Healthy Eating in the Early Years

Young children have specific needs when it comes to meeting their nutritional requirements to grow and thrive. The type and quantity of food are especially important when you consider tiny tummies and all the development they are experiencing.


Staff of the Saddletowne YMCA Child Development Centre have put together a list of things to consider when addressing the nutritional needs of young children.

  • Parents and caregivers decide WHERE to offer food and WHAT foods will be available
  • Children eat best when they sit down for meals and snacks rather than when on the move
  • Sitting and eating with children encourages a pleasant atmosphere making it easier for everyone to eat well and to enjoy the meal. It is also an excellent time to catch up on the day’s happenings and support language development
  • Turn off the TV, radio and electronic devises during meal time. This helps a preschooler focus on eating as well as on learning and practicing positive eating skills
  • Children’s appetites change from day to day. Some days a young child will eat a lot while on other days their appetite is much smaller. This is normal!
  • Stay positive and remember that trying to force a child to eat is not effective. Children know when they are hungry and when they are full. Allow a child to leave food on their plate and try not to bribe them to “eat just one more bite”
  • Children’s portions are typically smaller than an adult sized portion. They also need to eat small amounts more frequently. For more information on food choices and portions for children visit Canada’s Food Guide
  • Limit treats to ensure children are filling their bellies with foods that support their development. And, remember, a little creativity in preparation and in serving style will  provide the variety young children may be wanting when they reach for treats
  • Involve children in meal planning whenever possible. This is a great way for children to learn where foods come from and how they are prepared. It also provides an opportunity for children to experience a sense of pride as they help to prepare delicious foods the whole family will enjoy
  • Your child’s steady growth is the best way to tell that they are eating enough

By prioritizing meal times as family time you are also supporting the overall health and wellbeing of everyone within the family.