Parent - Child Feeding Roles & Picky Eating
Meal time doesn’t need to be a battleground.
Research shows that when parents feed
children following Ellyn Satter’s Division of
Responsibility model, children grow into
confident healthy eaters. Nearly every child
goes through “food jags” when they will
only eat a few foods repeatedly. Normally
these jags last 1-2 weeks and then more
foods are accepted again. Parents and
caregivers can support children by providing
a steady family eating routine and setting up
consistent feeding roles between adult and
The Caregivers’ Role
ξ What Food is Offered
The caregiver is responsible for
stocking the home with food and
choosing what is served at meals and
snacks. Serve at least one familiar
food that the child likes at each meal.
Avoid cooking a separate meal for
ξ When Food is Offered
Offer a meal or snack every 3 to 4
hours. Offer only water between
meals and provide milk, water or
100% juice at meal and snack times.
Do not allow child to “graze” on
snacks and drinks between meals.
ξ Where Food is Eaten
Serve all meals and snacks at the
table. Limit or avoid eating in front
of the TV or with electronic devices.
Eat together as a family at least 3
times each week.
The Child’s Role
ξ How Much to Eat
The child decides how much they
want to eat. We are born with the
ability to listen to our hunger. Allow
your children to serve themselves or
help decide on portions of each food.
ξ Whether or Not to Eat
Some days kids are hungry and some
days they are not. Trust that most
kids will eat enough to grow. If a
child is made to eat when not
hungry, he or she loses the power to
listen to their body.
ξ Offer new foods when child is
hungry. For example, set out cut up
vegetables before dinner so kids can
“snack” on these while they wait for
the main meal.
ξ Remember: new foods can be scary--
more for some kids than others. Be
patient as your young child tries new
ξ Many children need over a 15
"exposures" to a new food before
taking the first bite. It can take time
for kids to find comfort with a new
ξ Break down the meal to give more
options. Stir fry can be served as
separate bowls of cooked chicken,
rice, carrots and peppers, pineapple,
and sauce. Each person chooses
which foods they want and how
ξ Set a good example. Keep different
foods on the table and give the kids
the chance to watch you eat it and to
see, touch and taste the food without
“Maintain a division of
responsibility in feeding.
Parents do the what, when
and where of feeding;
children do the how much
and whether of eating.”
ξ Add healthy foods in favorite recipes
(for example, add blueberries to
pancakes, pinto beans to taco meat,
or grated carrots to meat balls).
ξ Involve your child in cooking and
make it fun. Ask your child to pick
out a fruit or vegetable for lunch,
pick from the garden, or help with
simple cooking tasks.
ξ Book by Ellyn Satter
ξ Your Child’s Weight: Helping
ξ Child of Mine: Feeding With Love
and Good Sense
ξ Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family
ξ How to Get Your Kid to Eat…But
Not Too Much.
If you're worried that picky eating is
causing health problems or a change in
growth pattern, call your child's doctor.
What is the most important thing you learned from this handout?
What changes will you make in your diet/lifestyle, based on what you learned today?
If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions please contact UW Health at one of the
phone numbers listed below. You can also visit our website at www.uwhealth.org/nutrition
Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s
Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at: (608) 890-5500.
Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at:
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 9/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Clinical Nutrition Services Department and the Department
of Nursing. HF#518