Home > Laman Utama > Feeding the Toddler & Preschooler

Feeding the Toddler & Preschooler


The Malaysian Food Pyramid is your reference to make good food choices for your children. It places common foods groups on different levels to show that certain foods should be consumed more than others. Give your children a variety of foods; however it does not imply that he should be allowed to over-eat.

How to cater your children’s nutritional needs?

The best way is to provide them a variety of wholesome and nutritious foods. Diet should supply a good balance of the main nutrients like protein, carbohydrates and fats, and vegetables to ensure he gets all the vitamins, minerals he needs. Try to make sure your children have some of the following every day:

  1. Fruit and vegetables
    • These foods provide vitamins, minerals and fibre to help your children’s body function healthily, promote growth and development and build a healthy immune system.
    • Important vitamins for children include vitamin A that found in red, yellow and green fruits and vegetables, and vitamin C mostly found in fruits and vegetables but especially in green vegetables and citrus fruits (mango).
    • Your children may be more receptive towards fruits because of their natural sweetness but his diet should contain both fruits and vegetables; which one cannot substitute.
    • These foods also provide dietary fibre which helps to prevent constipation.
  2. Starchy food/ carbohydrates ( rice, noodles, bread, other cereals and cereals product and tubers)
    • These foods are major source of energy for the body, have some protein and fibre as well as certain vitamins such as vitamin B.
  3. Protein (meat, fish, eggs, poultry, pulses, nuts, tofu)
    • These foods are good sources of protein which are vital to help your child grow.
    • Proteins from animal sources are considered as “high quality”.
    • Dairy products, bean and lentils served with cereal give a good supply too, however they generally lack one or more essential amino acids.
    • A diet with combination of these two animal source and plant source will provide adequate amino acids.
    • Children need more protein than adults to cater for growth.
    • If your child is not given animal protein due to religious or cultural reasons, he should eat a variety of combinations of beans, bean products and pulses to ensure they have sufficient protein.
  4. Milk and Dairy Products
    • These foods are important sources of calcium needed for healthy bones and teeth, as well as protein and fat.
    • Children over a year should consume 350mg of calcium a day.
    • If your children lose interest in milk, try to give it in a different way like milk shake using pureed fresh fruit or yoghurt, milk products such as yoghurt and cheese, or add milk to other foods such as custard, sauces, soups or even in a pancake.
    • Other sources of calcium include fish with edible bones (eg. sardine and anchovies), bean products and green leafy vegetables.
  5. Fats
    • Children need proportionately more fat in their diet than adults. Serve full-cream milk, cheese and yoghurt for children aged less than 2 years.
    • Dietary fat is important as it provides energy and fatty acids and it transports fat-soluble vitamins.
    • Essential fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6) can only come from fatty foods and important for the development of the brain, nervous system and eyes.
    • These should be consumed in minimal quantities because excess can lead to health problems. But low-fat diets that severely restrict the total amount and types of fat eaten are not suitable for young children.
  6. Fibre
    • A child’s digestive system cannot cope with vast amounts of fibre and in fact, fibre-rich foods may fill your child up without giving her much the nutrients needed.
    • You can choose whole meal bread and cereals but do not add fibre to your child’s food.

What are the daily food needs for one to six years old child?

Food Type Daily Amounts
Carbohydrates 6 – 10 servings
Milk and Dairy Products 2 servings
Fruits and Vegetables 2 servings of fruits and 2 of veggies
Protein 1 serving from an animal source or two servings from a vegetable source.

How much does one serving mean?

This is the easiest guide for you to plan your child’s diet in a day.

Food group
Servings size
(Carbohydrates) Cereals, cereal-based products and tubers 1/3 bowl (Chinese bowl) of cooked rice = 1 serving size, can be exchanged with:
1 cup infant milk cereals
1 medium size potato
1 slice bread
3 pieces biscuits.
Vegetables 1/3 bowl (Chinese bowl) cooked dark green vegetables with edible stem =
1 serving size, can be exchanged with:
½ fruit or root vegetables such as tomato, carrot, cucumber
Fruits 2 small size bananas (pisang mas: 33 g) =
1 serving size, can be exchanged with: 1 slice of papaya/ watermelon/ pineapple
½ medium – sized guava
Milk and dairy products 1 glass of milk =
1 serving size, can be exchanged with: 1 cup of yogurt
1 slice of processed cheese
Meat, poultry, fish and legume 1 medium -size kembong can be exchanged with:
1 medium -size chicken drumstick
2 hen eggs *
1 ½ pieces of tofu
½ cup of beans or pulses

Foods that matter

Children aged less than 6 years have different nutritional needs, in particular they need plenty of iron and protein.

