Question from a reader: How long do children need for meals?

Mar 21, 2014 by

“Is it best to allot 30 minutes for kiddos to eat, an hour, 90 minutes? I feel like anything over 30-40 minutes just seems excessive and more frustrating for the adults. At about 20 minutes today, it was obvious the kids were done eating what was on their plates.” – Laurel

Thanks for your question, Laurel!  As usual, I have plenty to say. Sometimes parents or caretakers of picky eaters make children sit at the table until they eat a certain amount. Not very effective, I dare say. Making children sit there for a certain amount of time just because you think they should sit there, even if they are not eating, is no better. The ideal is to engage children in enjoyable conversation at the table, regardless of their ages.  If you create a pleasant atmosphere at the table, children will enjoy being with adults at the table. As…

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Question from a reader: When little Johnny wants more waffles, but no eggs & fruit

Mar 19, 2014 by

Dear Sacred Appetite: Just found your blog when searching for ways to avoid picking eating in toddlers. I nanny for newly 3-year old triplets. One is rarely picky, the other two are more picky when it comes to certain types of foods. I love everything you have said here (and in a couple other posts) and it makes perfect sense to not force a kid to eat a certain food if they don’t want it. I do still have a scenario that I haven’t seen addressed much on this or other blogs when it comes to toddlers and food. Let’s say little Johnny has eaten all his waffles, but hasn’t touched his fruit or his eggs. He asks for more waffles. The parents and I have been telling him he needs to eat what’s on his plate first before he gets more of something he already ate. Is…

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Question from Sarah: How do I get my kids to eat more than just one or two parts of the meal?

Nov 25, 2013 by

DEAR ANNA: “Let’s say we put out a roast chicken with cauliflower, sliced raw cucumbers and home-made biscuits. I have one child out of my three that will only eat the meat, another that will only eat the biscuit, and my third that will only eat the vegetables and the biscuit. We don’t pressure them or bribe them with dessert. (true “dessert” only happens when we bake something together or if watermelon is in season). But even when their only option is home made food do I let them take the only kind they want? They are hungry (it’s been hours since after-school snack) but they could still just fill up on one thing for days!”

DEAR SARAH: I love your question! Thanks for asking me. I have a few different thoughts about ways you could address this imbalance in what your kids want to eat. Whatever you do, I…

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Moving Down Mom’s Hierarchy of Foods: How “Finding Something Your Kid Will Eat” Entrenches Picky Eating

Oct 21, 2013 by

“We wonder how we get started doing these things, but we do them.”  — Mom of a budding picky eater


When I was little, sometimes at dinner my mom might ask me if I wanted more of something, let’s say a dish called “Spanish Rice” (that’s something I remember not liking much as a child),  and I might answer, “I’m full for that.” I might often have been “full for” the main meal, yet if dessert was forthcoming, I was usually not “full for” that.

We all have a hierarchy of our preferred foods. If we are extremely hungry, we may feel “hungry enough to eat a horse” or horse meat, or even a hunk of hard, dry, unseasoned liver. Hunger makes food more appealing. If that horse, or horse meat, or even well-prepared liver appears on the table, though most people will pass on it unless they are truly about…

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How to Reward Picky Eaters for Being Picky

Sep 11, 2013 by

My daughter the psychology major taught me an important parenting lesson the other day.

She was an intern on a research study on children this summer. The study was looking into the ways children learn verbs. So for several weeks, the research team brought in children ages about 18 months to about four, one by one, with their parents, to be tested and observed, to get data for the study.

One day, a little boy about two years old came in with his dad. Little Josh refused to interact at all with the researchers. He acted extremely shy, burying his face in dad’s chest. He wouldn’t cooperate in any way. On and on, the researchers, along with the dad, desperately attempted to lessen his discomfort and entice him to go along with the program. Finally, the dad stepped up and said to Josh, “If you will do what they want you…

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The Distracted Child: When That’s a Useful Thing

Aug 15, 2013 by

Anger-free ways to keep the peace & neutralize resistance in a picky eater or other strong-willed child

The other day, I noticed a dad with his toddler on a sidewalk. The little tot, about 18 months old, was trying to go in one direction. The dad, towering over her, was looking down at her and moving right in front of her each time she tried to go that direction. She would move to go around him, and he would step over to block her way, over and over. No words were being exchanged. She had no understanding of why her dad was preventing her from going that way. Dad was making no effort to explain the situation to her. His mind seemed to be elsewhere. Naturally, the little girl was getting a seriously frustrated look on her face. Maybe she was too young to understand why she couldn’t go there,…

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