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What Do 18 Month Olds Eat? (+ a Daily 18 Month Old Schedule)

Feeding toddlers can be difficult and frustrating, especially when they display picky eating behaviors. I’m a mom of 3 and a Registered Dietitian, and if you’re wondering what an 18 month old eats in a day, I’m here to share our 18 month old daily schedule and common food offerings.

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What do 18 month olds eat, or what should they be eating in a day? How much, and what does the variety look like?

As a Registered Dietitian and family feeding expert, I’m here to tell you that there is no one set way to feed your 18 month old!

However, if you feel overwhelmed or confused by your 18 month old’s eating habits, I’m here to normalize some habits and share some healthy food ideas!

I’m all about raising adventurous eaters and what you serve and offer now makes a big difference in picky eating and picky eaters in the future.

18 Month Old Development

Here are some developmental milestones and progressions that you may be experiencing with your 18 month old.

  • point at things they find interesting
  • turning pages in a book
  • showing more independence and wanting to do things themselves
  • jumping, clapping and even singing songs they know
  • feeding themselves with utensils, or starting to use utensils
9 month old baby eating yogurt off spoon

18 Month Old Daily Schedule

Whether you did baby led weaning vs. purees when starting solid foods with baby, you’ve probably finally found some sort of groove with feeding your 18 month old toddler.

The division of responsibility comes in here when raising intuitive eaters – kids can be feeding themselves and learning to explore new flavors and textures.

While you determine what you serve them, they have autonomy for deciding what and how much to eat.

baby eating lunch

While every toddler is going to be different, depending on their own needs and your family, here is a general schedule for an 18 month old.

We’re going to share several 18 month old meal ideas.

Remember that things may vary, such as:

  • wake up and bedtimes
  • nap times (2 naps vs. 1 nap)
  • eating times
  • if a mother is breastfeeding or not
  • baby’s activity
  • whether or not baby is at daycare or home
18 month old daily schedule

18 Month Old Eating Schedule

Based on our sample schedule for the day, here is our 18 month old eating schedule:

  • Breakfast: 8-8:30ish. My son doesn’t prefer to eat right away so I’ll nurse him upon waking, we’ll change his clothes, check on his older sisters, and play a bit before coming down to eat.
  • Morning snack – We offer a mid-morning snack usually around 10:30ish (if needed). We don’t always need a morning snack, but we often have a Noka smoothie pouch, My Serenity Kids pouch, baby oatmeal cookies or a DIY yogurt pouch.
  • Lunch – 11:45-12:00 ish. We eat lunch before nap, but other families may do it differently, especially if their toddler still takes two naps.
  • Afternoon snack – 2:45-3:00pm – This will depend on how hungry he is or how much of his lunch he ate. Another option is to offer a cup of milk here.
  • Dinner – 5:30-5:45 – We eat dinner on the earlier side because it works best for our family with 3 kids. This may vary if we have afternoon activities, are traveling, etc. It’s meant to be flexible! Usually, dinner leads into bath time and the bedtime routine.

Now, I want to break down some easy meal ideas and recipes for each meal of the day. You can even use this as a sample 18 month old meal plan, based on any of the meal ideas and recipes.

Some families may prefer to offer healthy snacks, while others may just focus on main meals.

There’s no right or wrong way to feed an 18 month old. Do what works for you and your whole family/toddler.

1 year old feeding white plate
baby eating raspberries, sweet potatoes and chicken

I highly recommend using the ezpz placemats, plates, utensils and cups! By this time, your toddler can start to drink from an open cup if they aren’t doing so already.

The ezpz tiny cup is perfect for this.

Breakfast Ideas for an 18 Month Old

Breakfast is typically something made in advance since our mornings can be chaotic when getting the older kids to school.

sweetpotato oatmeal on white plates

We love the recipes from these easy baby breakfast ideas. Some of our popular ideas in the rotation include:

On the weekends, we’ll have a lot more time to make something like baby french toast sticks or baby sweetpotato pancakes.

18 Month Old Lunch Ideas

Lunch can be tricky, especially if the baby is eating out of the house (ie- at daycare or a caregiver’s house).

And I know we all don’t have the time to put together the most beautiful toddler meal ideas every day.

Oftentimes, we pull together various leftovers for a balanced lunch (in our favorite bentgo boxes).

And I definitely rely on many of the ideas from this post about lunch ideas for 12 month olds.

lunch boxes for kids

As with any meal, I try to have some healthy fats, carbohydrates with fiber, fruits/veggies, and protein. What’s most important is offering a variety of foods and balanced diet as often as you can.

Here are some of my favorite 18 month old lunch ideas and strategies:

  • pasta – Really any kind works! This lemon orzo broccoli salad and hummus pasta salad are staples. Tomato sauce is okay for 18 month olds! Make sure it’s not too hot or spicy, and check the sodium before serving. A little bit goes a long way!
  • chili – we love this pumpkin chili, especially since the Vitamin C helps with iron absorption.
  • beans and sweetpotatoes – my son loves beans and can eat them every day! There are so many ideas for sweetpotato baby finger foods and things to make!
  • turkey baby meatballs with a veggie, like broccoli and some hummus
  • mini sandwiches with peanut butter and hemp seeds, or turkey and cheese and hummus. My toddler loves shredded cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese sticks.
  • kale meatball soup – My 18 month old loves “slurping” soup! Plus, it stays warm in the Omie bentgo boxes
Close up of Pasta salad made with hummus and vegetables

Dinner Ideas for 18 Month Old

We’ve written a post about easy baby led weaning dinner ideas that certainly apply to an 18 month old, too!

At this point, your child can basically be eating anything you are. I would stay away from large amounts of added sugar and even fried foods.

We offer lots of roasted vegetables (often times finger food shapes), proteins, and dips and dressings for healthy fats, like hummus, tzatziki, olive oil and mashed avocado.

roasted sweet potatoes and carrots in white serving dish

A few fried foods here and there are fine (as in our example of chicken nuggets below), but try to avoid them multiple times a day or week.

We don’t eat out often, since it is just pretty difficult to do with 3 kids and it’s expensive.

But, when we do, we all usually share our meals with my 18-month old.

For instance, here he has some pizza, steak bites, tzatziki sauce, chicken nuggets and cucumbers.

18 month old in high chair

Since we generally eat dinner around 5-5:30, I try to start preparing earlier in the day if I can.

For example, while I’m preparing breakfast for the kids, I’ll cut up and roast some diced sweetpotatoes or make some air fryer butternut squash fries to serve later with dinner.

Here are some other common dinner ideas and simple recipes for your 18 month old:

overhead shot of quinoa pizza bites on gray plate with side ramekin of marinara sauce and gray napkin
cropped-Zucchini-chickpea-flour-fritters.jpg

Other Feeding Tips and Takeaways

  • Make sure to offer iron-rich foods each day, if possible! Meats, eggs, whole grains, oatmeal, dried fruits are good options.
  • Healthy fats are important for brain development. Some great options to offer include olive oil, avocado, salmon and other seafood, nuts/seeds, nut butters, hummus, full-fat dairy and more.
  • Fruits and vegetables offer important nutrients – try to offer them when possible in a variety of ways (raw, roasted, microwaved, in other foods, etc.). Use these tips and vegetable recipes for toddlers to help!
  • Try to limit fruit juice for toddlers. They will get more benefits from eating whole fruits.
  • Smoothies are also a great way to get nutrients in! We love these smoothie cups and rely on these toddler smoothie recipes.
  • Still want to avoid hard, raw vegetables and other choking hazards, like raw nuts, hotdogs, and sticky foods. I love this grape cutter for cutting grapes and tomatoes.
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