Nutritional recommendations (1-3 years)

A specific problem in this age group is the mistaken belief that “fat” children are healthier. Many children at this age consume more calories than they need, which could explain the greater prevalence of obesity in these early years.

The actual energy requirements are approximately 100 kcal/kg/day. Intake should be divided between:


  • Breakfast: 25%. Formula food for infants or milk with cereals and fruit.
  • Lunch: 30%. Gradually becoming accustomed to family meals. Puréed vegetables, legumes, pasta, rice and stews. Meat or fish, mashed, or cut into small pieces, tortillas. For dessert: fruit, milk or yoghurt.
  • Afternoon snack: 15%. Fruit, ham or cheese cut into small pieces, yoghurt, or sandwiches.
  • Dinner: 30%. Give preference to vegetables, cereals and fruits. Cereals with or without milk.


Breakfast is an important meal, and should include a dairy product, cereals and fruit.

Parents should plan the meals at home so that they complement school meals.

Presentation and Textures

It´s best to serve food that is juicy and easy to chew (soups, purées, casseroles with little fat, croquettes, tortillas). Gentle cooking techniques should be used (baking, steaming, poaching, roasting, microwaving and sautéeing with little oil).

Mild seasoning should be used in moderation (garlic, onions, leeks, herbs, etc). Avoid fried foods, elaborate or ready-made ​​sauces.

More coarsely textured food can be introduced by mashing with a fork, before moving to food that has been finely chopped.  At 2 years of age, foods can be offered with a texture similar to that for adults.

At this stage, there should also be a change in eating strategy, from the concept of one dish per meal to several courses, a starter (vegetables, soup, purée), a main course (meat, fish, eggs, all accompanied by a complementary side dish) and finally a dessert (preferably fresh fruit), always presented appetisingly and in small portions.

Be sure to provide a varied diet to prevent nutritional deficiencies. Avoid foods that may cause choking (nuts, large chunks of fruit, etc.). Sugary drinks should be avoided.

Characteristics of the Many Foods in this Age Group

4-6 servings/day

Owing to their high starch content, cereals provide energy in the form of carbohydrates, and although they contain little protein they provide minerals and vitamins, particularly thiamine, and essential fatty acids.

It is recommended that unrefined cereals make up about half of all those consumed.

3 servings/day

The most important contribution made by fruit is the provision of vitamins and plant fibre. Commercial juices are not recommended. Fresh, natural juice is best. It shouldn´t be given by bottle.

Vegetables (2 servings/day) and legumes (2-3 servings/week)

These provide minerals, vitamins and fibre. They should be varied to prevent nutritional deficiencies. One serving of raw vegetables and another of cooked is also recommended, to enhance the vitamin contribution.

3-4 servings/week

Meat provides mainly protein, minerals, phosphorus and potassium, and is an important source of group B vitamins. Low-fat meats are recommended (poultry, rabbit) and organ meats should be avoided.

3-4 servings/week

Similar source of protein to meat, but the fats are healthier and contain minerals, chlorine, sodium, potassium and phosphorus in particular

3-4 servings/week

Eggs contain all the essential amino acids and are an excellent protein-rich food. In order to avoid the presence of infectious agents, don´t serve raw.

2-4 servings/day

The recommended daily intake of milk is between 500-600 ml, or the equivalent in dairy products (yoghurt, low-fat cheese).

It isn´t necessary to use skimmed milk, unless recommended for medical reasons. The European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPHGAN) recommends those formula milks denominated as “follow-on” or “growth” until 2-3 years of age, provided the family’s economic situation allows it.

6 servings/day

Virgin olive oil is recommended for dressings and normal olive oil for stews and frying. As an alternative, corn oil or sunflower oil may be used.

Avoid animal fats and palm and coconut oils, as well as margarine and products with hydrogenated vegetable fats.

The minimum requirements will be met if the recommended daily amounts of fruit, vegetables, legumes and unrefined cereals are eaten.

At this stage of development, the water requirement is 1.3 litres a day, or the equivalent, 1 ml per calorie ingested.

This recommendation increases if the child has a high temperature, diarrhoea, vomiting, or if the climate of hot and dry. We suggest that fluids be taken mainly in the form of water.

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