Growing Up Healthy
An important part of childhood is learning healthy eating habits. As a parent, you are a healthy role model. Eating well helps children have all the nutrients and energy they need to grow and thrive.
Enjoy food together
- Mealtimes are opportunities to share and connect as a family. Take time to sit down together without any distractions (TV, electronics, etc). Try to keep the atmosphere peaceful and calm.
- Eating together can help children make better food choices and learn about culture and food traditions.
- involve children in planning and preparing meals to learn food skills. Children can help when shopping, gardening, harvesting, cooking, and more.
Offer a variety of food
- Offer foods from all food groups
- Vegetables and fruits
- Whole grain foods such as oats, brown rice, and whole grain bread, pasta, crackers, and cereal
- Protein foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, nut butters, and legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
- Vegetables and fruits
- Choose healthy fats such as nut butter, fatty fish, avocado and vegetable oils.
- Choose foods that are close to the way nature made them.
- Make traditional foods part of everyday eating.
- Children typically eat 3 meals a day and 1 to 3 snacks. Find inspiration for choosing healthy foods and building balanced meals from Canada's Food Guide.
Offer water to drink
- Offer water to your children when they are thirsty between meals.
- At meals or snacks other healthy options include plain milk, or unsweetened fortified soy-beverage.
Plan meals and snacks
- Many families have busy schedules. It can help to plan meals ahead of time so that you have all the foods you need on hand. To save time, prepare large batches of food and use leftovers for other meals.
- Plan healthy breakfasts to help children perform their best in school and to promote a healthy weight.
- Pack a healthy lunch that contains all food groups. Don't forget snacks and water. Involve your children with packing their school lunch.
Trust your child's appetite
- Encourage your children to listen and respond to their signals of hunger and fullness. When offered a variety of foods and regular meals and snacks, your children can decide which foods and how much food they want to eat.
- Trust that they know how much they need to eat.
Learn more about healthy eating for children.
Special considerations for children
- Weight loss is not recommended for children since they are actively growing. If you are concerned about your child's weight, speak to your healthcare professional.
- Grazing on snacks or beverages throughout the day can spoil your child's appetite for mealtime. It can also take the place of nutritious foods.
- Do not prepare special meals for "picky eaters." If you are concerned about "picky eating," contact your registered dietitian/nutritionist.
- Do not offer highly processed foods to young children. They are usually high in salt, sugar and/or saturated fat.
- Children under the age of 4 years are at a high risk of choking. Be aware of choking hazards and always be present while your child is eating. Sit your child at the table.