Feed Your Family (Without Becoming a Short-Order Cook!)

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Sally: I’d like the chef salad please with the oil and vinegar on the side and the apple pie a la mode…

Waitress: Chef and apple a la mode.

Sally: …but I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of a can, then nothing.

Waitress: Not even the pie?

Sally: No, just the pie, but then not heated.

Waitress: Uh huh.


Some of you may remember the above scene from the 1989 movie When Harry Met Sally. Perhaps you could substitute your child’s name for Sally’s and your name for the waitress’s. Is pleasing your family at meals or getting everyone to eat the same thing a daily struggle? Now that your family is getting back into a new groove with the new school year, perhaps it’s time to incorporate some new strategies at your family meals…

Internationally recognized Registered Dietitian and Family Therapist Ellyn Satter developed the Division of Responsibility in Feeding also known as the gold standard for feeding children. She outlines the concept in her book How To Get Your Kid To Eat…But Not Too Much: “Parents are responsible for what is presented to eat and the manner in which it is presented. Children are responsible for how much and even whether they eat.”

How do you apply the Division of Responsibility in your home?

1. Choose a time to plan the next week’s meals, allowing your children to give their requests or preferences. As you plan, ask yourself these 2 questions:

  • Have I included a “safe food,” one I know my child will accept, at each meal?
  • Am I choosing a variety of foods at each meal?

Once your plan is complete, consider posting the menu somewhere in your home so everyone will know the answer to that ever-important question: “What’s for dinner?”

2. Serve meals and snacks at the table with minimal distractions at consistent times throughout the day.

3. Allow your child to choose from the foods you are offering.

Don’t make substitutions an option. By including a “safe food” at each meal, you are ensuring your child will not go hungry. By providing regular meals and snacks, you are guaranteeing an opportunity for your child to “make up for” those times he or she eats less at a particular meal.

4. Make mealtimes pleasant, and avoid pressuring your child to eat.

Remember: Children are responsible for whether and how much they choose to eat. Enjoy this built-in opportunity to model healthy eating for your child by eating a balanced meal when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied. Brigid Kay, Registered Dietitian at Schilling Nutrition Therapy encourages her three children to try “one bite to be polite.” It may take 15-20 bites over time for a child to accept a food, so continue offering a variety of foods at meals whether your child enjoys them or not.


Feeding your family doesn’t have to mean being a short-order cook. Planning meals may take a little time on the front end, but imagine the fun and peace that could come from implementing the Division of Responsibility in your home starting this school year!

A link to this article may also be found in the April 2015 Edition of Good Health Magazine.

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