Age-specific mealtime guidelines

Age-specific mealtime guidelines

There are certain things your child will want at mealtime. (For infant feeding, see newborn feeding and breastfeeding.)

Ages 1 to 2: Your child will want to feed themself, is easily distracted at the table and likes a routine.
Age 2: Your child may have strong food likes and dislikes. They are growing slowly and may go for days without eating much or go for days eating almost nonstop.
Age 3: Your child is growing more steadily and shouldn’t have swings in their appetite. Your child should be able to chew food well.
Age 4: Your child will eat quickly, drink quickly, talk a lot and move around a lot. They may leave the table to go to the bathroom.
Age 5: Your child is growing faster and their appetite increases. They may even accept new or unusual foods..

Go, Slow, and Whoa!

Use go, slow and whoa to help you and your family make smart food choices.


“Go” foods are lowest in fat and sugar, low in calories and great to eat anytime. Examples: fat-free and lowfat milk and milk products, proteins, fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables and whole grains.


“Slow” foods are higher in fat, added sugar, and calories. These should only be eaten sometimes (less often). Examples: 100 percent fruit juice, pancakes, Goldfish® crackers and baked chips.


“Whoa” foods are highest in fat and added sugar and high in calories. These should only be eaten once in a while and in small portions. Examples: French fries, doughnuts, fried chicken, candy, ice cream, sweet beverages, sweetened cereals and fried potato chips.

Visit to learn more about how to help your family stay healthy.

Always watch a young child while they eat. Insist that your child sit upright while eating or drinking.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022