Feeding a toddler comes with its own share of challenges.
But as with other parts of baby care and parenting, getting off to a good start can make a real difference.
One approach that many parents have found helpful is acknowledging that you and your toddler both have feeding "jobs". Respecting those "jobs" can start you on the right path toward healthy eating and also help to avoid disagreements over food.
Your "job" is to:
- Offer a choice of healthy foods.
- Did you Know? That toddlers often need to see a new food 12 to 30 times before it is accepted? Give your toddler many chances to look at, touch, smell, and taste new foods. This will help her or him accept new foods more easily.Offer enough food.
- Offer meals and snacks at the same times each day.
- Make mealtimes “family time”.
Your toddler’s "job" is to:
- Choose whether to eat.
- Choose what to eat from what is offered.
- Choose how much to eat.
Hunger and Fullness Cues
Toddlers knows when they’re hungry or full and they give you signs, called “hunger and fullness cues”. By reading and responding to these cues, you can help your toddler be healthy, eat well and enjoy food.
A hungry toddler:
- Opens her or his mouth when offered food.
- Leans forward excitedly, kicks feet, or waves hands when offered food.
A toddler who’s had enough food:
- Closes her or his mouth when food is offered.
- Turns head away when food is offered.
- Pushes food away.
Toddlers appetites can vary from day to day. One day they’ll eat a lot. Other times they’ll have no interest in food. Never force your toddler to eat. Help her follow her own body’s cues for hunger and fullness.
ver forcing your toddler to eat, you will help your toddler follow his or her own body’s cues for hunger and fullness.
It Could Take Up to 30 Times!
Did you know that toddlers often need to see a new food 12 to 30 times before it isthey’ll accept ited? Give your toddler many chances to look at, touch, smell, and taste new foods. This will help her or him accept new foods more easily.
When your toddler starts eating solid foods, sitting down to eat is best. Having a family member sit down and eat at the same time is a great way to promote healthy eating and social development. Studies show that children who eat meals with family members eat healthier and do better in school.
Toddlers also benefit from regular routines. By sitting down for meals and snacks at the same times each day, your toddler can focus on learning to eat a variety of foods and learning the skills to feed him or herself. Avoid grazing (eating and drinking all the time, including from a bottle or sip cup). Grazing between meals and snacks is not a healthy habit and is especially harmful to teeth.
For information more on promoting a healthy relationship with food in children ages two and older, see the printable pamphlet: A Healthy Relationship with Food.
Making Mealtime "Family Time"
For information about making family mealtimes healthy and fun, visit the BetterTogether BC website.
Resources and Links:
HealthLink BC: Meal and Snack Ideas for Your 1 to 3 year old Toddler
HealthLink BC: Helping Your 1 to 3 Year Old Toddler Eat Well