Feeding Families

Mealtime Rules for Everyone’s Sanity

Key points:

  • We can’t make our children eat anything but we can support them in developing healthy habits.
  • The way we feed our children is as important as what we feed them

Create rules that make mealtimes pleasant

Mealtime rules are a key ingredient for more enjoyable mealtimes. We shouldn't control whether our children eat or not, but we can create an expectation of their behaviour. Below are some of our favourite mealtime rules. Remember: there need to be rules for parents or carers too!

Examples of rules for children:

  • Explore what’s on your plate (touch, smell, lick, nibble or eat)
  • Positive comments about food (no grizzling…)
  • Sit properly on your chair
  • Eat what you want and leave the rest
  • Eat enough to last you until the next meal or snack.

Examples of rules for parents/carers:

  • Praise your child for specific behaviours (sitting, tasting)
  • Positive comments about food (e.g. the carrot is sweet..)
  • Support children in responding to their hunger and fullness (no force-feeding, coercing, bribing)
  • Ignore negative behaviour if minor (note: not eating is NOT a negative behaviour)
  • Be a good role model (your child won’t eat vegetables if you don’t).

For more information and tips for establishing healthy eating behaviours, see ‘Is my child a healthy weight?’

Would you like more support?

Click Get Support to provide your details to our Care Support Team who will match your needs with the appropriate level of support.

Further support

If you are concerned about your child’s food intake, eating behaviours, growth or nutrition-related health, contact a GP, paediatrician or Accredited Practising Dietitian who can provide a comprehensive assessment that considers your child’s medical history, eating patterns including mealtime experiences, physical activity and genetic factors.

Find an Accredited Practising Dietitian with experience in infant and child growth - https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/find-an-apd/