Best Child Nutrition Books (for Parents): From a Pediatric Dietitian


If you’re a parent wanting trustworthy advice on the best ways to parent in the kitchen, here’s a solid list of books on child nutrition that I rely on as both a parent as well as a pediatric registered dietitian nutritionist.

These books are rock-solid as far as offering trustworthy and easy-to-follow advice on everything from which nutrients kids need at different ages and stages as well as the best ways to approach feeding them, meaning how you talk about food, offer food, and create rules and routines around meals and eating.

One tip: Since the challenges we face when it comes to feeding our kids change faster than the size of your kids’ shoes, bookmark 🔖 this page. You’ll have it as a handy reference as your little sweeties needs’ change.

Read on to get the next best thing to having a pediatric dietitian on-call to help you solve our latest food and feeding concerns and questions…

Top Books on Child Nutrition (for Parents)

  1. Fearless Feeding by Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen

  2. How to Raise and Intuitive Eater

  3. Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family

  4. Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating

  5. How to Nourish Your Child Through an Eating Disorder

  6. Food Chaining: The Proven 6-Step Plan to Stop Pick Eating, Solve Feeding Problems, and Expands Your Child’s Diet

  7. Eat Like a Champion

  8. Diet-Proof Your Daughter

  9. Love Me, Feed Me

  10. Food Refusal and Avoidant Eating in Children, including those with Autism Spectrum Conditions

  11. Responsive Feeding by Melanie Potock

  12. Fat Talk by Virginia Sole-Smith

  13. Eat, Laugh ,Talk!

  14. First Bite by Bebe Smith

This book is that it gets straight to the point, which is a godsend for busy, multi-tasking moms who don’t have the time or energy to cozy up on the couch learning the ins and outs of child nutrition. It ease-of-of use is why this book has been my go-to for years—ever since I became a mom, in fact!

The book is broken up into chapters by age, letting you dig into the ‘ish that you’re dealing with at any given moment. For example, for each age, there are easy-to-read reference charts that help identify which specific nutrients your child needs most during different stages of growth. It also gives examples of common foods that contain them.

For even more insight into the way your child’s behavior changes from age to age around food, the authors also include some insights into developmental stages. Yes! This is key information when it comes to understanding why your two-year-old suddenly stopped eating all those foods she used to love or why your beef-loving teen suddenly wants to try being a vegan. So helpful!

The authors all salt and pepper the pages with questions and answers to the problems that parents struggle with the most.  Their advice is realistic and practical, so you know you’re going to walk away with an “I can do this” feeling when it comes to tackling an eating issue.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a favorite of mine if it didn’t also discuss the importance of modeling healthy eating behaviors, as well as the need to be flexible and open-minded when it comes to feeding children. The tone is open, empowering, and reassuring. Take their insight and advice and put it to work for you in the way you think is best!

This is my all-time favorite feeding reference book, one that I’ve kept on my shelf even years after graduating with a degree in nutrition. Even if you’re just trying to remind yourself which kid-friendly foods contain magnesium—and whether that’s really something you need to worry about, you’ll know you trust the answer here.

Bottom line: you’ll keep it for years, meaning it’s definitely worth the investment!

Best for Figuring Out How to Cook & Parent (Not to Mention Understanding Some of Your Own Eating Issues!)

Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family

by Ellyn Satter

If you’re like me, you’ve likely winced, shuttered, or possibly stood by in awe(!) at the array of amusing, bizarre, and sometimes surprisingly effective tactics people use to get the kids they love to eat.

From demanding a child “take one bite” or “finish their vegetables before dessert” to seeing four entirely different meals be served to a family of three (just in case!), we can get really confused about what is—and isn’t—a good idea when it comes to parenting around food.

Wondering what works, what doesn’t, and why? Let registered dietitian and family therapist Ellyn Satter, the godmother of feeding theory, explain! While Satter’s written many books on child nutrition, this one gives you the foundation of what being a “healthy” and normal, happy eater really means.

And by “healthy” eater, I not talking about a kid who feels good about eating, has the confidence to try new things, and the flexibility to find something to eat both when her favorites—and not so favorites—are on the table.

Satter pioneered the Division of Responsibility (sDOR), an evidence-based feeding theory that’s the bomb diggity when it comes to giving parents a specific set of guidelines for feeding that work from infancy to adolescence.

Parents that practice the sDOR typically raise kids that maintain their natural, healthy-for-them body weight, have higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, and have more confidence when it comes to foods and eating.

Truth be told, this book transformed the way I feed my own girls, feed myself, and even the way I practice nutrition as a professional. Yes, it’s THAT good. And, the best part, you really only need to read the first four chapters to get the most important advice.

