Good nutrition for babies, children, and teens


submitted by Saman Shaikh, RD., M.Sc.
Leeds, Grenville and Lanark DHU

Good nutrition is vital through the life cycle. For infants, breastmilk is the only food or drink they need for the first 6 months of life, as well as vitamin D supplement while breastfeeding. 

At 6 months, it is time to begin adding solid foods. Iron is an important nutrient at this age, so start with iron rich foods, including red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, beans and lentils, and iron-fortified infant cereal. There is no need to delay starting common allergen foods, such as nuts or eggs. Introduce them one at a time and wait two days before introducing another one. 

Offer your baby a range of nutritious, texture-appropriate foods from your family meals that they can eat using their hands, and let them explore. Always supervise your baby while they’re eating, and pay attention to their hunger cues.

Once solid foods are established at around 12 months of age, offer a variety of foods from the Canada’s Food Guide, including vegetables and fruit, protein foods, and whole grains. Establish a schedule of regular meals and snacks. Children can also start homogenized milk starting around 9 – 12 months of age. 

Picky eating can be quite common in children. Remember, caregivers are responsible for what, where and when to offer food, and kids are responsible for how much or whether they will eat. Be patient. It can take up to 10-15 exposures before a child may accept a food. Involve children in meal planning and preparation, have meals together whenever possible, be a positive role model, and offer a variety of foods without pressure, keeping mealtimes pleasant and free from distractions. 

Nutrition is also important for youth and teens, because they need nutrients and energy as they grow. It can also help them feel good and have more energy, and perform better at activities, such as sports, school, other hobbies, and extracurricular activities. As well, they can learn skills that are important in later life, such as planning, shopping and preparing nutritious foods. This can help them learn cooking skills, make foods they enjoy, and become more independent.

As a youth or teen, you can develop healthy eating habits by:

  • Choosing a variety of vegetables and fruit, whole grain foods, and protein foods that you enjoy
  • Getting involved in planning and preparing meals at home. Try helping with meal planning and making a grocery list, going grocery shopping, and preparing meals and snacks
  • Eating meals with others if possible. This can give you a chance to connect with family and friends, and learn about your food culture and traditions
  • Eating without distractions. Turn off the TV, put away the phone, and enjoy the food you are eating mindfully, as well as enjoying the company of who you’re eating with
  • Making healthy drink choices. Make water your drink of choice. Other options for healthy drinks can include unsweetened lower fat milk, or plant-based fortified beverages

Remember that every body is different, and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Eat a variety and balance of foods, and focus on overall health rather than body size.

For more information, visit our website at, call us at 1-800-660-5853, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. Also visit Canada’s Food Guide at


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