Tips for Improving Your Child’s Eating Habits

CME WebsitesChild Routines, Mealtime, Parent Routines

General Ways to Improve Your Child’s Eating:

  • Establish a daily schedule for your family
  • Set consistent times for meals and snacks
  • Do not allow eating between scheduled meals and snacks
  • Limit liquid intake between meals and snacks to water only
  • Limit juice and milk intake during meals and snacks
  • Offer a drink only after a child has begun to eat
  • Plan ahead of time what the meal will be
  • Decide how long a meal or snack will last (typically around 30 minutes for meals and 15-20 minutes for snacks, varies depending on age of child and ability)
  • Offer new foods often and repeatedly (a child may need 10-20 exposures before they will eat a new food)
  • Serve food in age-appropriate portion sizes
  • Serve meals and snacks at the table when the child is seated
  • Model good eating behavior for your child by eating a variety of types and textures of foods
  • Ignore minor age consistent behaviors such as occasionally throwing food on the floor, spilling, messiness or banging utensils.
  • Make mealtimes POSTIVE!!! This is VERY important. Patterns of bribing, coaxing or yelling during meals only decreases food intake and leads to more difficulty with eating.
  • Encourage self-feeding when a child is ready even though an adult feeding the child may be less messy or require less time.

Does Your Child Have a Feeding Problem?

For Parents: If you think your child has a feeding problem,  review the questions below and try to keep a record of the following items so that you can accurately report your concerns to your physician and/or therapy team:

  • What foods does your child eat? Keep a food diary and record all the foods and liquids that your child eats/drinks for a week.
  • Does your child have food preferences? Look at your food diary to see if your child eats only foods from a certain food group (ie dairy or fruit) or of a certain type or texture (ie pureed, cold, crunchy, etc)
  • How closely does your child’s diet match your family diet?
  • How much does your child eat?
  • How much does your child drink?
  • What is your child’s meal/snack schedule?
  • How does your child react to new foods you present?
  • How do you present the food to your child?
  • Where does your child eat meals and snacks?
  • Does your child insist on using on one type of dish, cup or utensil?
  • How long does your child take to eat a meal/snack?
  • Describe your child’s typical behavior during meal/snack time


Sources include: Autism and Feeding Problems by Elizabeth Strickland, RD, LD; Pediatric Feeding Disorders by Kyong-Mee Chung and Sung Woo Khang; Treating Eating Problems of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Delays by Keith E. Williams and Richard M. Foxx