Pediatric Feeding Problems: The Importance of Structuring Meals and Snack Times

By Diala M. Salem, M.A., CCC-SLP

The following are helpful strategies to implement at home to help promote success through structure with our little picky and problem feeding friends:

  1. Avoid “grazing” habits: this is when a child eats a meal or snack sooner than every 2-2.5 hours. The challenge with this is that a child will eat just enough to take “the edge off the hunger” so little motivation will be present to work on more difficult foods. Another problem with “grazing” is that when one thinks that a child would be consuming more calories due to more frequent meals, he/she may actually be taking in up to 50% fewer calories in a day than when compared to scheduled meal times.
  2. Establish a routine to a meal: in other words, “let’s make it predictable!” Try the following:
    • Warning: “in 5 minutes…”
    • Transition activity: washing hands
    • Sitting at the table
    • Serve the meal “family style”
    • Eat with your child: engage in a “show and tell”
    • Clean up: use a clear visual or signal such as a “done bowl” or “scraps bowl”
  3. Present foods in manageable bites (and with those children who “over stuff” their mouths, let’s teach and model “bite and pull.”
  4. Limit the time spent on consuming and completing the meal to 15-30 minutes
  5. Portion size: keep in mind the rule of thumb which is 1 tablespoon per year of age
  6. Present only 3 foods at one time: 1 protein, 1 starch, 1 fruit/vegetable
  7. Offer one preferred food at every meal
  8. Allow spitting/vomiting into chosen containers only

Do you have concerns with your child’s feeding habits? Call us to schedule  your complimentary screening!

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