more room for other, more nutritious foods.

My son will easily eat two or three times more of refined grain pasta than whole-wheat pasta. To ensure at least half of the pasta my son eats is whole grain, I compromise a bit and serve him Barilla whole-wheat pasta, which is made with 51 percent whole grains. It doesn't take much longer to cook, either. Just a few minutes. Eden Foods also makes a line of whole-wheat pasta that uses 60 percent whole grains and tastes great. Check your local stores and experiment. You might be surprised by what your child will like.

Sources: United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition; USA Rice Federation: Preparation

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