There is strong evidence that nutrition matters during the first 1,000 days of life. We know that the right diet during the early years supports healthy growth and brain development. Feeding youngsters can be challenging and no parent should despair if their child refuses even to try broccoli. The key is to consistently offer healthy foods. After all, your child can only decide to eat broccoli one day if you keep serving it on their plate. Follow these healthy eating tips and your toddler will develop good eating habits for life.


Read our tips below, then check out our weaning recipes, toddler recipes and read up on a balanced diet for toddlers.

Mother and baby eating corn

Top 10 healthy eating habits to give your kids

1. Eat together

Family lives are busy but making the most of mealtimes together whenever possible teaches the value of sitting down to a nutritious homecooked meal. You are your child’s role model, so demonstrate how to eat a balanced diet full of variety. And bring your baby to the family table during weaning so they can learn from you.

Read our guide to find out when your baby will be ready for weaning.

2. Help your child explore

Get your child involved in cooking and explain where food comes from. Their curiosity about ingredients will grow and they’ll enjoy trying new meals they’ve had a hand in preparing. Even the littlest cooks can help with simple tasks like growing herbs in pots or washing veg.

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We have lots of easy recipes to make with kids.

3. Make meals enjoyable

Picture your favourite restaurant. Is there always friendly chatter, buzzy music, and, of course, delicious food? We all appreciate relaxed mealtimes so remember this when feeding your toddler. Take the time to natter, play music and serve food on appealing plates (try letting them pick one at the shops).

4. Be realistic

A survey of UK parents found 79% offered toddlers bigger-than-recommended portions. In other words, we may be worrying that our toddlers are eating too little if they don’t clear their plates when, in fact, the reverse is true. The British Nutrition Foundation produces a helpful visual guide for suitable portion sizes of starchy carbohydrates, veg, dairy and protein for toddlers.

Baby playing with food

5. Avoid pressure

Offer variety but don’t insist your child eats something. Let them explore new tastes at their own pace. Whilst a fussy-eating toddler can take their toll on family mealtimes, neophobia at this age is common. Bear in mind that it can take over 10 exposures for them to try new foods.

Our toddler recipes are a great place to start, try our easy pasta sauce, salmon fish fingers and mini shepherd's pies.

6. Use healthy messaging

Teach your child the health benefits of nutritious foods but don’t tell your pre-schooler that if they eat their peas, they’ll get a treat – this only makes peas less appealing. Avoid labelling foods ‘good’ or ‘bad’. As your child grows, you’ll want them to make nutritious choices for themselves without restriction. Kale and chocolate both have a place in balanced diets and some studies link poor adulthood habits to overly-restrictive childhood eating.

Want to know what a healthy, balanced diet looks like? We have lots of useful information.

7. Find a routine

Babies in particular respond well to structure and learn to expect a tasty lunch if always fed at a similar time each day. Sticking to routines also helps you keep track of what foods they’ve eaten, especially during weaning.

Learn more about how to cook and store your children’s food safely.

8. Minimise distractions

In a world of screens, it can be tempting to show your little one a cartoon whilst they eat. However, growing evidence suggests mindful eating – that is minimising mealtime distractions, including technology – encourages healthier eating as adults.

9. Listen to your child

Respecting your toddler when they say they’re full gives them autonomy. Offer independence by asking if they’d like cauliflower or carrots today. They’ll feel in control, learn to make food choices for themselves and not feel forced to eat if they’re not hungry.

10. Maintain perspective

Like adults, children’s appetites vary: perhaps they’re eating less because they have a cold or slept badly? Resist comparing your toddler to others and always remember they’re their own little person.

Final thoughts...

Remember that teaching healthy eating habits can take time and patience, but you don’t need to get it perfect all at once. Taking small, simple steps to engage your child with healthy eating habits will have a positive impact on their relationship with food over time. If, for any reason you feel your child is struggling with food or being overly picky, speak to your doctor or nutritionist who can offer you further guidance and support.

Do you have a question about children’s nutrition? Ask us in the comments.

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All health content on is provided for general information only and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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