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Publication #FAR8002

Avoiding Food Fights1

Donna Davis2

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When you think of "food fight," you might recall a raucous scene featuring John Belushi in the now-classic film, "Animal House." When raising a toddler, food fight takes on a different meaning. If feeding your toddler seems like an overwhelming task at times, take heart. There are some things that can make mealtime more enjoyable!

According to Jennifer Hillan at the University of Florida, the most important thing to remember is that parents are responsible for deciding what foods are offered, and children are responsible for deciding whether to eat and how much to eat. What a liberating concept! But in Tips for Feeding Toddlers, Hillan explains that parents are responsible for offering nutritious foods suitable for a child's age, setting regular meal and snack times, and serving foods that look appealing. She says it's the child's responsibility to decide if she'll eat, and to choose how much to eat from the foods that are offered. If she decides not to eat a meal, Hillan says that's okay.

Researchers say that it's normal for a child's appetite to vary from day to day. They usually eat only when they're hungry and stop when they're full. It's okay when they choose to skip a meal once in a while. As long as they're growing well, they're probably getting all the nutrients they need. And when they choose not to eat, tell them, "That's okay. Just sit and keep me company."

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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This document is FAR8002, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 009 and published November 2007. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Donna Davis, senior producer, Family Album Radio, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.