Seven Things Parents Need to Know About Kids and Mealtime
Seven Things Parents Need to Know About Kids and Mealtime

happy family eating mealAs a mom of four children and a child nutrition expert working with children and their families, I live and breathe “mealtime”—the drama, the dynamic and the dilemma of keeping meals healthy and a positive experience for everyone.

Undeniably, parents have a powerful role in guiding their children to a healthy lifestyle, and this begins at the meal table. To help you be a guide for your children, remember these seven principles:

#1: Eating together increases the likelihood of healthy eating. Joining together at the family meal table is your best defense against picky eating, obesity and eating disorders and your best bet for a healthy weight, good grades and social stability.

#2: Kids can stop eating when they are satisfied. My 9-year old son is a master at stopping when he’s full. He’s not always right, but with a predictable meal routine, he’s learning to become self-aware, self-regulated and a healthy eater.

#3: Kids pleasantly surprise you with their eating. My 14 ½-year old daughter ordered the hummus salad plate at a local eatery, independently. My neighbor’s daughter was a “picky eater,” but when offered family-style meals, she made better choices and was less picky. Kids are ever-changing, so don’t give up on them.

#4: Kids are able to make good food choices. Given a consistent and positive mealtime environment (free of conflict, full of good nutrition and authoritative in style), kids evolve into great eaters. Take note: this can take a whole childhood to accomplish.

#5: When it comes to eating, kids aren’t created equally. I have four kids and they each have their own eating style. I have two “grazers”, a “square meal” child and a “foodie.” Getting a predictable meal and snack schedule on board is the only way I know how to match everyone’s eating personality.

#6: Friendly interaction beats pressure. Kids do better with eating when the conversation and mealtime vibe is fun, light and supportive--and not about food or eating performance.

#7: Kids will follow the leader. I know if I do my part with feeding, such as getting meals on the table in a timely fashion and serving a balanced and healthy meal with foods from all five food groups, my kids will do their part with eating.

Admittedly, it’s rewarding when a child makes a good food choice or surprises you with liking a new food. Don’t miss these moments: get the first row tickets at your meal table!

Jill Castle, has over 20 years of professional and practical experience in the field of pediatric nutrition. She is a registered dietitian and child nutrition expert who is passionate about equipping families with knowledge and "know-how" when it comes to raising healthy eaters. She is a mother of four children, blogger, and co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters.


Hammons, A. Pediatrics, June 2011; p 127.