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Latest Irish dietary guidelines for toddlers and pre-school children - Foods & food groups

Read the latest scientific recommendations for Food Based Dietary Guidelines for 1-5 year olds in Ireland.

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Latest scientific recommendations for Food Based Dietary Guidelines for 1-5 year olds in Ireland.

The diet of 1-5 year olds involves a transition from what was a predominantly milk-based diet to one which includes foods from all five food groups. The FSAI has published new scientific recommendations for Food Based Dietary Guidelines for 1-5 year olds in Ireland1.

Food-based dietary recommendations 

The recommendations outlined below should be considered in their totality, i.e. the recommendations are not independent of each other. 


A wide variety of foods should be included in order to increase acceptability of, and familiarisation with, foods that are part of a lifelong healthy diet. 

Milk is a key food in the diets of toddlers and pre-school children      

An important source of a range of nutrients, including protein, and is a critical source of calcium. 


🗸 Daily intake of 550 mL of milk, or equivalent amounts of yogurt or cheese (200 mL of milk = 150 mL of yoghurt = 30 g of cheese)
🗸 Plant based milk replacement beverages (e.g. soya ‘milk’) can be used to replace cow’s milk, provided they are fortified with the same level of nutrients, particularly calcium.
✗ Rice, coconut and almond milks = Not recommended (they are nutritionally inadequate)
🗸 For 1-3yrs: (while not necessary) fortified full-fat milk, follow-on formula and young child formula (e.g. toddler milks) will contribute to the intake of three key nutrients (iron, vitamin D and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids)

Breads, cereals, potatoes, pastas and rice 

An important source of calories and fibre. 


🗸 Combination of both white and wholemeal breads, cereals, potatoes, pastas and rice will provide adequate fibre.
🗸 For children prone to constipation, an increased proportion of these foods can be given as wholemeal varieties.
🗸 Breakfast cereals fortified with iron and vitamin D.

Vitamin C containing fruit / vegetables + iron-fortified cereal = increase iron absorption.

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils and smooth nut butters

Important sources of protein, iron, omega 3


🗸 30 g of red meat given approx. 3 times a week, helps ensure adequate iron intake.
🗸 Smaller children (i.e. 1–3 year olds growing at ≤25th percentile level) will require an additional 4 mg of iron/day.
🗸 Unprocessed meats (e.g. lean red meat, chicken, fish, etc.) are preferable.
🗸 Fish should be included at least once a week (important sources of vitamin D and Omega 3 - DHA, EPA)
🗸 Oily fish can be included up to once a week.
🗸 White fish can be eaten twice a week.
🗸 Eggs, beans and lentils are important sources of non-haem iron.
🗸 Beans and lentils provide soluble fibre.

These foods may be used as alternatives to meat, fish and poultry.

Vitamin C containing fruit / vegetables + non-haem iron = increase iron absorption.

Fruit, salad and vegetables

Important sources of vitamins & fibre


🗸 A portion of vegetables should always be included at the main meal.
🗸 In addition, a number of small pieces of fruit, salad or vegetables should be included to match the age in years of the child, as follows:

1 small piece of fruit, salad or vegetables for 1 year olds
2 small pieces of fruit, salad or vegetables for 2 year olds
3 small pieces of fruit, salad or vegetables for 3 year olds
4 small pieces of fruit, salad or vegetables for 4 year olds
5 small pieces of fruit, salad or vegetables for 5 year olds

🗸 Small amounts of fruit & vegetables given at different times of the day minimise the risk of overwhelming the child’s capacity to consume other foods.

Fats, spreads and oils

To be used minimally.


🗸 A small amount of fat spreads can be added to foods such as bread in order to increase palatability and acceptability.
🗸 Foods should be baked, steamed or grilled.
🗸 Roast potatoes or thick-cut oven chips can be used very occasionally (once a week).
✗ Frying of foods should be avoided.

Foods high in fat, sugar or salt

Should be limited, as they provide a high proportion of the overall energy requirements but without the essential nutrients.


✗ Foods such as confectionery, cakes, crisps, biscuits, sugar-coated breakfast cereals, etc. are not recommended.
🗸 Small amounts of sugar can be added to nutrient-dense foods (stewed fruit, milk puddings, jam on wholemeal bread, etc.) in order to increase palatability & acceptability.
✗ Snacking on sugary foods & drinks should be avoided in order to protect dental health.
🗸 Dessert options include rice pudding, stewed fruit (with a small amount of added sugar), custard, & jam on toast.
🗸 Salt & salty foods should be limited because high salt intakes can become habitual & linked with CVD in later life. Salt should not be added in cooking.



🗸 Water and milk are the only drinks recommended for this age group.
✗ Sugar-containing and acidic drinks should be limited and, if consumed at all, should be kept to mealtimes.



Vitamin D:

🗸 A low-dose vitamin D-only supplement (5 μg) is recommended for all 1–5 year olds.

From Halloween to St Patrick’s Day (i.e. during the extended winter months).


🗸 For smaller 1–3 year old children (growing at ≤25th percentile level). An additional 4 mg of iron/day.
🗸 This additional iron can be provided using iron-fortified full fat milks or formulae (containing at least 1 mg of iron/100 mL).
🗸 Alternatively, a low-dose iron supplement providing 7mg can be given 4 days a week.

Food Pyramid for Young Children

The Department of Health has published a guide to how much food to offer toddlers and pre-school children in Ireland split by age group

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