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.

Children decide:

  • how much they will eat
  • whether or not they will eat

Parents decide:

  • 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.
  • Offer the same foods that the rest of the family is eating.
  • Offer plant-based foods such as well-cooked beans, peas and lentils.
  • Offer a variety of iron-rich foods to prevent iron-deficiency, such as meat, beans, tofu and eggs.
  • Make healthy food choices by reading food labels.

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.
  • Offer three meals and two to three snacks daily.

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.
  • Remove bones from fish and meat.

Offer Nutritious Foods with Healthy Fat Content

Foods with healthy fat content are important for your child’s brain development and are good sources of energy. Make sure 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
  • avocado
    • Continue to breastfeed you infant as long as you and your child want to.
    • Continue to give your breastfed infant a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms (400IU) each day.
    • Infants who are not breastfed or receiving breastmilk do not need a vitamin D supplement as they will either be having commercial infant formula or whole (3.25% MF) cow’s milk which are fortified with vitamin D.
    • Give full fat, whole (3.25% MF) cow’s milk to you infant.
    • From one year if your child is not breastfed, give 500mL (two cups) of whole (3.25% MF) cow’s milk each day as part of meals and snacks.
    • Do not give more than 750mL (three cups) of whole (3.25% MF) cow’s milk a day to your child.
    • If you give evaporated or powdered milk to your infant, make sure that it is full fat, and that it is properly diluted or reconstituted, or your child will not get the needed nutrients.
    • If you child is allergic to cow’s milk, you child may also be allergic to goat’s milk.
    • If you are no longer breastfeeding your one-year-old toddler and are not giving whole (3.25%MF) cow’s milk, give soy-based commercial infant formula until your toddler is two years of age.
    • Fortified soy beverage should not be given as the main source of milk to your toddler. If you give fortified soy beverage occasionally, in addition to giving cow’s milk, make sure it is full-fat and unflavoured.
    • Other plant-based beverages (milk) such as rice, almond and coconut, whether fortified or not, are not similar to cow’s milk as they do not have enough nutrients for your toddler.
    • You can offer pasteurized, full-fat goat’s milk that contains folic acid and vitamin D as an alternative to cow’s milk, as it is similar to cow’s milk.
    • Offer water in an open cup when your child is thirsty.
    • Fruit and vegetables are recommended instead of giving juice. If you give juice, make sure it is 100% fruit juice no more than one to two times a day for a total of 125mL (¼ cup) to 175mL (¾ cups).
    • Do not give skim milk to your child younger than two years of age.
    • Do not give drinks that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea.
    • Do not give drinks that contain artificial sweeteners such as diet pop or fruit drinks.
          • Offer water when your preschooler is thirsty.
          • Offer water between meals.
          • Offer unsweetened, low fat white milk.
          • Offer unsweetened, fortified plant-based beverages such as soy.
          • Limit giving drinks that contain sugar substitutes.
          • Limit or avoid giving drinks that contain caffeine as caffeine is a stimulant and has a greater affect on children than adults. Health Canada’s recommended daily amount of caffeine for children under 18 years is 2.5 mg per kg of body weight.
              • Limit offering sweets and snack foods (such as chocolate, candy, chips).
              • Limit pre-packaged foods that are high in added salt and sugars.
              • Limit or avoid adding salt or sugar when preparing food for your child.
              • Limit fast food and choose healthier options from restaurant menus.
              • Limit or avoid giving sweetened beverages such as juice, chocolate milk, pop, sports drinks.
              • Limit giving foods that contain sugar substitutes to preschoolers.
              • Do not give energy drinks to children.

                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 giving 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.
                • Grate or cook hard vegetables such as carrots.
                • Remove pits and seeds from fruits.
                • Finely chop foods with fibrous or stringy textures such as celery or pineapple.
                • Spread nut butters thinly over toast or crackers.
                • Do not serve nut butters from a spoon.
                • Cut meat and large foods into smaller pieces.
                • Remove bones from fish and meat.

                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. Talk to your health care provider if you have concerns about your child’s bowel movements.

                  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.

                    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. – Children 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.
                    • 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 or drinking.
                    • 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.

                      What If My Child Has a Food Allergy?

                      Talk to your health care provider if you think your child has a food allergy.

                      Does My Child Need to Take Vitamins and Supplements?

                      • Supplements are rarely necessary if your child is eating a balanced diet.
                      • Always consult your health care provider to determine whether your child needs supplements, for example when your child has been sick, has severe food allergies or intolerances, or is a vegan.
                      • If you have any concerns about feeding your child, please talk to your health care providers.

                      Video: Trust Me, Trust My Tummy (15:02). This short video will give you some examples of baby’s hunger and fullness cues.