The best way to gauge how much your child should eat is to follow his cues for hunger or fullness.

Understanding the feeding relationship

As a parent, your responsibilities are to choose what, when and where to serve meals and snacks.

What:

  • Offer a choice of healthy, safe foods from the family meal.
  • Serve a wide variety of foods, exposing your child to different flavours and textures.

When:

  • Offer meals and snacks at the same time each day. 
  • Watch and respond to your toddler's hunger and fullness cues during meal and snack times. Trust your toddler's appetite - they will let you know when they are hungry or full.  

Where:

  • Be a good role model. Eat together as a family.  
  • Create a calm and relaxed eating environment. Remove distractions such as TV, tablets and phones.

Your toddler’s responsibilities are to decide whether or not to eat, and how much to eat: 

Whether or not:

  • Let your child choose what to eat from the foods offered.
  • Never pressure your child to eat.
  • Teach your older child to say "no thank you."

How much:

  • Let your child eat as much or as little as they want.

Your child’s appetite will vary on a regular basis and this is a normal part of growing. Don’t worry if they leave food on their plate. 

A skipped meal will not harm a healthy child. Offer a healthy snack in a couple of hours. By respecting your child’s feelings, they will learn to recognize their own feelings of hunger and fullness.

Mealtimes

  • Keep an eating routine. Serve meals and snacks every two to three hours. 
  • Offer three small meals and two to three healthy snacks each day.
  • If you are going out, pack healthy meals and snacks to maintain your routine.
  • Eat as a family to role-model healthy eating.

My child is a picky eater. What should I do?

It is normal for young children’s appetites to vary from one day to the next because their growth and activity levels change daily. Sometimes children’s appetites vary because they feel unwell such as with a cold.

Some more tips if your child becomes picky about their food:

  • Allow at least two to three hours between snacks and meals so that your child will be hungry for meals.
  • Offer water from a cup when your toddler is thirsty.
  • Limit or avoid juice or sugary drinks. It can reduce their appetite for nutritious food choices.
  • If you do offer juice, limit juice to a half cup per day. Also, limit milk to two to three cups per day. Offer milk and juice at meal time only.

Find more tips on feeding your picky toddler or preschooler.

My child doesn't like vegetables. Should I be concerned?

If a young child is generally happy and healthy and their growth is normal, it is not a cause for concern.

  • Try serving vegetables prepared in different ways: raw with dip or cooked in stews, soups or sauces.
  • Add spices and herbs.
  • Be patient. Keep offering all kinds of vegetables to the family, including foods your toddler has refused in the past. Remember: it may take more than 10 tries before your child learns to enjoy a food.

I don't know what to serve my toddler for dinner

  • Serve your toddler the same foods as the rest of the family. Your toddler will gradually learn to enjoy them.
  • Make sure the foods you offer are prepared with little or no added salt or sugar.
  • Let your toddler touch and smell the food and eat with their fingers. It is okay if things get messy. This is part of the learning process.
  • Serve lots of variety and your toddler will gradually learn to eat different foods and textures.
  • It is okay for your toddler to refuse to eat. Trust your toddler to eat at the next scheduled meal or snack time.