Feeding tamariki: 1 year and over

We recommend tamariki eat 3 meals a day with snacks in between, from a variety of foods. Most tamariki will eat when they are hungry, although they may eat very little at times. If they reject certain foods and drinks, there are things you can do to encourage their eating.

If you are worried about your child's eating

If you are worried about your child’s appetite or diet:

  • talk to your Well Child nurse
  • call PlunketLine on 0800 933 922

Your young child's diet

A healthy diet includes a range of foods and snacks such as:

  • soft pieces of vegetables and fruit (cook or finely grate if raw)
  • cereals, crackers, breads and small sandwiches
  • tender, finely chopped lean meat, chicken, seafood and eggs
  • soft, slightly mashed, cooked dried peas, beans or lentils
  • dairy products, for example cheese and yoghurt).

Offer your tamariki plenty of variety. Do not worry if they refuse some things — they will make up for it by eating other foods. For example, they might reject some vegetables but gobble up plenty of fruit instead. Try and offer the rejected food later on. Remember to cut food to a size your tamariki can easily hold and eat.

Tips for your child’s eating

  • Avoid offering snacks close to mealtimes. A 1 or 2 hour gap is best.
  • If your tamariki asks for food but does not seem hungry, try to keep them busy.
  • Eat as a family at least once a day. Tamariki like to copy their parents.
  • Do not bribe, force or nag over leftover food. It is better to praise them for trying.
  • Try to serve meals before your tamariki are tired, or have your evening meal earlier.
  • Offer a variety of foods during the day, as a tired child may not eat well at night.
  • Present your child’s food in different ways, like offering meat as hamburgers or meatballs.
  • Involve your child in preparing food, as it may increase their interest.
  • Keep food choices simple, for example 'do you want an apple or banana?' This gives them a feeling of control.
  • Check how much they are drinking — too much milk can fill their tummy and make them not want to eat.

To help prevent choking:

  • offer food that matches children’s chewing and grinding ability
  • avoid small, round, hard foods like nuts and grapes.

Always make sure your child sits down while they are eating and drinking and that an adult is with them.

Snacks and treats

Young tamariki need some fat in their diets for energy and growth. But it is important not to have high-fat and high-sugar foods every day, for example chips, lollies and ice cream.

Tamariki who eat 'treat' foods too often tend to eat less healthy food. Sweet foods can also cause holes in teeth.

Avoid talking about high-fat and high-sugar foods as 'bad' foods. Teach your child to enjoy them as an occasional treat.

Try to offer snacks and treats well before mealtimes so they have time to get hungry again.


It is best to offer drinks in a cup rather than a bottle. Milk and water are the best drinks — milk after meals, and water between meals.

While milk is great, you can overdo it. If your tamariki drinks more than 2 cups of milk (500 ml) a day, they may not eat well because they are already full. Giving them less milk should increase their interest in food. You can encourage them by drinking water yourself.

Try to keep flavoured milk, juice and fizzy drinks for occasional treats. If you are giving tamariki juice, add plenty of water — 1 part juice to 10 parts water.