Enjoy food without a struggle

Photo: Sandy Nicholson/Real Food for Real Kids
Tips on transitioning your child to a more balanced, adventurous diet

1. Prepare and involve your child

Talk to your kids about what’s in food and why it’s good for our bodies. Involve kids in menu planning, shopping, and meal prep, and they’ll be more likely to eat what’s being served. Counting, washing, even supervising, are all perfectly good Little Chef jobs.

2. A wide variety is key

Offer a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. Offer a few spoonfuls of each at every dinner. Even if your child eats only two bites, he’ll understand that these foods make up a nutritious diet. When he starts wanting more than two bites, expand your offerings to include different foods. As your child grows, increase serving sizes.

3. Same food, different way

Offer foods both on their own and together with other ingredients. Slice and dice foods in different ways. Try raw carrot sticks one day and cooked carrot coins another. Add fresh herbs (mint and basil are great) and dig deep into spice cabinets. Kids are never too young to learn about flavours.

4. Don’t give up

This is the toughest one of all. Giving in to your child’s demands only makes things harder in the long run. According to the Canadian Academy of Pediatrics, many kids won’t accept a new food until it’s been offered at least ten times. Continue offering new foods until your child considers them familiar. And then continue some more.

5. Introduce foods one bite at a time

Some kids are overwhelmed by large quantities of food on their plate. And all kids have different appetites (which can even change day to day). Many will feel more successful if they can finish what’s on their plate. Keep portions small: just a few bites to start.

6. Institute the “two-bite” rule

Insist kids eat at least two bites of everything on their plate before leaving the table. Explain that we grow new taste buds every day, so we can start to like foods that we haven’t before. With kids, it’s impossible to predict what foods they’ll like and what foods they won’t.

7. Don’t be a short-order cook

One family? One meal. Don’t make special subs for everyone’s special preferences. At first, your child may refuse to eat. Stay calm, stand firm, and ignore tantrums. Your child will not go hungry from skipping a meal. We repeat: your child will not go hungry from skipping a meal. They’ll come to the next meal with a healthy appetite, and (most importantly) an understanding that a tantrum won’t break your resolve.

8. Keep your cool

When your child rejects a food, stay calm and reaffirm the boundaries you’ve established (two bites before leaving the table). Don’t let your child engage you in a power struggle. You’ll both lose.

9. Don’t completely forbid foods

You know how this works: you always want what you can’t have. And kids will find a way to get it (trading lunches at school, for instance). Allow your kids to choose a special food from time to time and let them eat it guilt free. Teach your kids the difference between everyday foods and occasional foods. In time, they’ll start making healthy choices on their own.

10. Use sticker power

Stickers often have the power to encourage younger kids, especially if they can help pick them out. Use stickers as a reward for trying a new food, finishing a meal, or choosing a healthy option. Important: never use food (like dessert or candy) as a reward (or a punishment). Keep set rules on how often/how much, but don’t bend them as reward or punishment.

Have a question?
We can help. Contact Real Food for Real Kids at tips@rfrk.com


Real Food for Real Kids Real Food for Real Kids is a Toronto-based catering company that aims to reconnect children and families to real food by providing delicious, healthy, all-natural meals and snacks – made fresh from scratch.