Children grow and develop rapidly during their first few years of life. What they learn about eating in early childhood will influence their attitudes and approaches to food throughout their lives.
Your child’s appetites and nutrient needs depend on their stage of growth and activity levels. As a parent, you are responsible for choosing:
- What foods to offer
- When to offer meals or snacks
- Where your child eats
Trust your child to decide which foods and how much to eat. Teaching kids to eat a balanced diet can be challenging, so talk about food, why it matters, and how they can make the healthiest choices.
Start at an early age to build a good nutritional foundation for your kids. Here are some tips:
- For the first six months of life, breastmilk, or if you choose a breast milk substitute, is all your baby needs to grow and be healthy. Babies exclusively breastfed need vitamin D supplements
- Around six months old, breastmilk is still the most important food for your baby and the time to add solid foods; especially those rich in iron. Offer iron-rich foods two or more times a day
- Continue to breastfeed to age 2 years and beyond, for as long as it makes sense for you and your baby
- As they grow, a child’s appetite and willingness to try new foods may come and go in waves – keep offering a variety of healthy foods to them and letting them decide what and how much to eat
Most importantly, create a healthy environment around food in your home. Cook and eat meals together, and without distractions. It’s a great way to moderate your food intake, to ensure you get the most from your food, and to start conversations that build relationships in your family.
Be a good role model when it comes to nutrition and try these tips at home:
- Eat as a family at least once a day to build healthy eating habits, table manners and social skills
- Involve children in the kitchen to learn an important life skill
- Help your child feel good about their body
- Praise their strengths, abilities and unique personality, not their appearance
- Don’t criticize your own body or the way others look
- Drink water often, and limit juices and sweetened drinks
- Provide healthy snack foods – use fruits and veggies as snacks more often, and limit salty, sweet or processed snacks
If you have any questions about your child’s nutrition, talk to your health-care provider or call Lambton Public Health.
Looking to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your table? Check out the Garden Fresh Box, a monthly food buying club for anyone who wants fresh vegetables and fruit without paying grocery store prices.
Learn tips on feeding kids at different ages and making healthy meals for your family.