The Importance of Mealtimes

When your baby is young, she eats when she is hungry. As she grows, her feedings might start to fall into a typical routine, but as she begins eating table foods, she should have firmly established mealtimes.

Solid Foods

As your baby begins eating solids, she is still getting the vast majority of her nutrition from formula or breastmilk. It is only over time as she eats full meals of solids that a shift will occur between milk and solids as the primary form of nutrition. Regardless of how much she needs the solids, once they are introduced, you should be feeding your child at mealtimes rather than sporadically throughout the day.

By a year, your child should be taking a cup or bottle only a couple of times a day and eating three full meals. She should also be enjoying two snacks a day – one in the midmorning and one in the mid afternoon. Toddlers have a small stomach and not much appetite on average. Serving many small meals of solid baby foods including healthy snacks is the best way to get all of the daily nutrients into her small system.

Establish Healthy Habits

One of the healthiest food habits you can have is to treat your food with respect. This is something you can help your child learn by taking mealtime seriously and not sabotaging meals with snacks too close to the meal or with distractions from the food at hand. Sitting down together for a meal as a family helps children eat healthier and encourages healthy relationships as well. Your baby will love being part of the family at mealtimes and will enjoy her own food more in your company – especially once she’s able to eat the same items you’re eating.

A Healthy Variety

Snacks should be one or two items offered in small portions, but a meal can include up to a third of the day’s caloric requirements. You should serve a variety of food at each meal to give your child an option of what to eat and to make picky eaters less trouble at mealtimes. So long as there are healthy options on the plate, you don’t need to trouble yourself about which options your picky toddler is choosing. Over the course of a few days, your child is likely eating all that is necessary – even it is one choice at each meal.

Establish a Comfortable Routine

Children of all ages are comfortable in a routine. Knowing when to expect at certain parts of the day makes them feel more at ease as they go about their day. The typical day for any child is anchored by mealtimes. If you have breakfast, lunch and dinner in a steady fashion day in and day out, you’ll be going a long way to giving your child the kind of structure she craves and you’ll be allowing her to live her life with an undistracted focus on play and discovery.

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