Mealtime/Snacktime Responsibilities

Once, at a therapy visit in a family’s home, a nutritionist I worked with laid out mealtime responsibilities so perfectly. I find myself quoting their simple wisdom almost daily!

Here they are:

Parent/Caregiver Mealtime/Snacktime Responsibilities:

  • what to eat
  • when to eat
  • where to eat

Child’s Mealtime/Snacktime Responsibility:

  • How much to eat

That’s it. A child does not know what foods their bodies need, they don’t know how to structure a day of meals and snacks to get the energy and nutrients they need so the adult chooses what gets offered when. The adult also chooses where we eat, optimally in a calm environment with few distractions, at the table or in a highchair, somewhere with optimal positioning and foot support.

We, as adults, know about all these things children need to eat well, so we make these decisions. Looking at it this way, we can see these choices we are making for kids as gifts we are giving them. Even if they protest, say they want a different meal or want to eat in front of TV, we can feel confident that we are giving them eating habits they need to learn rather than depriving them of endless helpings of a favorite meal or a favorite TV show. We can see mealtime rules and boundaries as a positive rather than a negative. something you’re doing for your child rather than something you’re taking away.

The child’s responsibility is their body. Your child is the only one who knows how his body feels, if he is hungry or if his tummy hurts. We ultimately can’t and don’t want to take away a child’s control over what goes into their bodies. We want to teach them that food is safe and fun and delicious and can make them feel good and their bodies work.

That’s it, so simple, so profound, so true.


23 thoughts on “Mealtime/Snacktime Responsibilities

  1. Interesting! Started to learn food preparation at age of seven since both parents worked and part of my family responsibility, walk home from school, open door with key, wash hands, peel carrots, potatoes, place in pot of water, homework next, parents arrive and I receive, thanks and two big kisses. By the time I was 14, I was honored to cook half of the meals in our family. But a lot has changed since then with the social and economic manipulation of society, especially in the area of food. So I will follow your blog with interest, especially the comments section since I find it enlightening and insightful about where we are as a society.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh I love this! Eating and food can be such a huge stress point for some parents. I have certainly gone through times where it was for us. But the formula you just shared is so simple and yet so true. Rather freeing to think, Yes I am doing what is best for my child but I am still giving them the responsibility of exactly how much they eat. No coercion, or bribes, or trying 100 foods to get that one they will eat.

    Thanks for a great post

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for stopping by my market blog…which in turn brings me to your how to love food blog. Had a little frustrating meal time with my grand daughter recently, a picky and small eater! Children nowadays are exposed to so many media and gajdets, they harldy LOOK at the food!! The blog also teaches us Patience!

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  4. My 22 month old daughter has been diagnosed with FTT and has a very low weight percentile (~2 %) Her growth curve is normal. I give her foods that are high in calories but I really need her to increase her quantity of intake. How can I teach her to eat more while letting her control her body?
    P.S. I am working with a nutritionist to learn how to increase calories and have just met a food therapist for the first time. She established that there is no physical issues with the jaw etc. and has introduced me to food chaining.


    1. Hi, It’s wonderful that you’re working with a nutritionist and feeding specialist who can help you tailor a feeding plan to your daughter’s specific needs! In a healthy relationship with food, we eat when we are hungry to fuel our bodies until they are hungry again. Our bodies tell us how much we should eat and we want to teach kids to listen to those messages and answer them by eating. So, the best way to teach kids to eat more while letting them control their bodies is to work with their natural hunger cycles. This is also why it’s wonderful you’re working with professionals already, because it usually means setting up a meal and snack plan scheduled around your daughter’s unique needs so that she will be hungriest when the foods you want her to eat more of are presented. This kind of plan can sometimes also include active activities that will burn calories at strategic times in the schedule to maximize feeding times (in terms of quantity, interest and learning). I’m sure your nutritionist and therapist will have many more insights that are specific to your situation and your daughter’s needs, too! I wish you the best of luck and hope you’ll stay in touch!


      1. Thanks so much for such a detailed response. I’m happy to report that my daughter is now more interested in tasting foods, she actually lets me feed her a spoon FULL of food sometimes and I have seen her actually ask me for the next morsel. These small wins feel amazing to me! Her quantity of intake is still very low. In fact lower than before she started therapy since I no longer trick her into eating by turning on TV (not that it always worked). I’m hoping there is a noticeable improvement soon. Please let me know if you have any other ideas/advice/tips.
        Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Lina, You are so welcome! It makes me so happy to hear about your daughter’s progress and how wonderful each small ‘win’ feels to you. Since I have never seen your daughter and don’t know her history, it’s difficult to make more than general recommendations, but if you have questions, I will certainly do my best to provide information or strategies you could try or bring up with your daughter’s feeding team. Thank you so much for sharing your progress–I love to hear it!! 🙂


  5. Great advice! Going to institute this in my home. Sometimes it feels like the meal-time battle is never ending, but like you said, setting up boundaries is important for consistency and fostering a more positive meal time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for stopping by my blog , I visited yours and found it very interesting and useful . There seems to be a revolution going on at present in India to eliminate the kitchens in the houses lol , I wonder if it is such a good thing and how will it impact our lives , I am though a staunch believer in cooking food from scratch , and if it was possible I would grow my own food , and I still cook all three meals at home and find pleasure in cooking. My son never had issues related to eating healthy food because that is what he always get at home and is not exposed much to fast food and restaurant food.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your insights on the changing food culture in India. I believe that a lot of the disconnectedness Americans feel towards their food comes from a lack of an educational foundation about where food comes from and direct experience of how we turn raw foods into foods that are presented at meals. I also find great pleasure in cooking from scratch at home, taking the most basic ingredients from nature and turning them into nourishing food! 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing and being part of our community here at Learn To Love Food!


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