Managing toddler snack demands: trying the Division of Responsibility method

As we approach Alba’s 3rd birthday, I’d describe her as fun, independent, kind…. and completely obsessed with snacks.  In fact, I’d say that the two words most commonly uttered by her are “no”, and “SNACK!”  I think her frequent snacking is a mix of lots of things – she’s always been a grazer rather than enjoying large meals, part of it is boredom, and I think some of it is a way to command my attention (the requests often come just as I’ve sat down for the first time that day!)

We’ve got into some bad habits lately – I’ll end up giving in to snack requests just before a meal (which she then, of course ends up leaving), or she spends all day snacking on things that are less nutritious and then disregards the healthier lunches and dinners I prepare.  I’m concerned that we don’t have as much structure in our days than she probably needs, and as she goes to nursery four days’ a week (where everything is tightly organised and meals and snacks are at set times), I want to replicate some of that routine at home the remainder of the time.

toddler snacking division of responsibility

When I recently posted on IG about the lack of control I felt over the amount of food we were wasting, and the sheer amount of snacking Alba does, a friend messaged and recommended I look up the ‘division of responsibility method‘, developed by feeding expert Ellyn Satter. This structured approach to feeding emphasises the role of both parents and children in creating healthy eating habits. Parents are responsible for deciding what and when to offer food, while children are responsible for deciding whether to eat and how much to eat.

Obviously the method doesn’t involve a strict meal plan, but I’ve decided to create my own plan encompassing snacks and meals so that I can make sure she has a variety of healthy foods from different food groups.  In the past I’ve been guilty of going with the flow of whatever she wants to eat that day (and whatever she shouts when she gazes into the cupboard!) but now I’ve got a set plan, which will actually make food shopping much easier and mean I’m not always reaching for convenience foods for her.  I’ve also changed her meals to be more ‘picky’ with smaller elements she can graze on.  A sample day might look like this:


  • One scrambled egg
  • A slice of whole wheat toast with butter
  • Half a cup of sliced strawberries


  • Banana


  • Sliced turkey and cheese sandwich
  • Small cup of cherry tomatoes


  • Apple slices with 1 tablespoon of almond butter


  • Grilled chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 1/2 cup of brown rice
  • 1/2 cup of roasted broccoli

Snack (if desired):

  • 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt with honey

My hope is that by offering regular meals and snacks at consistent times throughout the day, Alba will know when to expect food and is less likely to ask for snacks constantly. One thing I’ve already realised is that this is going to be a marathon not a sprint and that it’s going to take time and patience.  Just this morning Alba asked for porridge for breakfast (which was fine as that was what I’d planned to give her) but then said that she didn’t want porridge and wanted a yoghurt instead  And then asked for a banana, crisps, biscuits and everything she could see in the cupboard.  She got very frustrated and upset when she was told no, and I had to bring lunch forward as she was asking for it at 11am.  I just hope that with a bit of reinforcement and by replicating the structure that nursery take, she’ll get used to the fact that mealtimes and snack times are part of a consistent routine and develop a really positive relationship with food.