Healthy Eating Tips

Healthy eating gives children energy and nutrients to grow, learn and play! Here are some tips to help children eat well.

Encourage Nutritious Choices

Nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day provide children with energy and essential nutrients for healthy growth and development.
  • Offer a variety of nutritious foods every day.
  • Enjoy foods from each of the 4 food groups in Canada's Food Guide.
  • Make nutritious food choices tasty and fun for children to eat.

Aim for a Healthy Balance

The amount of food children need depends on their age. Keep in mind that young children have small stomachs, so they need to eat small amounts of food more often throughout the day.
  • Encourage children to eat the recommended number of Food Guide Servings from each food group every day.
  • Learn more about what counts as a Food Guide Serving.
  • Help children to recognize and respect when they feel hungry or full. While you can plan meals and snacks that are in line with Canada's Food Guide, it is important to trust children's appetites and let them decide how much to eat.

Make your choices count

You can teach your children to make healthy food choices by the foods you offer and by setting a good example. Keep in mind that what matters most is how people eat most of the time.
  • Include nutritious foods from at least 3 of the 4 food groups for breakfast and foods from all 4 food groups for lunch and dinner.
  • Limit foods and beverages high in calories, fat, sugar or salt (sodium) such as cakes and pastries, chocolate and candies, cookies and granola bars, doughnuts and muffins, ice cream and frozen desserts, french fries, potato chips, nachos and other salty snacks, fruit flavoured drinks, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks, and sweetened hot or cold drinks. These are less healthy food choices.
  • Teach children that less healthy food choices should be limited, but can be enjoyed at times. A simple way to do this is to help them understand that healthy choices are "every day" foods and less healthy choices are "sometimes" foods.

Be Water Wise

Water is essential and can be an inexpensive way to quench your thirst. Milk and 100% juices are also nutritious fluid choices.
  • Encourage children to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially water.
  • Replenish fluids with plenty of water before, during and after physical activity and when the weather is hot.
  • Water is the best choice for most sports and play. Sports drinks are ok to help replenish fluids, energy and electrolytes during longer tournaments or competitions.

Start Your Day Right

Breakfast is often called "the most important meal of the day" for good reason! A morning meal helps refuel the body after a night's sleep and contributes essential nutrients important for children's healthy growth and development. Eating a nutritious breakfast helps children pay full attention and learn well at school and can help promote a healthy body weight.
  • Have a balanced breakfast everyday.
  • Choose foods from at least 3 of the 4 food groups in Canada's Food Guide for a nutritious breakfast; such as a bowl of cereal with fruit and milk or whole grain bagel with peanut butter or cheese and fruit juice.
  • Plan ahead by setting the table the night before and wake up a little earlier if you find you run out of time for breakfast in the morning.

Plan Nutritious Lunches

Help children develop meal planning skills by getting them involved. Have them help plan and prepare their own nutritious lunches.
  • Give children increasing responsibility for planning and preparing their own lunches over time.
  • Ask them to make a list of nutritious foods they like to eat for lunch.
  • Have fun creating and testing out new lunch ideas including foods from the 4 food groups.

For more ideas on planning nutritious lunches for school age children, click Eat Well, Play Well: At School!

Enjoy Family Dinners

Family meal times are a great time to teach children the basics about healthy eating, expose them to new tastes and help them develop cooking skills.
  • Sit down to family meals together as often as possible.
  • Add variety by encouraging children to try new foods.
  • Teach children basic cooking skills by preparing family meals together and trying different recipes.

Snack Smart

Healthy snacking can help children meet their daily nutritional needs.
  • Give children a variety of nutritious snacks from the 4 food groups in Canada's Food Guide.
  • Keep nutritious snacks close at hand. For example, put a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter, have cut up vegetables and yogourt in the refrigerator or pack a cereal bar in their lunch box.
  • Snacks that are high in fat, sugar or salt, like candy, chocolate bars, potato chips, soft drinks, fruit drinks and fruit punches are less healthy food choices or "sometimes" foods. These should be limited but can be enjoyed at times.

Check the Facts

Look for the Nutrition Facts table on packaged foods. The Nutrition Facts table, along with the ingredient list and nutrition claims (such as a package that identifies a food is "high in fibre") can help you make informed food choices.
  • Use the Nutrition Facts table to compare the nutrients in food products more easily.
  • Compare the serving size listed at the top of the Nutrition Facts table to the amount you eat.
  • Use the % Daily Value to see if a food has a lot or a little of a nutrient.
  • Learn more about reading nutrition information of food labels at Healthy Eating is in Store for You.