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What is a Toddler Serving Size of Discretionary Calories?


Question: What is a Toddler Serving Size of Discretionary Calories?
Discretionary calories are for little treats, or extras.
Answer: Your toddler can have:

165 Calories for Extras

This can come in the form of:

  • More of a food group than is required for the day, like more strawberries, cheese, ice cream or pudding
  • Extra butter on a muffin or piece of toast
  • Sugar on cereal or in a drink
  • Honey on a biscuit
  • Syrup on pancakes or waffles
  • Gravy on meat or potatoes
  • Special treats like a cookie or piece of candy

If you make wise choices for your toddler and select the most nutrient-dense foods and avoid empty calories like those found in refined grains and fatty foods, then there will be a little wiggle room leftover for treats, mistakes or to eat a little more of a group than normal.

Just remember that your toddler's diet does not have this room every day. If you're considering giving your toddler cookies at snack, but already added 1/4 cup of pancake syrup to his pancakes this morning, that's 210 calories for just the syrup, so there's no more room for extras. At that point, you would want to offer something nutritionally dense from a group he's missing out on that day like a lean piece of meat or some steamed carrots. It can be surprising how quickly calories from sugars and fats can add up, especially if you make just one stop for fast food.

Remember, too, that sometimes you have to look at your toddler's diet over the course of a week to get the best idea of whether their diet is balancing out. Sometimes your toddler will favor lots of milk at the beginning of the week and lots of vegetables at the end of the week. Keep this in mind when offering extra treats. If your toddler is pounding back the fats, offer less discretionary calories on those days.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition

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