Mastering Meals Step Two: Get the Meal Habit

Everybody does better with meals. Meals are for taking care of yourself. To get started with meals, change the how first; think about the what later-lots later. Make meals your idea-don't just offer them when hunger strikes.

Here is how to get started:

  • Eat what you are eating now. Just have it at regular meal- and snack-times.
  • Use snacks to support mealtime. Sit-down snacks between meals let you arrive at meals hungry and ready to eat.
  • Round up the family to eat together. . 
  • Let your child decide what and how much to eat from what is on the table.
  • Make mealtimes pleasant. Talk and enjoy each other. Don't scold or fight.

Yes, I really mean it.

That really says eat what you are eating now. Don't let anybody put your food on a ''bad'' list. You like what you like. To feed yourself well, you need to feel good about it. Pizza makes a fine meal, so do chicken nuggets and French fries. Just have them at mealtime, sit down, and enjoy them. Put the lunch meat, bread, and mayonnaise on the table, and make the sandwich to suit you. Throw in some milk and you have a meal. If the shock of drinking milk is too great, drink what you are drinking now.

Take your time.

Getting the meal habit takes a while. Remember, you don't have to make fresh-cooked food. We are talking about structure-and structure-and structure. A meal is a meal when you use it to take care of yoruself. 

Are you ready to move on? Consider Step Three: Add On, Don't Take Away.

Too elementary for you? Consider Step Four: Do Family Friendly Feeding.

For more about making positive use of meals and snacks (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter's Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook, Kelcy Press, 2008. Also see to purchase books and to review other resources.

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©2016 by Ellyn Satter published at You may reproduce this article if you don't charge for it or change it in any way and if you do include the for more about and copyright statements.