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Age-by-age Guide to Feeding Toddlers and Preschoolers

Age-by-age Guide to Feeding Toddlers and Preschoolers


Two Canadian dietitians and moms reveal their top tips, tricks, and advice for feeding children, from toddlers to big kids.

By S. Remmer and C. Rosenbloom

Toddlers (12 to 24 months)

10 tips for feeding 1- to 2-year-olds

1. Introduce milk if you wish. Your toddler can drink cow’s milk at 12 months or you can continue to breastfeed.

2. Use cups. By 12 months, begin to transition from bottles to cups if you haven’t already. Cups with straws are better than sippy cups.

3. Teach self-feeding. Teach your toddler how to use spoons and forks (and fingers) to self-feed.

4. Keep it fun. Reduce mealtime stress by keeping it calm. Don’t hover, force-feed or pressure your toddler to eat.

5. Set a schedule. Your toddler should be enjoying three meals and two to three snacks each day to fill their small tummy.

6. Give vitamin D supplements (400 IU per day).

7. Know that food throwing is normal. It’s a phase that will pass if you stay calm. Provide easy instructions, like “Food stays on the tray.”

8. Don’t label picky eaters. That moniker only reinforces the problem. Kids are learning about food. Being picky is a normal phase.

9. Avoid treats. There’s no room in a 12- to 24-month-old’s diet for candy, soft drinks and cake—not yet anyway. They require nutrient-rich foods to fill that precious and small tummy space.

10. Be a role model. Your toddler is watching and learning from you. Mirror healthy behaviours such as eating vegetables.

Preschoolers (2 to 3 years old)

10 tips for feeding 2- to 3-year-olds

1. Have a routine. Offer meals and snacks at the same time each day to establish a pattern and avoid all-day grazing.

2. Eat as a family. Be a role model for healthy eating while enjoying family time.

3. Make vegetables yummy. Offer dips, try different textures or serve as a soup.

4. Cook with your kids to show them the ingredients.

5. Wiggly kid? Bring back the high chair! Kids can’t sit for more than 10 to 20 minutes at a meal, and they may need a properly positioned chair.

6. Offer vegetables often. Kids will learn to eat vegetables with repeated exposure. You can be the role model.

7. Follow their appetite. Serve healthy foods and let kids decide how much to eat.

8. Accept that messy eating is normal. It’s fine for kids to explore food, but it’s also fine to set boundaries so it doesn’t get out of hand.

9. Don’t use treats as rewards. A treat once in a while is fine, but not as a bribe or prize for good behaviour.

10. Shop and cook together. Get your kids involved in mealtimes.

Big kids (3 to 6 year olds)

10 tips for feeding school age children.

1. Serve whole, unprocessed foods most often. Try to avoid ultra-processed foods.

2. Assemble a balanced lunchbox. Add vegetables, fruits, whole grains and protein-rich foods.

3. Serve water as the main beverage. Juice and soft drinks are treats—like candy!

4. Teach the “balanced plate.” Fill half with vegetables and fruits, a quarter with grains and a quarter with protein.

5. Stay active. Kids should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

6. Cook with your child. Teach them some age-appropriate kitchen tasks and remain calm about the mess!

7. Do not put kids on weight-loss diets. Encourage healthy balanced eating and lifestyle instead.

8. Foster good self-esteem. Inspire your child to list what they love about themselves.

9. Assure adequate protein, iron and vitamin B12.

10. Be flexible, not restrictive. Food is never the enemy.

Source: Today’s Parent
Image: C. Cheung, A. Kenny

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