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Nutrition for Toddlers & Children in Pre-School

Making sure your toddler/preschooler with diabetes is getting proper nutrition can be a challenge but it is not impossible!! The number one goal of feeding your child at this age is to provide a balanced/nutritious diet while keeping carbohydrate counts in mind.

Good to know

  • The rate of growth slows after one year of age.  The caloric needs are less than those during infancy
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children 1-3 years old get about 40 calories per inch of height
  • Smaller bodies mean smaller serving sizes! One general rule is to offer one tablespoon of a serving per year of age
  • Small frequent meals and snacks are needed at this age. Children should be eating every 2-3 hours
  • The best way for a child to learn healthy eating habits is by watching other family members eat healthy! Remember you are your child’s best teacher

Try to have your child consume these foods on a daily basis:

  • 16 ounces of milk yogurt or cheese.  Whole milk is recommended until the age of 2 , then decrease to 2%, 1% or skim
  • 4 servings of fruits and vegetables. One serving should be high in Vitamin C (citrus fruit, broccoli) and another Vitamin A ( sweet potatoes, carrots)
  • 4 servings of grains, whole grains are preferable. A serving is ¼ an adult portion
  • 2 servings of protein: meat, beans, eggs, peanut butter (check with your pediatrician before starting nuts due to  risk of allergies)


  • Carbohydrates have the biggest affect on your child’s blood glucose. In general if a protein source is consumed with a carbohydrate the blood sugar will be more stable.
  • It is always better to choose whole grain, unprocessed forms of starchy foods for good general health. Examples include whole grain bread and pasta as well as brown rice. Whole grain products contain fiber which slows the absorption of carbohydrates and provide added vitamins and minerals which are important to growing bodies.
  • “Sugar-free” does not always mean healthy! It is much more important to provide food and drinks that provide good nutrition. For example it is much better for a child to get the milk as beverage as opposed to artificially sweetened juice.
  • It is always better to consume the whole fruit or vegetable instead of the juice!!

Discuss carbohydrate ranges for meals and snacks with your provider. In general goals are:

  • Total Carbohydrates are 125-180 grams per day
  • Total Carbohydrates per meal: 30-40
  • Total Carbohydrates per snack: 10-20