As Children Grow Older They:
- become more independent
- develop food likes and dislikes
- want to choose their own foods
- usually go through phases where they refuse to eat certain foods or may want the same food (or a very small group of foods) every day for a week or more and this is normal
- eat less than before since growth slows down in the second year of life
- refuse to eat new foods or may reject the foods that they liked to eat before
- eat more on some days and less on others due to changes in their activity level
- are easily distracted
The Feeding Relationship
Parents and children have different roles in the feeding relationship which help children learn to eat well.
- how much they will eat
- whether or not they will eat
- what foods to offer
- when to offer meals and snacks
- where your child will eat
Offer a Variety of Foods
- Use Canada’s Food Guide to plan a variety of healthy and nutritious meals and snacks for your children.
- Make food interesting and fun – provide food in different shapes, textures and colours. For example green peas, orange carrots, yellow pineapples and red berries.
- Give finger foods such as sandwiches, cut-up fruit and vegetables with dip.
- Offer a new food with familiar foods especially when your child is hungry.
- Offer new foods regularly and do not pressure your child to eat them. It may take up to 15 times for your child to like a food. Start with small amounts to limit waste.
Have Regular Meal and Snack Times
- Plan meals and snacks around the same times daily to set routines with sufficient time between them so that your child will have an appetite for the next meal or snack.
- Offer child-sized portions and use child-sized plates, cups and utensils.
- Offer water to satisfy thirst in between meals.
Prepare Age-Appropriate Foods
- Grate hard vegetables, cut up round foods and remove pits and seeds from fruit (e.g. grate raw carrots, chop grapes).
- Finely chop foods with fibrous or stringy textures (e.g. celery, pineapple).
- Spread nut butters thinly over toast or crackers. Do not spread nut butters thickly on bread or serve them from a spoon.
- Cook food so it is moist and soft.
- Cut meat into smaller pieces. Cut foods such as hot dogs/wieners and sausages lengthwise into strips.
- Remove bones from fish and meat.
Offer Nutritious Foods with High Fat Content
Foods with higher fat content are important for your child’s brain development and are good sources of energy. Make sure that your child has foods that contain higher fat content every day. Such as:
- food prepared with vegetable oils such as canola, olive or sunflower oil and soft margarines
- protein foods such as plain yogurt, soft cheeses, nut and seed butters, hummus, fatty fish
Choose Fish That Are Low in Mercury
Foods to Limit/Avoid
- Limit offering sweets and snack foods (such as chocolate, candy, chips).
- Limit or avoid giving sweet beverages like juice or chocolate milk.
- Limit milk to no more than three cups per day since it may replace other important foods.
How to Prevent Choking
- Ensure your child is sitting upright during meals and not lying down, walking, running around while eating.
- Have minimum distractions during mealtimes.
- Avoid eating in a moving vehicle. If choking should occur, it is difficult to attend to a young child while driving.
- Avoid hard foods, smooth and sticky foods, small and round foods such as hard vegetables and fruits, hot dogs, hard and soft candies, gum, popcorn, marshmallows, nuts, and fish with bones.
How to Prevent Constipation
- Make sure your child is getting enough fluids by offering water.
- Offer a variety of foods that are high in fibre such as whole grain breads and cereals, vegetables, fruits, beans, peas or lentils.
- Help your child be physically active. Physical activity is important for children to avoid constipation and to build a lifelong active lifestyle.
- Do not give your child laxatives, herbal supplements or other medications to treat constipation. Call your health care provider if you have concerns about your child’s bowel movements.
Feeding Behaviours to Avoid
Do Not Use Food as a Reward or Punishment
- Using food as a reward or punishment can interfere with children being able to follow their natural hunger and fullness cues and may lead to negative attitudes about eating and food.
- This may also lead to children developing unhealthy eating habits.
Do Not Force Feed
- Respect your child’s appetite and follow their hunger and fullness cues. Allow your child to guide feeding.
Make Mealtimes Enjoyable
The mealtime environment is important to support healthy eating habits. Here are some tips to make mealtime enjoyable.
- Include your child in family meals, this allows you to be present and actively engage with them. Eat meals together as a family.
- Be a good role model – eat well yourself and eat a variety of healthy foods with your child. Parents, siblings, peers and other family members are all role models for your child.
- Avoid distractions at mealtime – turn off the TV and other screens such as cell phones and remove toys at mealtime.
- Allow your child to focus on what their tummy is telling them. Let children leave the table when they are full. Preschoolers may not be able to sit at the table for a long time.
- Involve your child in meal planning, grocery shopping and preparing the meal.
- Messy is okay. Children are learning how to use utensils and developing other eating skills.
Offer Food in a Safe Way
- Prepare, serve, and store foods safely to prevent foodborne illness.
- Wash hands and cooking equipment with warm, soapy water before cooking. Clean work areas with soap and warm water.
- Always wash fresh fruit and vegetables under cold running water before preparing and giving to your child.
- Serve cooked foods right away or cover them and keep refrigerated. Keep perishable foods (e.g. milk and sandwiches) refrigerated until just before eating.
- Do not leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours.
- Do not use the same plates or utensils for raw and cooked meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
- Do not let your child touch raw meat, poultry or fish.
- Do not serve raw alfalfa or bean sprouts to children. Cooked sprouts are safe to eat.
- Do not give your child food containing raw eggs, raw dough or batter from cookies, cake and pastry.
- Serve only pasteurized milk to your child.
Video: Trust Me, Trust My Tummy (15:02). This short video will give you some examples of baby’s hunger and fullness cues.