Feeding Your Kids: Focusing on the “How” (Part 2)

Yesterday I introduced you to some of the feeding methods and theories that Katja Rowell, MD, uses in her work with parents and others involved in feeding children. Today I will briefly explain how parents can support positive feeding experiences with their own kids.

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.


  1. Thanks so much for coming to the workshop and your great comments! I agree with your addition about minimizing processed foods and providing a variety of appetizing whole foods. As a practitioner, I work with families from where they start. I approach every family in a nonjudgmental way. If they are eating take out every night, we start with eating those meals around the table, no TV. Maybe we add milk and peas or apple-sauce. With time we introduce new foods. I find that often families are made to feel bad about what they are eating and pushed to make too many changes at once, and that is not sustainable. Add, don't take away, and move families along at a pace that is rewarding, not threatening. Many of the families I work with shop exclusively at coops and think so much about nutrition that they have had problems with the feeding relationship. Balance is so important!
    Keep up the good work!

  2. These are all good points and things to keep in mind - thanks! We talk about that a lot in school too - the importance of meeting people where they are, and not overwhelming them with too many restrictions or guidelines.

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