Many parents often ask me if they are feeding their young children the right amount of food. They also have concerns about how their children are growing, often comparing their children to those around them.
Children’s growth patterns are different, children of the same age will vary in height and weight, and grow at different rates. Throughout childhood changes in height and weight generally follow a regular pattern, with periods where they will grow at a faster rate. The growth of children is affected by many things including their eating, physical activity, environment, and parents’ height.
The World Health Organization (WHO) growth charts are used to track the growth of Canadian infants and children. A growth chart is a graph that is used to track your child’s growth pattern. Each time your child is measured, the new weight and length/height measurements are marked and tracked on the chart.
If your child is growing well, their individual growth pattern will stay along the lines of the growth chart. Your pediatrician or family doctor should weigh and measure your child at all regularly scheduled visits and at visits when your child is not well.
How much should I feed my child?
- Serve nutritious meals and snacks each day. To give your children adequate energy and important nutrients, plan three meals and two to three small snacks at set times during the day. Providing enough time between meals and snacks is important so children aren’t snacking continually. Canada’s Food Guide may be used as a tool to help plan what to eat, and remember that there are no set amounts for children under two.
- Help kids listen to their bodies. Allow your children to determine how much food they eat. While parents and caregivers choose what foods to offer, young children can determine how much they need. Children are able to adjust their intake based on their needs; this explains why some children eat more at one meal than at another.
An important part of healthy eating at all ages is listening to our hunger and fullness cues.
Discuss what it feels like to be hungry and what it feels like to be full with your child so they can recognize the difference.
- Be a good example. It is important for parents and caregivers to be a role model for healthy eating. Set a good example by having meals together as a family, being open to trying new foods, making nutritious choices, and having balanced meals and snacks.
- Be patient. If an unfamiliar food is rejected the first time, it can be offered again later. The more often children are exposed to a new food, the more likely they are to accept it.
Contact Toronto Public Health at (416) 338-7600 and speak to a health professional if you have additional questions about your child’s growth and amounts to feed them.