Get your toddler involved in grocery shopping and simple food preparation. Then let him join in family mealtimes and encourage him to feed himself. Eating at the dining table and with adults and other children will go a long way in teaching him good table manners and social skills.
Getting Your Toddler to Eat Healthily
Your toddler can start eating table foods at around 12 months old. This is, basically, what the rest of the family is having for meals. In order to ensure that he develops a taste for nutritious meals, healthy eating habits must be encouraged from the word go.
- Get your toddler involved in food preparation by taking him grocery shopping.
- Familiarise him with mealtimes by showing him how food is prepared and cooked, and letting him help to set the table. It could be something as easy as placing spoons on the table, graduating to more complicated stuff as he gets older.
- Your toddler has a small stomach and will get hungry quite quickly, so aim to feed him 4 to 5 main meals, plus 1 to 2 snacks a day.
- While ensuring he gets nutritious food, also consider your toddler’s food preferences and the amount he eats. This allows mealtimes to be less stressful and more enjoyable.
- Make meals and snacks fun by arranging foods in interesting ways such as a smiley arrangements that will attract his attention.
- Be a good role model and eat healthily – your toddler will follow your lead. Have your toddler eat with the family as much as possible to allow him to learn good table manners and good eating habits.
- Encourage your toddler to self-feed. This helps him to fine-tune his motor skills, and learn to be independent.
- Well-balanced home cooked meals are a priority. Prepare these meals, with a variety of food types, guided by the Food Pyramid of Malaysia. This will ensure that your toddler receives all the nutrients he needs for growth and development. It also helps to introduce him to different tastes and textures, increasing his ability to accept a wide range of nutritious foods.)
Mealtimes Do’s and Don’ts
- Keep mealtimes happy and relaxed.
- Eat together as a family to allow your toddler to learn good table manners from the adults present.
- Introduce self-feeding to your toddler to encourage him to be independent.
- Serve your toddler a variety of foods for different tastes and a balanced intake of nutrients.
- Repeat offers of the same food, at a later time, if your toddler refuses to eat it the first few times.
- Turn on the TV, phone and tablet during mealtimes as they are distracting.
- Force your toddler to eat everything on the plate. Instead, listen to his hunger cues.
- Serve your toddler hard, hard-to-chew or large chunks of food.
- Add salt or salty sauces to your toddler’s food.
- Use food such as sweets as a reward for good behaviour as this does not encourage a healthy attitude towards food and eating.
For further information on infant and child nutrition, please refer to
- MINISTRY OF HEALTH MALAYSIA (2013) Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents. Putrajaya: Technical Working Group on Nutritional Guidelines (for National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition).
- NUTRITION SOCIETY OF MALAYSIA (2011) Healthy Spoonfuls for Toddlers. Petaling Jaya: Mother’s Smart Choice.