Healthy Kids: The Right Foods for Each Stage

This article discusses the four main stages of developing food habits in children. Of course, the given age ranges are highly generalized. Remember that each child develops at their own pace, and some children develop completely bypassing all these phases. This material presents an average child’s behavior.

Stage 1: 6 months-2 years

Most infants show the greatest openness to new flavors and tastes at this time. However, a lot also depends on the parents and their behavior. This is the time when a child learns to eat. A toddler needs a lot of time to understand that food is for eating and even more to understand that it can become full with it. Breast milk or baby formula still dominates and is a safe nutritional base for a toddler.

This period is characterized by an extremely changeable appetite. Toddlers still do not feel confident in eating solid food, so when they have pain, when their teeth come out, there is an illness, or just tiredness, they prefer milk. That’s OK. However, parents should not give up serving solid meals. The parent keeps offering regular products, and the baby decides whether it wants to eat or not. You can find more detailed information in the baby feeding chart.

Stage 2: 2-5 Years

The most characteristic sign that the child has just entered this phase is the child’s “no,” which the parent can hear almost at every step. This is a challenging, but inevitable and extremely important period in children’s development. 

How exactly does this manifest itself in the area of food?

  • the child is demanding his favorite foods more and more clearly;
  • the child reacts with fear and reluctance to suggestions of unfamiliar dishes;
  • the child’s appetite decreases;
  • the toddler wants to make independent decisions, and may eat only the chosen part of the meal (e.g. only bread or only tomatoes);
  • the child has strong preferences regarding the meal presentation (color of the plate, spoon, cup, method of serving, temperature of the meal).

At this stage, the most critical thing is the parent’s peace and patience. And indeed, most children around the age of 4-5 begin to be more open to new flavors.

Stage 3: 6-12 Years

School age is a relatively calm and stable period in children’s nutrition. Most children are slowly coming out of the period of neophobia, and if the parents managed to survive that time in peace and without pressure, the child will start to open up to new flavors. His preferences become more stable. Although they will change anyway, they do not change from day to day or from hour to hour. Thanks to this, it is easier for parents to plan meals and predict whether the child will like something or not. 

Stage 4: 13-18 Years

Probably almost everyone associates a teenager with changing moods and eternal hunger. Well, that’s the way things are. The teenage body has huge nutritional needs, is often hungry, and consumes huge amounts of food. The problem is that it is not always of the highest quality.

What to expect after this stage:

  • huge appetite;
  • high peer influence;
  • a child pays a lot of attention to his or her body (unfortunately, often critical attention);
  • frequent meals away from home;
  • constant taste preferences.

The parent’s key task at this stage is to help the child develop a good relationship with their own body and food. Family meals together and the atmosphere prevailing during them are still of great importance.

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