6 Steps to Raising Healthy Eaters | pickyeating.com.sg

6 Steps to Raising Healthy Eaters

Did you know that just like learning to walk or tying shoes, children need help to learn to eat well?

Yet, teaching your child how to eat well is not something parents think they will ever need to know.

To help parents find a path to make mealtime easier for their children, registered dietician Kim Milano has developed a series of six easy steps. Use these steps to help your children enjoy foods that are good for them and develop healthy, life-long eating habits.

Just like learning to walk or tying shoes, children need help to learn to eat well. By following these 6 steps you can help your child eat properly.

As you begin implementing these steps, remember that every child is different and that you know your child best. It may take 10 to 15 times of offering or introducing a new food to your child before he or she might try it. Stay patient and positive and know that some steps may take longer, but that this process will help your child become a healthy eater.

Step 1: Manage Mealtime
Establish set meal and snack times to help your child understand hunger and fullness:

  • Decide on a time range that each meal will be served daily.
  • Example – Breakfast 6:30 to 7:30 AM, Snack 10:00 – 10:30, Lunch 12:00 – 1:00 PM, Snack 3:00 – 3:30 PM, Dinner 6:00 – 7:00 PM.
  • There should be 2 to 4 hours in between each meal or snack.
  • Choose mealtimes based on your family’s routines.  For example, work schedules, nap times, etc. should be considered.
  • In between these meals and snacks, only water should be given.
  • Follow the schedule for 2 weeks and reassess the program and status accordingly.
  • If the feeding schedule is not working, make adjustments with the times set based on your family’s needs.

Step 2: Learn to understand your child’s hunger signals
As you set meal times, pay attention to your child’s signs of being full or hungry. Ask yourself:

  • How do I know when my child is hungry?
  • How do I know when my child is full?
  • If you can’t answer these questions, pay attention to how your child behaves around meals for a week.
  • Remember: All children are different, so it may take a shorter or longer amount of time to understand your child’s hunger signals.
  • Feed your child when she shows signs of hunger and end meals when she shows signs of being full. Don’t try to force meals. Instead, you may need to adjust meal times if your child is consistently hungry before the time you set to eat. See Step One for tips on setting mealtimes.

Step 3: Choose healthy foods
Make the right foods available

  • Make a list of foods your family eats often.
  • Circle foods that have at least one of these characteristics:
    • Any fruit or vegetable
    • Fortified cereal or grain. Look at the food label for ingredients with higher amounts of iron and B vitamins
    • Nuts or seeds
    • Fresh meat, poultry, fish, or pulses (lentils, peas, beans)
    • Milk-based products
    • Not highly processed (contains less than 5 ingredients)
  • Serve 2 or more of the circled foods at each meal and snack.
  • Modify the texture of these foods to match your child’s feeding skills:
    • Soft textures, including mashed or puree food
    • Soft finger foods, including bananas and cooked vegetables
    • Crunchy foods, including apple slices or cooked food

MEALTIME CHECK-IN: check the following options based on your family

? Mealtime is working based on my family’s schedule
? We have added in healthy or new food options into mealtime

If not, reassess and repeat Steps 1 through 3.

Step 4: Create the “Family Table”
Start as soon as your child begins eating solid foods

  • Family members should all sit together as often as possible to eat meals and snacks. You or the attending caregiver should join the child for the meal. Remember, watching others eat is an important part of learning to eat.
  • Use a high chair if possible and pull it up to the table.
  • If a high chair is not available then consider these options:
  • Child secured in a booster seat at the table
    • Child sitting on parent’s lap on a chair pulled up to the table.
    • Child sitting on parents lap on the floor with a small table or tray in front of the child.
    • Have any other parent or sibling sit across from your child so they can see each other eating.
    • Eat foods yourself while you feed your child (Give him a bite, take a bite yourself).
  • Do not make comments about what foods or how much food your child eats.
  • Do not pressure your child to take a bite.
  • Do make comments about what the foods looks like, tastes like or how much you like it.
  • Allow your child to feed himself as much as possible and to touch and play with food.
  • Do not wipe his face during the meal – let him make a mess.
  • Control the chaos by
    • Setting rules for behavior at the table – no throwing food, no taking food from other’s plates without asking, etc.
    • If children break behavior rules, remove them from the table and put them in time out for several minutes and then return them to the table.
    • End family meals after 20 to 30 minutes unless children are still actively eating.
    • If the child is done, he or she may leave the table.

Step 5: Learn what kind of feeding style you have
Ask yourself:

  • Am I anxious or worried that my child is not eating enough or eating the wrong foods?
  • Am I concerned that my child is eating too much or too often?
  • Am I content with how and what my child eats?

If you answered “yes” to the first two questions, then it is important to understand what feeding practices you use in response to your concerns about eating.  Put a check in the box of each feeding practice you use with your child.

☐ I often nag my child to eat more or a specific food.
☐ I frequently force my child take at least a bite of food.
☐ I sit and eat with my child.
☐ I only give my child foods I know he or she likes.
☐ Whenever my child asks for something to eat, I give it to her or him.
☐ I sometimes forget to give my child meals.
☐ I give my child dessert if he or she eats a good meal.
☐ I let my child choose his or her own meals.
☐ I don’t let my child eat in between set meals and snack time.
☐ I prepare special foods for my child when he or she doesn’t like what is on the menu.
☐ I serve healthy foods and let my child choose what he or she wants to eat.
☐ I take away my child’s plate if he or she is eating too much.
☐ My child can eat whenever he or she wants.
☐ I don’t force my child to eat when he or she is not hungry.
☐ When my child starts crying at the table, I give him or her something else to eat.
☐ I don’t really know or care what my child eats.


Count the number of check marks of each color you have made. The largest number of feeding practices you marked with the same color gives you an idea which feeding style you tend to use:

☐ = Passive feeding style
☐ = Controlling feeding style
☐ = Indulgent feeding style
☐ = Responsive feeding style

The goal is to try to use responsive feeding practices by practicing the following actions as much as possible:

  • Feed your child when he/she is hungry
  • Don’t make your child eat when he/she is full
  • Eat with your child and model good eating
  • Trust your child to eat as much as he/she needs
  • Talk positively with your child about food and eating
  • Establish set meal and snack times
  • Give nothing but water in between meals and snacks
  • Serve a variety of healthy foods

Step 6: Consistently offer new foods

  • At least once a day, offer your child a food she doesn’t eat or hasn’t tried before
  • Put a small amount of the new food on her plate
  • Make sure there are one or two foods you know she eats on the plate as well
  • Do not pressure her to take a bite or to try the new food
  • Talk positively about the new food and other foods on the plate.

Parents should also work with all caregivers (nannies/grandparents) who are involved in mealtimes. Be sure to observe their interactions and attitude during meals, and work collaboratively to ensure that everyone is following the same steps and guidelines.