Nutrition for All Ages
Public Health is committed to helping all parents provide healthy food choices for their families. From Community Nutrition Programs to the Cost of Eating Well, Public Health supports access to safe and nutritious food for all.
Be a Good Food Role Model
Your children are always watching, so don’t expect them to eat well if you don’t. Eating together as a family has been shown to decrease the likelihood of children using tobacco, alcohol and drugs. The family meal is a place for communication and building a feeling of belonging that creates and strengthens ties between family members. The Heart and Stroke Foundation has a good section on Healthy Eating complete with time-saving tips and meal ideas.
Invite Your Child to Join In
- One of the best ways to avoid picky eating and to teach your child important life skills, is to include them in every day cooking. Giving your child the opportunity to assist in preparing a meal builds self-confidence and encourages interest in the food they’re eating. When planning your meals together, give your child a choice between two healthy options, this way you can set limits while allowing for independence. There are a number of different tasks that your child can help with depending on their age including:
- Stirring or mixing
- Setting the table
- Entertaining the cook
- And more!
- Children are keen to learn new skills and may need assistance when trying something new. With some patience (and a few messy attempts), you will be surprised at what your child can create.
For more information on these and other topics, follow the links below:
Child and Infant Nutrition
Children 3-5 years of age
Youth and Young Adult
Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds
Child and Infant Nutrition
Baby’s First Foods
At about six months, you baby is ready to start eating solid foods in addition to breastmilk. The following resources will describe the best practices to teach your baby healthy eating habits from the start.
A child’s introductions to solids is a hot topic these days. The following resources will help to clarify the situation:
Introduction to Solids Video
Starting solids poster for Parents
Trust Me, Trust My Tummy: Toronto Public Health’s video on feeding your child from 6 months to when they’re a toddler
Baby Food Basics: Middlesex London Health Unit’s video series on what foods are best for babies in their first year and how to make Homemade Baby Food
Feeding Your Baby – From Six Months to One Year: Best Start’s detailed guide to starting solids, provides information on iron-rich first foods, appropriate textures, identifying allergic reactions, and more.
- Parent Poster Food before One is More Than Fun resources describe current recommendations for introducing solid foods:
Information about feeding toddlers How to Build a Healthy Toddler
Movement and Learning: Meals and Snacks
A handout on using meal and snack times to develop children’s motor skills to support healthy development.
Children 3-5 years of age
- Understanding your child’s eating habits is an important step towards making healthy choices. There is a screening tool for parents of toddlers (aged 18 to 36 months) and preschoolers (aged 3 – 5 years)
- The nutrition-risk screening tool is a 17-item questionnaire that parents answer about their child’s eating habits, growth, feeding environment and physical activity level.
- Parents are provided with nutrition information, resources and referrals based on the needs of their child.
- For a copy of the NutriSTEP questionnaire contact public health or complete the screen online.
Information about feeding Preschoolers How to Build a Healthy Preschooler
Packing a healthy lunch for your child – or making any meal of the day for that matter - can be frustrating. What will they eat? What do you want them to eat? The key is working together to give them choices from the four food groups. Public Health’s pamphlet School Lunch Your Kids Will Munch is a great place to start.
Tips for planning healthy after school meals and snacks
- Brainstorm meal and snack ideas with your kids.
- Keep an ongoing list on the fridge. To save time, get into the habit of making extra food. For example, leftover beans from dinner can be used to make bean quesadillas the next day.
- Check your schedule. It is helpful to know if you will be eating at home or if you need to pack food to-go.
- Aim to have meals with food from all three of the Food Groups.
- Aim to have snacks with food from at least two Food Groups.
- What’s For Lunch
- Nutrition and MH Resource
Youth and Young Adult
The teenage years are a time of rapid growth and needs the support of a healthy balanced diet to allow the body to grow and develop properly. Teens should be able to get all the energy and nutrients they need from the foods they consume but some of teens have special nutritional needs. Whether a teen excels at athletics, is thinking of becoming a vegetarian or is trying to lose weight, the links below provide some advice.
Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds
Parents have a role to play in creating Positive and Healthy Behaviours by modeling healthy behaviour, and creating environments that not only support healthy eating and physical activity opportunities but foster self-acceptance, and fair and respectful communication. When talking about food and nutrition be mindful of the choice of words, language and behaviour used moving the focus away from negative weight-centred language to positive healthy behaviours.
