Feed 'em well

Food is an important part of your child’s development. As well as helping them grow strong and healthy, food helps them to use their hands, mouth and senses, learn about making choices, and social skills such as sharing, taking turns and talking. The starting point for eating well is a variety of foods in manageable portions.

To avoid tooth decay give them water or milk to drink. Avoid sugary and fizzy drinks or fruit squashes.

Is mealtime a battleground?

  1. Is your child growing and thriving? If the answer is yes, there’s no need to worry.
  2. Are they filling up on drinks? Too much juice, formula or milk could be filling their tummies. Gradually cut down and give plain water instead.
  3. Have healthy snacks to hand. High-calorie ones like sweets, biscuits and crisps could be denting your tot’s appetite for healthier options.
  4. Protect teeth from decay by avoiding sugary food and drinks.
  5. Dried fruit has a high nutritional value and is counted as one of the 5-a-day. However, it sticks to teeth and contains a lot of sugar – it can cause tooth decay. It should be given at mealtimes only.

Some important things you need to digest

  • Helping your child learn to enjoy eating well could help reduce their risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes in later life.
  • Always wash and dry your hands before handling, serving or eating food and make sure your toddler washes their hands too. This will help prevent you and your toddler from getting tummy aches and other illnesses.
  • Add variety by providing a good mix of foods and tastes and vary the way you cook. Skip the fry-ups and try grilling, stir-frying, stewing, steaming and serving raw salads or finger foods. Remember – a portion of fruit or veg for a toddler is what they can hold in their hand.
  • Spending time together over mealtimes is really important for a toddler. Try and eat together as a family for at least one meal a day.

To reduce the risk of choking

  • remove any stones or pips before serving
  • halve grapes or cherry tomatoes lengthwise and chop small fruit, nuts and vegetables
  • avoid whole nuts, including peanuts, until 5 years of age
  • cut large fruits into slices rather than chunks.

Are 'growing up' and 'toddler' milks good for my child?

Growing up and toddler milks are not recommended for babies and toddlers. These milks contain some added nutrients but toddlers should get what they need from their food, rather than fortified milk products. Full fat pasteurised cow’s milk is ideal to drink from the age of 1 year and is less expensive. Or you can continue to breastfeed.

Healthy Start

All pregnant mums in Scotland should receive free Healthy Start vitamins which are specifically designed for pregnant and breastfeeding women. You do not have to apply - please ask your midwife for your free vitamins.

You may also be entitled to Healthy Start food vouchers which can be used in some shops in exchange for milk, fruit and vegetables if you are:

  • pregnant and under 18
  • pregnant and getting certain benefits and on a low income.

After you've had your baby, you may be entitled if you are getting certain benefits and on a low income. Ask your midwife about your eligibility and for an application form for Healthy Start vouchers, or apply online: healthystart (external website) - your midwife will need to sign your application form.

From summer 2019 the Scottish Government will begin replacing Healthy Start vouchers with a Best Start Foods payment card. This will work just like a regular bank card. The new scheme increases the support given to people on eligible qualifying benefits from £3.10 to £4.25 per week and increases the selection of foods available to buy. The foods to be included in Best Start Foods are: cow’s milk; first infant formula milk; fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables; tinned fruit and vegetables; dried or tinned pulses, and eggs.

What’s on the menu?

We looked at the food intake of three Scottish toddlers on a typical day. Portion sizes vary from age to age, so be guided by your toddler’s appetite.

Menu 1, 18 months

Weetabix with milk. Slice of wholemeal bread with spread.

Morning snack
Cup of full-fat pasteurised milk. Toast fingers with spread. Tangerine.

Chicken breast and mashed potato. Banana and custard.

Afternoon snack
Cup of water. Sliced apple dipped in plain yoghurt.

Pasteurised cheese on toast with tomatoes. Grapes cut lengthwise or apple.

Menu 2, 26 months (vegetarian)

Scrambled egg on toast.

Morning snack
Cup of water. Bread sticks, cubed pasteurised cheese and apple chunks.

Spaghetti with tomato and vegetable sauce, grated pasteurised cheese and broccoli. Dried apricots.

Afternoon snack
Pasteurised milk Toast fingers with peanut butter. Apple.

Baked beans on toast with chopped tomatoes.

Menu 3, 36 months

Baked beans and toasted muffin. Morning snack Milk. Crumpet with spread. Orange segments.

Ham and tomato roll with carrot sticks.

Afternoon snack
Water. Pineapple in juice with plain yoghurt.

Fish in cheese sauce (ready-made or frozen and made using pasteurised cheese), boiled potatoes and beans. Stewed apple.

Last updated: 17 April 2019