Feeding Your Child

Children need enough food and nutrients to fuel their growth and development. Healthy meals and snacks should be based on Canada’s Food Guide.

Feeding your child can sometimes be a challenge. The taste, texture, and smell of a food, a child’s fear of new things including foods, and even the way parents handle mealtime battles can affect whether a child will eat a food. Foods may need to be offered many times before a child will eat it. This behaviour called picky eating can persist from the toddler stage well into the teen years. While this behaviour is frustrating, it’s normal.

Keep the following tips in mind:

The parent is responsible for:

  • What food is offered
  • When food is offered
  • Where food is offered

The child is responsible for:

  • How much food is eaten
  • Whether food is eaten at all

Do not…

  • Force your child to eat anything.
  • Make special meals for your child. Making a substitute meal teaches the child that the parent never expected him to eat the original food that was put in front of him.
  • Say, “Please try it.”
  • Pay attention to foods not eaten by your child.
  • Allow your child to fill up on milk or juice. Avoid juice or limit it to 125 mL (4 oz) per day.


  • Continue eating and enjoying your own food.
  • Present new food often. It may take about 20 times before it’s accepted.
  • Eat at the table together as a family and be a role model by eating the same healthy foods that you offer your child.
  • Offer children three healthy meals and snacks per day.

Toddler eating with a spoon.Feeding Your Toddler or Preschooler:

For information on:

If you have concerns about your toddler or preschooler’s diet and eating habits:

  • Check out Nutri-eSTEP™. The online version of the NutriSTEP™ screen. NutriSTEP™ is available for Toddlers (18 months to 23 months) and Preschoolers (3 to 5 years). The screen asks questions about nutrition, eating habits, physical activity, and growth and development.
  • Call the Healthy Families Hotline to speak to a Public Health Nurse at 519-258-2146 ext. 1350.
  • Call Eat Right Ontario to speak to a dietitian at 1-877-510-5102 or visit Eat Right Ontario.

A child holding a lunch box full of healthy food, such as fruits, vegetables, and a wrap.Feeding Your School-Aged Child:

Many school lunch boxes are loaded with unhealthy fat, sugar, and salt, and are missing fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. It's time for a lunchbox makeover! Many Windsor-Essex County schools are moving towards what's known as a balanced school day.

Dealing with Food Allergies at School

Sabrina’s Law came into force on January 1, 2006. This law ensures all school boards in Ontario have policies or procedures in place to address anaphylaxis (severe, life-threatening) allergies in schools. This includes:

  • Training school staff on how to handle life-threatening allergies on a regular basis.
  • Creating individual care plans for pupils who have anaphylaxis allergy.
  • Having emergency procedures in place for anaphylactic pupils.

If your child has a severe allergy:

It’s your responsibility to inform the principal of your child’s allergy, any medications needed for treatment, and to keep his or her file updated. The principal will develop a care-plan for your child.

Peanut is the most common food allergy. EatRight Ontario provides information on peanut-free lunches.