In fact, those early chapters outline the principles of eating competence, which is the foundation of normal eating that keeps kids well-nourished and well-protected from disordered eating. If you want to develop eating competence—which is really for many of us when it comes to healing our relationship with food, you can get more hands-on help in a NourishHer workshop.

Best for Helping Kids Be Intuitive Eaters

How to Raise an Intuitive Eater: Raising the Next Generation with Food and Body Confidence

by Sumner Brooks, MPH, RDN, and Amme Severson, MPP-D, RDN

If you’re an intuitive eating (IE) devotee, you’ll appreciate that this is only the book endorsed by IE patroness and pioneer expert Elyse Resch, MS, RDN. The authors take IE into the world of parenting and offers extensive (extensive!) information on how to apply it to many important aspects of feeding kids.

The book is dense, yet helpfully broken up into smaller sections so it’s easy to scan and drift into the areas that really speak to what you’re struggling with at any particular moment.

It’s much less about actual nutrition and much more about supporting your child’s feelings about food and their body’s ability to eat well, so keep this in mind. Again, if you’ve just discovered IE yourself you’ll especially appreciate what the advice, tips, and perspective that these incredible dietitians offer.

Best Book for Creating a Game-Plan for Overcome an Eating Disorder

How to Nourish Your Child Through an Eating Disorder

by Casey Crosbie, RD, CSSD and Wendy Sterling MS, RD, CSSD

Eating disorders are hard, so hard, ugly, life-stealing, joy-strangling bastards and I pray as a parent you never have to deal with one. In fact, helping us all be more mindful about avoiding triggering an ED in any child is literally the reason that this site, NourishHer, exists. But I digress…

Crosbie and Sterling’s book is a bible for any parent trying to tackle the biggest, most malicious feeding obstacle they’ll ever face.

Practically speaking, the authors work within the context of Family Based Therapy (FBT) which is currently considered the gold standard treatment for adolescent eating disorders.

This book is required reading for any parent who enters my practice with a child struggling to recover as it provide parents with the skills they need to support their child through within their own home.

It’s a brilliant approach that brings everyone on board during meals and snacks, which is a crucial aspect of long-term success.

Even if you’re child doesn’t have a full-blown eating disorder but is teetering with some disordered eating behaviors this book can be a solid asset for steering your family back on course to having a healthy relationship with food.

If you like any of these books, please talk about them with a fellow parent, colleague, teacher, or friend! Spreading the word about positive feeding practices is an awesome way to start changing the culture our kids face when it comes to eating and food.

Best Child Nutrition Book for Mothers Raising Girls

Diet-Proof Your Daughter

by Amelia Sherry, RD

Can I fairly say that this is the very best book for any mom who’s ever considered how her own relationship with food might impact her daughters’? Why, yes, I can! And that’s simply because, as far as I know, it’s the only book that does such a thing.

If you’ve battled back from your own issues with food and want to make sure your daughter or daughters (or nieces, students, teammates, etc) never have to do it themselves, then this book is for you.

In it, you’ll find personal stories from me about food-related issues I’ve struggled with parenting my own girls as well as those that have come up with parents in my professional nutrition therapy practice. All of them will make you feel more normal and at-ease about all those weird and tough-to-solve situations that come up when you’re trying to set a good example for your kids with food.

I also give specific actions you can take to help your daughter feel good about her body and weight, eat well, and for the both of you to have a positive relationship.

Also important: If you check out the reviews, you’ll see many dietitians and mothers who are raising boys say the information was just as useful for them, which makes sense because all of the “best practices” around helping kids be happy, healthy eaters work regardless of gender!

Best Book for Parents Who Worry About Weight

Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture

by Virginia Sole-Smith

Okay, so this book it’s exactly about child nutrition. It’s about how notions of fatness, worry about weight, and many aspect of culture converge to make feeding our kids and feeling good about our bodies feel overwhelming and sometimes impossible.

Virginia isn’t a dietitian or therapist yet her writing and social activism champions mothers facing a very complicated world full of pressures that weigh on everything, from what’s packed in their child’s lunch to the size of their thighs and love of baked goods. She’s an incredible voice, a world class journalist, and as a New York Times Best-Selling author, the has taken the complicated issue of weight and anti-fat bias to the next level.

If you’re interested in social issues and larger cultural systems as well as how they impact the way we parent around food, then you will love this book! (If that’s feeling a little heavy and you’re just hoping to figure out whether your daughter needs more iron or calcium or an extra snack after school, then you will want to skip this one—at least for now.)

This book is coming out in April 2023, so stay tuned for a more in-depth review—but judging from her newsletter Burnt Toast, I can almost guarantee it’ll be eye-opening and pressure-relieving for any parent who\’s ever felt inspired to rally back against diet culture.

