ideas to help your child transition to a more balanced, adventurous diet
1. Prepare and involve your kids
Talk to your kids about the nutrients found in healthy foods and why they are good for our bodies. Involve kids in menu planning, shopping, and meal preparation. If you let your kids have a say in what ends up on the table, they’ll be more motivated to eat what’s being served. Washing, peeling, stirring and even basic chopping, are all perfect jobs for your little chef.
2. A wide variety is key
Offer your kids a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes at every meal, even if it is just a few a spoonfuls of each. Sure, your kids may only eat a bite or two but they’ll slowly begin to understand that these foods make up a nutritious diet. When they start wanting more than a taste, expand your offerings to include different foods. As your kids grow, increase serving sizes.
3. Same food, different way
Offer foods both on their own and together with other ingredients. Try raw carrot sticks one day and steamed carrots the next. Add fresh herbs (mint and basil are great) and dig deep into your spice cabinet. Slicing and dicing foods in different ways is another easy trick to introduce something new. Remember, kids are never too young to explore new flavours.
4. Don’t give up and don’t give in!
This is a tough one. Kids can be very convincing but giving in to their demands will only make 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! Don’t give up! Continue offering new foods until your child considers them familiar. And then continue some more.
5. Introduce foods one bite at a time
Keep in mind that every kid has a different appetite which will vary from day to day. Some kids can be overwhelmed by large quantities of food on their plate while many will feel a sense of accomplishment and pride if they can finish their whole meal. Keep portions small: just a few bites to start. You can always offer seconds!
6. Implement 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 today we might like a food we didn’t like yesterday! Since kids are learning, growing, and changing so quickly, it’s hard to predict what foods they’ll like and what foods they won’t.
7. Don’t be a short-order cook
If you have one family, you should be making one meal. Don’t make a substitute for every special preference. At first, your child may refuse to eat. Stay calm, stand firm, and ignore tantrums. Your child will not go hungry from refusing to eat one meal. We repeat: your child will not go hungry from refusing to eat one 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) and no special substitutes. 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: it’s human nature to want what you can’t have. And kids will find a way to get it (trading lunch items at school, for instance). Allow your kids to choose a special food from time to time and let them enjoy it guilt-free. Teach your kids the difference between everyday foods and occasional foods and remind them that food is nourishment, not entertainment. In time, they’ll start making healthy choices on their own.
10. Use sticker power
Stickers are a great tool to help encourage and empower younger kids. Consider using stickers as a reward for trying new foods, finishing a meal, or choosing a healthy option.
Real Food Rule…
Never give or restrict food (like dessert or candy) as a reward for good behaviour or a consequence for bad behaviour.