In the first article of this fussy eating series I introduced Ellyn Satters Division of Responsibility  if you missed it then check it out here.   

As a quick recap, the Division of Responsibility outlines the roles of both caregivers and children when it comes to food and meal times. Children have just the one responsibility  they decide how much to eat. We, the care givers, are responsible for the WhatWhere and When of meal times.  

Adults decide: What to eat. When to eat. Where to eat .

Children decide: How much to eat.  

The When of meal times refers to the timing of meals and snacks. This plays a crucial role in determining how much a child is likely to eat and could be what is holding your child back from trying new foods. 

One of the biggest motivators to get your child to try new food is appetite. If they have been grazing on everything in the pantry since they got home from school, then its highly unlikely they will have an appetite come dinner time. This means there is little to no motivation for them to try a new food.  

We cant expect them to eat and try new foods when they arent hungry. Its important that they learn to eat in response to hunger and satiety (feeling of fullness) cues, so we dont want to override these in an attempt to address fussy eating. Non-hungry eating (eating for reasons other than true hunger) can lead to excess calorie intake which in turn can lead to excessive weight gain. We certainly dont want this for our kids, so if they say they are full then you need to accept that and end the meal or snack.  


Implementing a meal and snack schedule in your household makes it more likely that children are coming to the table with an appetite, meaning they have a greater incentive (hunger) to eat a food that they would normally avoid. Create a gap of around 1.5  2 hours between meals and snacks, and put a stop to grazing in between these times. 

If your child is asking for food outside of a meal or snack time dont offer any food. Simply let them know that the next meal or snack is soon, and they will have to wait. When the next meal or snack time arrives, you will know that they definitely have an appetite. Make the most of it by including a new food on their plate (more on this when we cover the What  stay tuned!)   


Another factor to consider is how appealing the food is likely to be after a given period of time. Setting a cut-off time for each meal and snack will not only teach your child to complete a meal in a reasonable timeframe but also see them trying a new food when it is freshly prepared and at its most appetizing. This is especially important in those with fussy eating tendencies.  

For example, most breakfast cereals become a soggy mush about 20 mins after you’ve added milk. Even the least picky eater is going to struggle to eat that. There is nothing to be gained from having your child sit in front of an unappetizing meal for hours.  

Choose a set time limit (around 15 – 30mins is adequate, depending on whether it is a main meal or snack). Provide  everyone at the table with a 5 min notice that the end of the meal is approaching. Once time is up, let them know it’s the end of the meal and take the remaining food away.   

Here is an example of what a daily meal pattern could look like:  


Kitchen open for  15 – 30 minutes  



Kitchen open for 15 minutes  

10:15AM – 12:30PM – KITCHEN CLOSED  

12:30PM - LUNCH 

Kitchen open for 30 minutes  



Kitchen open for 15 minutes  

3:45PM – 5:30PM – KITCHEN CLOSED  

5:30PM - DINNER 

Kitchen open for 30 minutes  


Be consistent in your approach – they will learn the new meal and snack routine much faster if you stick to the schedule. 

Michelle Bulman is our Paediatric Dietitian expert and can help you with a fussy eater.