Top Tips for a Happy Mealtime

Judy More, Paediatric Dietitian and Registered Nutritionist


Mealtimes for many parents or carers can be a stressful part of the day. But please do not lose hope! The Infant & Toddler Forum is here to guide you through some of the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ with our top tips for a happy mealtime for you and your toddler!

The Dos for a happy mealtime:

  • Eat with your toddler as often as possible
    • Chat to your toddler and make each mealtime sociable and enjoyable
  • Always offer one of the foods you know your toddler likes
    • Offering something you know your child will eat at each meal will allow them to enjoy mealtimes while having the opportunity to see what everyone else is eating, so they can get more comfortable with foods before trying them
  • Encourage your toddler to get involved in the food preparation and shopping experience
    • Getting your little one to help out with things such as setting the table is not only useful to you, but it will also encourage your toddler to become familiar with new food! Interacting with new foods without any pressure to eat them will help your toddler to develop the confidence to try them in the future
  • Praise your toddler and the food
    • Toddlers respond positively to praise from their parents and carers so tell them they have done well when they try something new. Making positive comments about the food you are eating will also make your toddler more likely to try it themselves. Toddlers learn by copying adults (as well as other toddlers!) so this is a really important part of introducing new foods in a calm environment, which is not always easy!

And, the Don’ts…:

  • Ignore the signals
    • Try not to push your toddler to finish everything on their plate or to keep eating. Mealtimes will be a happier experience if you acknowledge when your toddler signals he or she has had enough. Refrain from prompting them to eat more than they want. Trust your toddler to eat to their appetite
  • Have distractions on in the background
    • Always try and eat in a calm and relaxed environment if you can. Toddlers can only really concentrate on one thing at a time, so turning off all distractions such as games or TV, and removing toys from view will help them to concentrate on their food and the mealtime itself
  •  Stress
    • We know this can sometimes feel difficult! But it’s worth remembering that if mealtimes are stressful for toddlers, they are more likely to become anxious and lose their appetite. Don’t feel guilty if one meal doesn’t turn out so well – we all learn from these events! Put it behind you and approach the next meal positively

Did you find these top tips for a happy mealtime useful? Why not share with your friends? See our Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers guide if you want to find out more helpful tips!

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Further Reading

  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Christmas is a joyful time of year, however as a parent it can also be busy and sometimes stressful. Between planning festive gatherings, shopping for the perfect gifts, and decorating your home, thinking about the perfectly portioned festive meal for your toddler can be an added challenge. The Infant & Toddler Forum is here to help you create an easy and delicious Christmas plate that will save you time but more importantly, that your toddler will enjoy!
  • Judy More, Paediatric Dietitian and Registered Nutritionist   Christmas is a time for families to be together, to relax and to celebrate the season. It can also be a time of extra pressure and it’s all too easy for families to get swept up in the holiday madness of parties, shopping and cooking!
  • Denise Gray, Midwife   In today’s age of digital perfection, new mums are under increasing pressure to look good post-partum, as if birth was no more significant than a hair appointment. Social media presents us with images of perfection daily, new mums looking perfect with tidy houses and sleeping angelic babies. So, it was refreshing to see Katy Perry giving her followers a more realistic view of early motherhood when she published a picture of herself a few days after giving birth, with a visible ‘bump’, large postnatal pants and nursing bra. Katy garnered widespread praise for this honest portrayal of early new-born life and encouraged a wider discussion about the early days following the birth of a baby.