Best Child Nutrition Book for Understanding & Overcoming Picky Eating

Food Refusal and Avoidant Eating in Children including those with Autism Spectrum Conditions

by Gillian Harris and Elizabeth Shea

Most of the parents I work with use a strikingly similar conversation starter, which is the frustrating complaint: “She is SO picky! She doesn’t like anything!” After that, a longer conversation reveals that, aside from an assortment of vegetables, exotic-sounding sauces, and fish, the child truly has few food limits. This book is NOT for them.  

This book is for caregivers of children dealing children with an extremely extreme form of ‘picky,’ one that can lead to nutritional deficiencies, social isolation, major mealtime stress, and (not surprisingly!) put a major ding in family dynamics.

Extremely picky eaters often reject foods for reasons only they may understand. They’ve often whittled down the list of things they’ll accept to 10, five, or even just three foods or less. (Yes, I once had a patient who are white rice, the liquid from canned beans, and Pepsi. That’s an extreme example of extreme but wanted to give you a glimpse into what some parents are struggling with.)

Usually, extreme forms of food rejection relate to sensory issues, anxiety, or a previous negative incident with food (such as choking or food poisoning, which is one of the issues at play with my rice eater). Note this kind of extreme pickiness is NOT due to concerns about body shape or size.

I find that parents are a mixture of relieved and terrified when I tell them their child’s extreme pickiness has a clinical name, ARFID (avoid restrictive food intake disorder) and can quantify as a eating disorder. That said, you don’t need to have an ARFID diagnosis to benefit from the insights in this book!

And, if you’re raising a child with autism or working with kids on the spectrum on-the-regular then the tips and advice these authors provide will be a godsend to both you and them.

Best for Having More Fun at Dinner

Eat, Laugh, Talk! The Family Dinner Playbook

by The Family Dinner Project

This favorite is one I keep in my kitchen with my recipes not on my nightstand or in my counseling office. It’s packed with easy-to -make meals and, more importantly, fun activities (games, questions, and conversation starters) that make feeling more connected to each other at the table a priority.

Personally, if you’re going to work on any aspect of your eating I think you’ll get the most bang for your buck by prioritizing improving the family atmosphere more than anything else!

When kids feel supported, seen, and understood they’re more likely to better in multiple aspects of life, including with their eating!

Kid who feel stressed or anxious at meals tend to want to avoid them, which can take a toll on the quality of their eating. Kids who feel supported and accepted, as well as less judged and pressured, will continue showing up at the table—which means they benefit from your connection, which can support them long after that particular meal is over.

If you’ve read Diet-Proof, you’ll know this is one of the core reasons I recommend prioritizing have a positive, relaxed attitude towards your daughter’s eating as opposed to approaching it with worry about what she is and isn’t or how much or little she’s putting in her mouth. For more general ideas and inspiration, start by visiting The Family Dinner Project Resources or scrolling to the bottom of the page and connecting with them on your favorite social media channel.

Best Child Nutrition Book Learning How to Food Chain

Food Chaining: The Proven 6-Step Plan to Stop Picky Eating, Solve Eating Problems, and Expand Your Child’s Diet

by Cheryl Fraker, RD, Mark Fishbein, MD, Sibyl Cox, RD, + Laura Walbert, CCC-SLP

First off, this book is loaded with info and tips to help solve a variety of feeding problems, from everyday nuisances (like getting a toddler to sit through a meal) to less common problems (like swallowing issues in the special needs child).

However, the part I think parents will appreciate most is Chapter 6: How Do I Get My Child to Try New Foods? The info here answers the one question nutritionists get on the regular.

Food chaining is a pretty simple process that most people pick up on quickly and the explanation and instructions in this chapter provide the tools you need to do it. It’s also a great primer for any pediatric practitioner who wants to get familiar with the concept so they confidently pass on some  ‘picky eating’ tips of their own.

Best Child Nutrition Book for Foodies

First Bite: How We Learn to Eat

by Bee Wilson

This book tells the fascinating story of the origins of flavor preferences and taste. It’s a journalistic and historical approach to explaining how we learn to eat, which means it gives a treasured perspective on how our kids are learning to eat as well!

If an entertaining yet science-based walk through fields of interesting nutritional, neurological, and psychological research on eating habits sounds like an awesome way to spend an afternoon, then you’ll love this book.

Actually, even if you’re NOT particularly jazzed about the topic, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson has that story-teller quality you just can’t ignore.

Again, this book is written by a journalist not someone how has degree in nutrition counseling or psychotherapy and eating behaviors, so you have to take the insights and reporting more as information and less as a way to approach your own child’s unique challenges or issues.

Still, it’s fascinating and entertaining for anyone who can’t learn enough about food and how we learn to eat!

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links for books I own and use as a parent and/or nutrition provider. If you decide to purchase one after clicking a link, I may earn a small commission, which helps me continue to run this site.

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