Skip to main content

Eating & nutrition

Eating is a great way for toddlers to develop new skills and learn more about the world. They start to take a more active role in family meals. 

One of the most important things you can do is learn to trust your toddler to decide how much and whether or not to eat what you provide. When you do your job with feeding, they will do their job with eating. Let your children grow up to get the bodies that are right for them.

  • You decide what, where and when the food is served. Your child decides if they are going to eat and how much.

  • Continue to offer a variety of foods from the categories in Canada's Food Guide.

  • Create a meal time routine with three meals and two to three snacks each day.

  • Do not let your toddler have food or beverages (except for water) between meal and snack times.

  • Expect a mess! Toddlers are learning how to eat and explore the world with all of their senses.

  • Set limits. Your child may start to ask for unhealthy choices like pop or candy. It is your job to say "no".

  • When letting your toddler feed themselves, make sure it's safe for them. Your toddler is still learning how to eat.

Your toddler will start showing some eating behaviour that may be challenging. Keep in mind that it's normal. Your toddler may:

  • Eat a lot one day and not much the next.

  • Refuse to eat a food that they have always eaten before.

  • Want to eat the same food every day for a week.

  • Be easily distracted and taking a long time to finish eating.

  • Play with their food.

You can help make meal time successful.

  • Let your toddler feed themselves. Let them try using a fork or spoon.

  • Never let your toddler eat while running around. If they sit while they eat, it will help prevent choking.

  • Never force your child to eat.

  • Make meal times fun!

  • Be a good role model. Eating healthy foods yourself will make your toddler more likely to want to eat them too.

  • Have set meal and snack times; don't offer food on demand.

Learn more about feeding your toddler.

For information on safe food handling to prevent food poisoning, visit the food safety at home webpage.

When making food for your child, practice safe food handling and keep in mind that your child is still learning how to eat.

Cut up finger foods that could be a choking hazard and avoid big globs of gooey foods like peanut butter and melted cheese.

Meal planning for toddlers

Use Canada's Food Guide to decide what food to prepare for meals and snacks.

  • It recommends including plenty of vegetables and fruit, eating good protein foods (including choosing plant-based proteins more often) and making water your drink of choice.

  • Each meal should include about:

    • Half of your plate filled with vegetables and fruits

    • ¼ of your plate with a healthy protein (such as legumes, lean meats)

    • ¼ of your plate with whole grain foods (such as whole grain pasta, quinoa, whole grain or brown rice)

  • Snacks can be a combination of at least two different food categories.

  • Prepare foods using as little added salt and sugar as possible.

Stuck for ideas?

SOURCE: Eating & nutrition ( )
Page printed:

Copyright © Vancouver Coastal Health. All Rights Reserved.