Food between 1 and 3 Years of Life

This is the stage when eating habits are finally established.

The child gradually begins to adopt the family diet. It is important that meal times are shared in a positive environment, providing an example family model to follow.

This period is characterised as a transition between the phase of faster, infant growth, and the following, more stable, period of growth. Energy needs will be highly variable, and it is best to comply, as far possible, the satiety or hunger that the child expresses.

General recommendations

  • Offer new foods several times before concluding that the child does not like them. It has been shown that a child needs 10-12 attempts before showing an improvement in acceptance (familiarity increases consumption).
  • Do not force the child to eat or to eat more. Neither should you be too permissive, nor establish rigid and inflexible rules. Parents should establish a schedule of mealtimes and healthy foods, and let the children determine how much they eat. This responsible pattern of eating behaviour encourages good self-control of what to eat.
  • Don´t confuse capriciousness with anorexia. A child with anorexia refuses all foods, whilst a capricious child only refuses the foods he doesn´t like.
  • Don´t reward or compensate with food. Neither congratulate the child for eating well. If he tries to please those around him by eating, it could lead to overeating.
  • Provide a positive environment for meals, both physically and emotionally, avoid arguments and stressful situations, so that good habits can be structured.
  • Prepare appetising meals, and serve small portions allowing for them to be repeated. Take care with the presentation, colour, temperature, smell and distribution of food on the plate.
  • Let the child choose, and participate, in the preparation of meals.
  • Use appropriate cutlery, cups and plates according to the child´s manipulative skills: they should be unbreakable, with a good base, and broad, blunt, short-handled cutlery, for easier handling.
  • Wash hands before eating, not only as a standard of good hygiene, but because it acts as a signal associated with mealtimes.
  • Establish a regular schedule for meals, without being too inflexible, preferably with the family, or with other children, if in nurseries or schools, without distractions (e.g. TV). Younger children don´t eat so well if they are tired, and this should be taken into account when planning such schedules

Nutritional recommendations Physical exercise Frequent problems

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