Five Questions Five Days

Five Questions Five Days

We know parents want to give their child the best start around food and nutrition. One of the best ways to do this is to know what your job is in feeding. We encourage a way of feeding where parents decide what food to offer, when and where. Children decide whether to eat it and how much. It sounds simple, but in real life it can get a little tricky. That’s where a few tips come in handy to help you through.

In this blog we go through a few real-life questions day by day around feeding children. The answers may actually help make feeding your child less work than you might think.

If you want to look more into this approach to feeding, see the Ellyn Satter website

"our feeding advice is not to create the perfect eater but to help you raise a child who has the skills to feed themselves with respect, dignity and love.” Healthy Kids Tasmania


Common question: I always praise my child when they eat their vegetables. Isn’t it important that my child knows eating their vegetables is important for their health?

Lots of parents think they are being helpful by doing these things, and it comes from a well-meaning place. But it’s not part of a parent’s feeding job to:

  • praise or reward a child for eating a particular food
  • note how many bites they have taken
  • tell them how important a food is for health.

Parents decide what food to offer, when and where. It’s your child’s job to decide if they want to eat a food, and how much.

You focus on your job and let your child focus on their job. Know that by providing a variety of foods (this includes foods from different food groups) at each meal and snack time, you are giving them the opportunity to choose what they need. Sometimes what they eat will be different from what you expect. By including vegetables, it gives them an opportunity to eat them. Your role is to offer the foods and role model eating them. Child feeding experts agree keeping “health” out of the conversation is more helpful in supporting children to learn to eat new foods. What’s important is to expose them to a variety of foods, make mealtimes relaxed and give the family a chance to connect. Learning to eat takes time and we all learn better without pressure.

Tip: Keep offering vegetables your family eat alongside foods your child has eaten before. For example, if your child likes peanut butter try it spread on celery, if they like omelette try adding tomato or baby spinach, or if they like roast potatoes try other roast vegetables. Read more about how to help your child to eat vegetables in a body positive way


Common question: I find it easier to feed my child and grab my dinner later as my child doesn’t like what I eat and I want to eat in peace. Is that OK?

Family feeding is not always perfect just like life in general. What we know is that eating with your child is one of the best ways to help your child learn to eat. Children learn to eat by watching others and being offered a variety of foods. Your child can see what it looks like to eat a meal full of colour, texture and flavour; what it looks like to leave food on your plate when you’ve had enough; or to have a second helping if you’re still hungry.

This doesn’t mean that you need to eat with your child at each meal and snack or every day. But as often as you can is helpful. If you need space to enjoy your meal alone make time for this sometimes.

If you’re struggling with your own relationship to food and bodies, seek the help you need. Read more about how to create a positive relationship with bodies


Common question: My partner is big on table manners and is always telling the kids off when they eat with their hands or don’t still sit. They are only young, but when do they start to learn to behave at the table?

Learning how to follow family mealtime behaviour expectations takes time and patience. It needs to be taught in a developmentally appropriate way. Young children find eating with their hands more comfortable.  It gives them independence. Touching food with their hands can help children learn to eat the food. As they get older, they will develop the motor skills to use utensils if shown how to use them. Small children can find it hard to sit still at a table. One tip is to give their feet something to rest on (e.g. a box or the bottom of a highchair). Read more on helping children be comfortable at the table. Once they have eaten let them leave the table to play. The older children get, the longer they’ll be able to stay at the table after they’ve eaten. Read more about family mealtimes

The best way to approach this is for adults to role model using good table manners and keep mealtimes a relaxing experience. Then let the child do their job with eating from the foods that are offered.


Common question: My child loves pasta and if I served this every night with our meal this would be the only thing they ate. Is this what we’re meant to be doing?

Having a food that is familiar to your child or that they will eat at meals and snacks is important to know your child can satisfy their hunger needs. A few things to note. The whole meal doesn’t need to be something your child eats. It also does not have to be the same food every night (in fact, it’s good if you can mix it up). Offering the same food can in fact lead to a child not enjoying that food after a while. This can be a result of a child getting into a "food jag." Read more about "food jags" and how to navigate these What can be helpful is to offer your child different familiar foods they will eat even if they’re not their favourites. This doesn’t have to be a typical ‘dinner food’ but could be cut up fruit or salad vegetables or bread. It could be part of the meal like the wrap for the taco meat, cheese sauce or yoghurt topping. By offering foods they are still learning to like alongside foods they are already familiar with helps. It’s up to your child if they choose to try or eat them. Pairing food your child already likes (e.g. tomato sauce) alongside something they’re learning to like (e.g. hamburger patty) can be helpful. Read more about how condiments may help your child eat more variety You can also model trying foods that you’re still learning to like. Every evening meal does not have be a favourite for your child, but it does need to include something they may eat (and plenty of it). Remember your child has eaten food at other times of the day to help them get the nutrition they need.


Common question: My child is always wanting snacks over the day and I find it hard to say no. What’s the best way to manage this?

Most children do better with eating if they have set regular meals and snacks throughout the day. This helps them focus on eating at mealtimes and play other times.  If your child reports being hungry shortly after a meal or snack, remind your child when the next meal or snack time is. Sometimes visual schedules/pictures can help if your child can’t read words or the time yet. Encourage them into a play activity or doing a task with you. It’s not your job to keep the kitchen always open. Please note this isn’t a hard and fast ‘rule’ but more of a guideline. During growth spurts sometimes an extra snack is needed. If your child has been extra active or you have a particularly “hangry” child on your hands bring the mealtime forward. But it’s your call, not your child’s. If you have been used to having your child graze over the day, moving to more of a regular meal and snack pattern can take a while to get used to. Read more about how to say no when you need to