Healthy Eating and Children

Children need to eat a variety of healthy foods every day to get the nutrients needed for proper growth and development.

Canada's Food Guide

Use Canada's food guide to choose a variety of healthy foods and beverages each day.

Eating well together

Children learn eating habits early in life. It is important to give them a good start. Both parent/caregiver and child have a role to play.

At meal time you will decide:

  • What foods to offer
  • When to offer meals and snacks
  • Where your child will eat

Your child will decide:

  • Which foods to eat, if any
  • How much to eat
Healthy eating tips

Offer a variety of healthy foods

  • Include a vegetable or fruit at each meal and snack
  • Gradually introduce a variety of foods with different tastes, textures and colours
  • Introduce a new food with foods you know your child likes
  • Your child may need to see a new food many times before tasting it
  • Serve small portions and let your child have more if they are still hungry
  • Never withhold food as a punishment or offer food as a reward
  • Never pressure or force your child to eat
  • Choose and prepare food safely to prevent food poisoning and to lower the risk of choking.

Offer healthy drinks

  • Offer water throughout the day when your child is thirsty

  • Offer water or plain milk at mealtimes and snacks
    • Offer pasteurized, homogenized milk (3.25% MF) until 24 months of age
    • Lower fat milk and fortified soy beverage may be offered after 24 months 
    • Almond, rice, coconut and other plant-based beverages (other than soy) are not suitable as a young child's main milk source
  • Offer fruit instead of juice or other sweetened drinks

Plan mealtimes and snacks

  • Plan three meals and two or three snacks each day
  • Provide healthy meals and snacks every two and a half to three hours, at about the same time each day
  • Sit and eat with your child; children eat best sitting down at a table
  • Turn off the TV and do not allow distractions at the table during a meal or snack
  • Involve your child in planning, shopping and preparing food

Read Help your child become a healthy eater.

Picky eating
Mealtime shouldn't be a struggle. We have resources to help you.
Healthy eating at school
Kids learn better when they eat well. Continue to offer a variety of healthy choices and healthy drinks for children during the school day. Pack healthy lunches, find out about student nutrition programs, and follow your school's food and beverage policy.
Additional resources

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