The best way for you to teach your child to listen to their body about when they are hungry and when they are full, is to put them on a regular mealtime schedule. When children are eating at regular times throughout the day, their body learns to recognize when it is time for a meal and when their body has had enough to eat. Being good at recognizing when you are hungry and full is important for long term health and weight management.
Offer 3 meals and 2-3 snacks every day at 2 ½ to 3 hour intervals (measuring from the start of one meal to the start of the next meal).
Keep mealtimes to 15 to 30 minutes.
At every snack and meal, offer at least:
one fruit or vegetable
a drink in a cup (for many kids, this is milk, a milk alternative, or water)
Rule of Thumb = Offer 1 tablespoon (USA measurement; or 15 ml. metric measurement) per year of age, of each of these 3 foods (protein, starch, fruit or vegetable).
3 foods is the minimum per meal or snack, with 5-6 foods generally being the maximum.
2. Let your child explore their food
As parents, we know are children learn best when they are allowed to explore new things. We also understand that learning happens fastest, happiest, and strongest when a child is having fun. For example, we have our child crawl towards our smiling faces or a favorite toy. We teach them how to talk by naming things most important to them, like the dog, their blanket, and their ball. We sing songs to teach them the alphabet. We use story books to teach them colors and the names of animals. Yet, when it comes to food, many parents believe there should be no play involved. Exploring and playing with your foods is part of the process of learning to eat well.
Let your child eat with their fingers
Let them make their own flavor combinations with dips, sauces, and other condiments
Have them help you cook
Tell them stories about where their food comes from
Take them to a Farmer’s Market and let them talk to the farmer
3. Introduce your child to a wide range of flavors
Research indicates that most children’s flavor preferences remain steady after the age of 4. Therefore, it is critical to introduce your young child to as many different flavors as you can, starting with baby food purees and finger foods.
At every meal and snack, if possible, offer at least 3 different tastes/flavors and 3 different textures (purees, crunchy foods, soft foods, chewy foods).
Don’t be afraid of big tastes. Experiment with adding different spices and seasonings to see which ones work best for your child.
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