What to feed your children
Here are some tips for what to feed your children:
- Parents and caregivers decide what food to offer their children, as well as when and where to offer meals and snacks. Children decide how much and whether or not to eat.
- Healthy meals include at least three of the four food groups from Canada’s Food Guide. The food groups are Vegetables and Fruit, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives and Meat and Alternatives.
- Offer three meals every day.
- Healthy snack include at least two of the four food groups from Canada’s Food Guide (e.g., whole grain crackers and cheese or hummus with broccoli and carrots).
- Offer two to three snacks every day.
- Serve homogenized (3.25%) milk in an open cup until age two. After two years, serve skim, 1% or 2% milk or a fortified soy drink. Your child needs 500 mL (2 cups) of milk every day.
- Offer water throughout the day.
- Limit juice to no more than 125 to 175 mL (1/2 to ¾ cup) each day. Avoid offering drinks like pop, punch or cocktails that are high in sugar.
- We recommend breastfeeding to age two and beyond. Have children drink from an open cup instead of a bottle by 12 months of age, or 18 months at the latest.
- Vitamin supplements are usually not necessary, even for picky eaters. However, if your child only has breast milk, they may need a vitamin D supplement.
How to feed your children
Here are some tips for how to feed your children:
- Cut your child’s food into bite size pieces to avoid choking. Cut grapes and cherry tomatoes into quarters and hard raw vegetables into narrow strips.
- Avoid hard, round foods such as candy, popcorn and nuts.
- Always supervise young children when they are eating.
- Your child should be able to feed himself by 12 months. Let him explore food and feed himself. It is okay if mealtime is messy.
- Offer foods without any pressure to eat them.
How much should children eat?
Let your child decide how much food to eat from the healthy foods you offer. It is normal for children’s appetites to go up and down. How much children eat changes meal to meal and day to day.
- Food jags are periods of time when children will only eat a few kinds of foods. Be patient and try not to worry, especially if your child is active, growing and healthy.
- Younger children eat smaller portions compared to older children.
- Offer meals and snacks two or three hours apart so that children come to the table hungry.
- Have your doctor measure your child’s weight and height regularly. These are plotted on a growth chart to see that he is growing well.
Be a good role model
Use meal and snack times as a chance to teach your children about different foods, food preparation and good table manners.
- Help children learn by setting a good example. Eat with them at the table and eat well yourself by choosing a variety of foods.
- Children are easily distracted. Put toys away and turn the TV off at meal and snack times. A young child may sit at the table for up to 15 or 20 minutes.
Introducing new foods
Here are some tips for introducing new foods to your child:
- Keep offering new foods to encourage children to try to taste them. It may take 10 to 15 times before children learn to like new foods.
- Offer new foods with familiar foods.
- Children are more likely to try new foods when they are hungry.
- Make one meal for your whole family including at least one food your child likes.
Where to get help with healthy eating
Here are some resources that can help you with healthy eating for your child:
- Canada’s Food Guide
- Visit UnlockFood.ca to learn about healthy eating and healthy weights, picky eating, cooking and meal planning, and lunch ideas
- Speak to a Registered Dietitian by calling Telehealth Ontario. Toll-free: 1-866-797-0000 Toll-free TTY: 1-866-797-0007
- Nutri-eSTEP for parents of children 18 months to five years of age. Take a survey about your child’s food choices, eating behaviours and physical activity and get feedback on what is going well and what you can improve.
- How to Feed Your Growing Child
Nutrition in Child Care Settings
These child care nutrition resources were created by Public Health Dietitians in Ontario to help and support providers to:
- plan and prepare healthy food for children in their care
- reflect current best practices for creating supportive nutrition environments in the child care setting
- meet the food and drink requirements set out in the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014 (CCEYA, Section 42 of Ont. Reg. 137/15)
Menu and Nutrition Environment Self-Assessment Checklist
Nutrition information for families
We can provide short nutrition articles with simple and clear information on nutrition topics that affect families with children from birth to six years of age for you to put in a newsletter or post on a bulletin board. Call or email us to receive these articles six times per year.
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