Children are most successful when meals and snacks are scheduled and offered when the child is hungry.
Mealtime strategies for children
- Meals should be routine and reliable
- Children should have 3 meals and 2-3 snacks a day
- Snacks should be treated as mini meals and should include healthy items rather than only sweets and carbohydrates
- Encourage interaction with all foods offered (even non-preferred)
- Initiate a “no thank you” bowl, encourage “kissing [the food] goodbye”
- Start meals with the habit of the child and other family members always being seated
- Limit meals to 25 minutes and snacks to 15 minutes
- At the end of the allotted time remove all of the food and liquid and wait until the next meal or snack time (could be only 2-3 hours later)
- Offer 4-6 ounces of a milk/calorie beverage at each meal and snack time
- Do not give child any food or beverage (except water) outside of scheduled meal/snack times
- Do not offer calories between meals and snacks (no liquid or food)
- Offer only water for the 2-3 hours between meals and snacks
- Turn off the TV, radio and put the pets in another place in order to reduce distractions during mealtimes.
- Offer preferred foods just slightly different every other time – different color plate, different utensil, cut into different shape, add cinnamon, etc.
- Offer soft solid foods the size of the child’s thumb for improved oral motor skill demands
- Offer foods with increased sensory flavors for improved bolus transit
- Practice serving food away from the container that the food is purchased in to reduce brand sensitivities and preferences
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