The table below provides some ideas on how to support a shift towards positive healthy behaviours. For additional ideas and tips, visit Tools for Everyone Working with Children and Youth at PLAY Bruce Grey and the Tools for Every Educator resource.
- Your beliefs and attitudes about body size, eating, activity and how you feel about yourself.
- Weight-centered messages such as “you look great”, “you’ve lost weight”, “I was bad today I ate cake” and their negative impact.
Teach children & youth to:
- Focus on their abilities rather than on their appearance.
- Compliment others on their talents and accomplishments.
- Treat others with respect.
- Identify & challenge misleading media messages and understand the power of advertising.
- To what children & youth say about themselves and others.
- Use these opportunities to promote positive language.
- That children’s bodies change and grow. Celebrate that bodies come in all shapes and sizes.
- For access to healthy foods where children & youth meet. The foods that are available have a strong influence on the foods that they choose.
- To make the healthy choice the easy choice.
- To build connections with parents & community partners to support these positive behaviour messages.
Provide opportunities for children & youth to:
- Find their interests and discover fun things to do.
- Do activities outside. We tend to be more active and happy when we are in nature.
- Try different activities so they can find something they enjoy!
- Plan, shop and prepare meals and snacks.
- Plan and lead games & activities.
- Eat together. It is important for more than just general nutrition. The discussions that arise help children & youth develop their own communication, decision making, and social skills as well as their self-esteem and social supports.
- Children & youth from weighing themselves. Weight is not the best measure of health for growing children.
- Commenting on people’s weight, shape or size.
Created by Leads, Grenville & Lanark Healthy Unit, and adapted by Elgin St. Thomas Pubic Health February 2016
Additional resources can be found in the Healthy Eating Curriculum Supports 2019 in the Appendix under Educator Resource: Guidelines for Prevention of Eating Disorders.
Canada’s Food Guide offers support and tips on Healthy Eating for Teens: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/tips-for-healthy-eating/teens/
Learn why healthy eating is important for seniors on the Healthy Eating for seniors under Canada’s Food Guide
Healthy eating is a key part of aging well. It is a way for you to stay healthy and strong, which is important to maintain your independence and quality of life.
Healthy eating can help:
- maintain a healthy weight promote and protect health and well-being
- provide essential energy and nutrients to maintain health
- prevent, lower the risk or slow the progression of chronic diseases like:
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- prevent muscle and bone loss to reduce your risk of falling or breaking your bones
Nutri-eSCREEN A nutrition-screening tool for adults 50 + years. They complete the online survey in less than 10 minutes. Personalized feedback is sent immediately to find out how they are doing with choosing foods to stay healthy and active as they age.
For more information on older adults visit: Resources for Health Care Professionals => Adults and Older Adults and the Injury Prevention and the Prevention of Falls in Older Adults Tab on this website.
Sleep Matters: Sleep recommendations for older adults
Activity Matters: Physical Literacy in Older Adults and Physical Activity Guidelines
Get started with a few new recipes from our Favourite Recipes Booklet
Confused about pulses? Legumes, dried peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas are good for your plate, and good for the planet! Take the Pulse Pledge to include more of these versatile and sustainable foods and use these recipes to help meet your goals:
Quick and healthy snacks Ideas (Unlockfood.ca)
Kid friendly snack recipes (Unlockfood.ca)
Cook It Up
Mix it Up! Easy Banana Pancakes Recipe
Fuel it Up! Energy Balls Recipe
Shake it Up! Overnight Oats
Stack it Up! Apple Bites
Saute it up! Lentil Pasta Recipe
Sauce it up! Pizza Recipe
Zest it Up! Greek Wraps
Toss it Up! Pasta Salad
Power it up! Peanut Rice Power Bowl Recipe
For delicious seasonal recipes, see www.foodlandontario.gov.on.ca
Be inspired to cook any time! Recipe ideas for any mood or schedule.
Use eaTracker to check your food & activity choices, analyze recipes & plan your meals.
- Visit UnlockFood.ca for easy to understand information on nutrition, food, healthy eating and disease prevention.
- Call Telehealth Ontario and ask to speak to a Registered Dietitian for free at 1-866-797-0000
- The Canadian 24 Hour Movement Guidelines - for recommendations on how long children need to Sweat, Step, Sleep and Sit in a 24-hour period
- Healthy Eating Curriculum Supports for Educators