Make family meals a priority, focus on fun and lead by example. What you offer your child is important. The way to offer it is just as important. Your toddler learns to love foods that they associate with something positive. A family meal, a pleasant atmosphere at the table, no pressure to eat and parents who act as role models by showing him that they appreciate what they eat are all ways to help your child develop his tastes.
Serve plenty of fruits and vegetables to your child. They are rich in fibre and contain a lot of very important substances and nutrients. In addition, they bring colour to the plates like no other food. But beware, juices do not have the same value as fruits. Juices are sweet (even though they are natural sugars), they have lost much of their vitamins and all their fibre, and they do not calm hunger effectively. So limit your child’s juice intake.
Eat fish, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds more often. Foods are good sources of protein and can replace meat with meals. You can check out recipes on vegetarian eating for inspiration. However, nuts and seeds can pose a choking hazard in children under 4 years of age. To find out how to serve it safely, see our fact sheet Nuts and seeds.
Offer your child milk or fortified soy beverage. These drinks are nourishing and affordable foods, and they have their place in your child’s daily diet if they enjoy them. However, it is recommended that your toddler drink no more than 750 ml per day so that he is hungry for other nutritious foods. To learn more about milk and soy beverages, see our Beverages fact sheet.
Avoid low-fat foods. Your child needs calories and fat from nutritious foods (this is not about frying). Fat-free dairy products, light soy beverages, and any low-fat or sugar-substitute foods (e.g., sucralose, stevia) are therefore not suitable for children.
Cook as much as possible.
Cooking allows you to better choose the foods that make up your menu, make room for more nourishing foods, control the amount of sugar and salt in your dishes, and pass on culinary knowledge to your children.
Get your child used to eat little salt, as what they eat influences their future food preferences, and too much salt is bad for their health. There is already a lot of salt in several foods, including cheese and bread, and even more so in processed foods such as sauces and commercial meals.
Use sugar in moderation, ideally only for cooking your homemade muffins, cookies and puddings. You will be able to choose the type of sugar and use only a small amount. The sugars your child gains from eating come mostly from fruits and grains, as they come with a host of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, unlike sweets and sugary drinks.
Turn off screens (TV, phone, tablet) during meals. In addition to interfering with family discussions, they hold the attention of children and adults, preventing them from feeling the signals of satiety. It is therefore common to eat beyond your hunger when you are in front of a screen.
Involve your child in the choice and preparation of food. A child loves foods that he knows. So offer your toddler several opportunities to get acquainted with different foods, for example: going to the grocery store, looking at recipe books, giving him tasks in the kitchen, etc.