Parents have the following responsibilities when it comes to feeding:
• Choose and prepare the food
• Provide regular meals and snacks
• Make eating times pleasant
• Teach children about certain foods and appropriate mealtime behavior
• Do not let children graze for food or beverages (except water) between meal and snack times
• Let children grow into their own bodies – do not put them on diets or try to overfeed them
And I’ll add one more item I think parents are responsible for – to choose foods that are healthy and support a child’s health, and to avoid giving children too many processed foods.
Atmosphere is very important. Eat with your kids, and carry on pleasant, easy-going conversations. Avoid watching television or reading the newspaper. Including kids in meal preparation can get them interested and increases likelihood that they'll want to try the foods. Eating out with kids gives them variety. Review the menu with them and let them think about what they want to order. Do not restrict them to the kid's menu. If they are eating "adult" foods at home, they should be able to eat "adult" foods at restaurants too.
Katja also emphasizes the importance of neutral presentation. With her own daughter, she will put everything on the table at once, including dessert if they are having it on a particular night. That way, her daughter is less likely to view sweets as “rewards” for eating healthier things, and more likely to just enjoy it as one of many foods she is being given that night. And, it works! I think in general it is a good idea to avoid using sweets as rewards for things like good behavior or potty training.
Katja emphasizes that parents should OFFER, not FORCE. And if a kid acts totally grossed out by a particular food, let them avoid it and include it in a meal a week or two later. Doctors tell parents it may take 5-10 tries before a kid decides to eat something, but according to Katja that number can be more like 100 tries. So continue to place a variety of foods on the table and maybe eventually your child will try something new.
Items to include at each meal include protein (meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, or nuts); two starches (rice, corn, potatoes, noodles, bread, etc.); fruit or veggie (or both); milk or substitute; fats (butter, peanut butter, nuts, etc.).
Katja’s website is a great resource for more information on family feeding:
Some other great resources include some of Ellyn Satter’s books. Ellyn is another expert on this subject.
Secrets to Feeding a Healthy Family
Child of Mine
Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming
I own all three of these books and have read bits and pieces of each of them. They provide very useful information for parents.