Avoiding Mealtime Battles

We are nearing the end of nutrition month 2017 where the focus has been Taking the Fight Out of Food. For many families, mealtimes have become a battleground. I work with many parents who come to me, seeking advice on feeding their picky or fussy eater.  More than 30% of parents report having a picky eater at home! As a pediatric Registered Dietitian, I feel that number is too high, and I believe we can do better.

A brilliant woman, Ellyn Satter, Registered Dietitian and Family Therapist, is an internationally recognized authority on eating and feeding. She developed the gold standard for feeding children which involves establishing roles and responsibilities at the dinner table.

Sharing the Division of Responsibility

Parent/Caregiver Responsibility

  • Parent’s main responsibility is around feeding
  • Parent decides what food is offered, when the food is offered and where


Child Responsibility

  • Child’s main responsibility is around eating
  • Child decides if they will eat, and how much


Parent/Caregiver Responsibility of Feeding

  • Offer regularly scheduled meals and snacks
  • Choose nutritious foods and prepare them in a way that meets your child’s skills and abilities
  • Model appropriate mealtime behaviour so your child understands what is expected of them
  • Keep mealtimes pleasant and the mood light


Child Responsibility of Eating

  • They will eat the amount they feel is appropriate for their body
  • They will start to understand their own body’s hunger and satiety cues
  • Their intake will fluctuate
  • They will learn to eat and behave like their role models (parent/caregiver)


Healthy Changes

Changes at Mealtimes

  • Structure eating times by offering three meals with snacks in between
  • Offer a variety of nutritious foods at mealtimes that you want your child to eat
  • Keep the conversation light, and try not to focus on what your child is or isn’t eating
  • Avoid distractions from toys, books, TV, or other media


Involve your Children

  • Take your child grocery shopping and have them help pick out food items
  • Pick out a new recipe together or show them how a family favourite meal is created
  • Have them help prepare the meal by measuring, washing, stirring, or chopping foods, depending on their age and skill level
  • Consider planting a family garden and grow some of your own vegetables or herbs


Remember that picky eating is common, so you are not alone. Seek help early before the problem gets so big, that family meals are a dreaded part of the day.  For individual consultation, NutriKidz is here to help!

Want more on picky eating? Check out the blog post I wrote earlier this month on Top 10 Tips to Stop the Food Fights at Home. I hope you found it to be a helpful guide.