Feeding Fridays – Most Common Way To Sabotage Your Mealtimes


Cindy Morrison, M.S., CCC-SLP, CLC

The Sippy Cup. 

Don’t let the cute colors and designs fool you.  One minute they are hydrating your child and the next minute they are ruining your mealtimes.  And guess what, the two biggest culprits that are helping them to do this are milk and juice.

If your child gets to the table and has a belly full of milk or juice then they are starting the meal at a disadvantage.  Once full of liquid protein or sugary juice, they’ll have little desire for anything nutritious. Drinking milk and juice in excess contributes to a loss of appetite and reduces the amount (volume) of food that your child will eat during mealtimes. Over time, a reduction in volume of fruits, vegetables and proteins can put your child at risk for nutritional deficiencies.

So here’s what you can do:

You don’t need to lock away the sippy cup, but you should be mindful of exactly how much your child is drinking and WHEN they are drinking.  Giving your child a milk or juice cup and then having them play or watch a show while you are making dinner will sabotage your meal.  So instead of filling their bellies with liquid and removing them from the process, learn to engage your child in the kitchen here.

To help your child have more successful mealtimes try to limit the amount of juice and milk offered between meals.  Ideally, these choices should be offered in small amounts and given during mealtimes. It’s important to provide your child with a drink at mealtimes and to encourage your child to alternate liquid sips with (pureed or solid) bites.  Doing this keeps food moist and helps it move all the way down their esophagus to reach their tiny belly.

You can encourage this by keeping the sippy cup slightly out of reach and having your child earn sips of their milk or juice by choosing a piece of food from their plate and “sending it down to their belly.”  One piece of food down to their belly + lots of cheering for their “good choosing” from mom and dad = one to two sips of milk or juice!  Repeat!

If you are saving small serving amounts of milk and juice for mealtimes, are you wondering what will they drink in between?  

The best answer is water.  Children’s bodies are comprised of 75% water.  They need water for their bodies to function properly.  Additionally, water does not have any calories which makes it a perfect pre-mealtime beverage.  Some children love water and some children protest water with all their might.  When I child is protesting water it is usually because they have gotten used to another choice.  Change can be a really good thing!

The best way to conquer a juice addiction, in a kind and caring way for your child, is to slowly start diluting juice with water.  Slowly and gradually, increase the amount of water that you place inside their cup each day until you’ve achieved a sippy cup that is full of water with only a mere teaspoon-sized splash of juice.  At that point, you’ve graduated to “flavored water” and can either stop there or remove the juice altogether.

Set your child up for success!

Schedule 3 meals and 2 snack times per day.  Don’t allow your child to graze in between meals and this also means reducing the amount of milk cups, juice cups or drinkable yogurt smoothies that are offered in excess.

If you must give juice or milk before a meal try to offer less volume.  Filling only 1/4 or 1/2 of the sippy cup will leave more room for solid foods during mealtimes.

Not sure if sippy cups are affecting your mealtimes?

Keep track of your child’s beverage intake using the attached log to see how it is affecting your mealtimes.

Chew Chew Mama Daily Beverage Intake Log

Happy, Healthy Eating!