Toddler meal times a struggle? Take a step – or ten – in the right direction

Over a third of parents are confused about or unaware of how toddlers’ nutritional needs differ from those of adults. Guest blogger Dr Gill Harris, psychologist and member of the Infant & Toddler Forum, explains how the Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers can help.

Despite its importance, toddler nutrition is a subject that is often overlooked. Advice on what to feed toddlers can seem inconsistent or confusing, and it can be difficult for parents to know who to trust.

That’s why, this summer, the Infant & Toddler Forum launched Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers. Available for free at, the Ten Steps are an easy-to-use guide on what food to offer toddlers and how best to manage mealtimes.

The Ten Steps have been designed so that anyone involved in a toddlers care, be it the parent, the nursery carer, a grandparent or a baby sitter, can easily follow these simple rules. That way parents need not worry about how their child eats when fed by others.

We designed The Ten Steps to dispel some of the myths about feeding toddlers, and provide some reassurance and clarity. They cover all aspects of toddler health, encouraging good habits for health, growth and development. Step one, for example, suggests that families eat together, and strive for happy, relaxed mealtimes. Another encourages a routine with three meals and two to three snacks a day.

The toddler years are difficult, because it’s a time when children start to reject food, rather than earlier in infancy, when they learn to accept food. They start to challenge their parents, and this is tricky because they may not only refuse new foods, but refuse the foods that they’ve happily eaten before.

Step two addresses this by suggesting that you decide which nutritious foods to offer, but let your toddler decide how much to eat. A toddler should eat what they need to eat. That’s always a difficult thing for parents to accept: but toddlers can regulate their own appetite, over the course of several days.

To read all of the Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers along with other information and handy tools on feeding toddlers, visit The Steps are also available to order or as a download.

Dr Gill Harris is a Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist at The Children`s Hospital, Birmingham, UK.