Give lean meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and other foods that rich in iron daily to prevent deficiency

  • Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional problem worldwide. Your child’s iron stores start depleting soon after he is weaned, thus making it necessary for him to rely on food to supply the iron he requires.
  • Iron in the liver, meat, poultry and fish is more easily absorbed by the body compared with iron in the cereals, fruits, vegetables, beans and pulses.

Things that you shouldn’t worry about a toddler:

  • Doesn’t seem to eat a lot. Remember that as long as he is gaining weight and is active and healthy, then he is likely getting enough calories.
  • Only eats a few kinds of food each day, such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hot dogs, or chicken nuggets and french fries. This happens in many children but there is no need to be alarmed. Try coaxing or persuading your child to eat something from each of the major food groups. Praising has been found to be an effective way to succeed.
  • Won’t try any new foods. You can keep trying to introduce new foods by putting a very small amount (like 1/2-1 tablespoon) on his plate and don’t force him to try or finish it. Many kids won’t try new food until they have been offered it 10 or more times.
  • Doesn’t eat a balanced diet each day. Most kids don’t. As long as his diet seems balanced over a week or two, he is likely getting enough variety. If he really isn’t, talk to your paediatrician about the need for vitamin supplements.
  • Doesn’t finish everything on his plate. The idea that children should sit at the table until they ‘clean’ their plate is out of fashion. Instead, children should be taught to recognise when they are full and then stop eating. If your toddler isn’t finishing what you offer, learn to offer smaller portions.
  • Doesn’t eat what you prepare for him. Try to avoid making elaborate meals for your toddler or offering foods with a lot of spices or sauces. Instead, keep things simple. While you shouldn’t have to prepare a separate meal for your toddler every day, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t want to eat ‘adult’ foods.
  • Is overweight. Okay, you should be a little concerned if your child is overweight, even at this age. However, instead of restricting calories, you may just want to provide a healthy diet and encourage regular physical activity. Be sure to watch your toddler’s portion sizes and don’t offer too much milk, juice, or high calorie snacks.

How to prevent feeding problems

  • The best way to prevent feeding problems is to teach your child to feed himself as early as possible, provide them with healthy choices and allow experimentation.
  • Mealtimes should be enjoyable and pleasant and not a source of struggle.
  • Common mistakes are allowing your child to drink too much milk or juice so that they aren’t hungry for solids, forcing your child to eat when they aren’t hungry, or forcing them to eat foods that they don’t want.
  • Also, avoid giving large amounts of sweet desserts, soft drinks, fruit-flavoured drinks, sugar coated cereals, chips or candy, as they have little nutritional value.
  • While you should provide three well-balanced meals each day, it is important to keep in mind that most children will only eat one or two full meals each day. If your child has had a good breakfast and lunch, then it is okay that he doesn’t want to eat much at dinner.
  • Although your child will probably be hesitant to try new foods, you should still offer small amount of them once or twice a week (one tablespoon of green beans, for example). Most children will try a new food after being offered it 10-15 times.
  • Other ways to prevent feeding problems are to not use food as a bribe or reward for desired behaviors.
  • Avoid punishing your child for not eating well.
  • Limit mealtime conversation to positive and pleasant topics.
  • Avoid discussing or commenting on your child’s poor eating habits while at the table.
  • You should also not prepare more than one meal for your child. If he doesn’t want to eat what was prepared for the rest of the family, then he should not be forced to, but you should also not give him something else to eat. He will not starve after missing a single meal, and providing alternatives to the prepared meal will just cause more problems later.
Last reviewed : 04 September 2009
Writer : Zalma Bt. Abdul Razak
    Zuhaida Bt. Harun
    Nazli Suhardi B. Ibrahim