The Correct Serving Size of Vegetables for Toddlers

Is your little one eating enough veggies?

Child eating vegetables
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When Is Enough Enough?

Figuring out serving sizes for toddlers can be tricky, even when it comes to vegetables. If you're not offering vegetables as snacks, for example, it can be tough to meet the full requirements in just one or two meals. And even if your child gobbled up greens from a jar as a baby, the toddler years will likely prove more challenging when it comes to getting your little one to even try his veggies.


What Your Toddler Needs

In general, your toddler needs 1 cup of vegetables per day, which can come from the following foods: 

  • 1 cup broccoli (raw or cooked)
  • 1 cup cooked greens (like collards or spinach)
  • 2 cups raw spinach
  • 2 cups raw lettuces like Romaine and escarole
  • 1 cup of sliced or chopped carrots (raw or cooked)
  • 2 medium carrots (raw or cooked)
  • 1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin
  • 1 large baked sweet potato
  • 1 cup cooked squash
  • 1 cup cooked beans
  • 1 cup tofu
  • 1 cup or 1 (8-inch) ear of corn
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • 20 French fries
  • 1 medium baked potato
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 cup chopped cabbage (raw or cooked)
  • 1 cup cauliflower (raw or cooked)
  • 1 cup chopped or 2 large stalks celery (raw or cooked)
  • 1 cup cucumbers (raw)
  • 1 cup green or wax beans
  • 1 large or 1 cup chopped red or green pepper (raw or cooked)
  • 2 cups chopped iceberg or head lettuce
  • 1 cup raw or cooked mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onions (raw or cooked)
  • 1 large whole or 1 cup chopped tomatoes, (raw, cooked or canned)
  • 1 cup tomato or vegetable juice

Getting Kids to Eat Those Greens

Toddlers usually aren't big fans of things like spinach, kale, and other greens. I've found that chopping these up very finely and adding them in the last minute of cooking to simmering soup works well.

You may have heard about or read books that involve puréeing vegetables and like macaroni and cheese or meatloaf. I don't have a problem with this at all. My mom used to do it, only it was mostly to extend the expensive meat or cheese in a recipe that she was making to feed our very large family.

We knew she was doing it and we were served other vegetables as sides. There was nothing sneaky about it and if you're going to start adding puréed vegetables to your toddler's other dishes, I recommend full disclosure.

It's good for kids to learn that there are lots of different ways to eat any one food. They may not like cole slaw, but they may love cabbage sautéed with a little olive oil and smoked sausage. They may not like big chunks of butternut squash, but they may love that same vegetable puréed and used as ravioli filling or sauce.

Be a Good Role Model

Of course, the best way to get kids to eat their vegetables is to eat them yourself. If you try serving your kids broccoli and you're eating French fries or nothing at all, they know the difference.

All this modeling counts toward the exposure your child is getting to vegetables, too.

And it can take up to 50 times of exposing your child to a new food before he becomes comfortable. Keep that in mind for regulars like broccoli, for sure, but also for veggie oddballs like Swiss chard or fennel that don't get as much play.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition

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