Get a Tip
All tips > Everyday stuff > food & eating
>>Food & eating <<
These tips have all been sent in by other parents, carers and professionals in the learning disability community. We hope they will give you plenty of ideas to try, but please remember Netbuddy is not responsible for the information provided or any of the activities suggested.
Ditch the bib
As your child gets older, if they still need protective clothing when eating, replace a bib with an apron. It's less 'babyish' and demoralising for them and may help eliminate any negative feelings they have about mealtimes.
My daughter would mostly refuse to eat. Our breakthrough was letting her choose a DVD for mealtimes. If she didn't eat, I would turn the movie off
Explore different foods
We find 'all you can eat' buffet restaurants a fab way of introducing the children in our care to new foods. We have a few fussy eaters who eat a very limited range of food - this has been a good, relaxed way of exposing them to more possibilities
A great tip for dysphagia: If you run out of prescription thickener, Angel Delight is good in an emergency
These painting aprons from IKEA are fantastic for messy meal times, really easy to put on and a lot cheaper than from the specialist shops.
We love to cut out food pictures from magazines. Its a great shared activity and fab for creating visual menus. We stick our food pics up on the fridge and use to aid choice making. Also works to reinforce messages about healthy eating.
For fussy eaters, grating carrots, courgettes or any other vegetable and making sugar free savoury muffins are a great way of disguising vegetables. I like to add chorizo sausage or cheese for flavour
Autism cooking guide
Has anyone seen The everything guide to cooking for children with Autism book by Megan Hart. Available from Amazon. Its brilliant!
Bean bag tray
My son likes deep pressure and has issues eating certain foods. To to help calm him for eating I bought a tray on a bean bag and that puts pressure on his legs. He calls it his special tray and loves it!
Try a heated bowl
If your child is slow at eating, to stop food getting cold and not very tasty or easy to eat, then use a heated bowl. The kind that you can add hot water to the base. Cold gloopy food makes it even more challenging for a child who has difficulties with chewing and swallowing.
Start the day on an eggI find that eggs do not cause constipation, but actually provide very good mood stabilising food for children with autism. My daughter has eggs every day now and is more robust as a result.
Summertime eating therapy.......
Meals times were always an oppositional nightmare, and became a source of friction every day, so I put a tent up in the garden and suggested we eat in the tent. For some reason the change of scene distracts from what the food is and it gets eaten and I get to lie down whilst he eats!
Get them involvedGet your child involved at mealtimes by getting them to write what to put on first on the table, example: plates, cups, what the menu is today, and also draw pictures and stick them near to the item. I think sitting together at table is important.
Fight the calories
My son overeats constantly and it is a contstant fight to keep him out of the fridge so I drew up a board and velcro'd onto it pictures of the treats he is allowed each day along with pictures of eating meal times. I made up plastic ticks and each time he has something off the list he adds a tick and is getting the idea that when all the ticks are used up eating is finished. We try very hard not to budge when all the ticks are used.
Squeezy fruitFor people who aren't keen on fruit, baby food squeezy pouches of fruit puree are brilliant. They provide brilliant oral feedback too. Have saved many things being chewed in this house!
Snack choicesWe have snack choices on the fridge to help control how much and what our kids eat. When a choice is gone, it is gone and they have to eventually eat the healthy snacks. It helps remind them of the rules as well as encouraging independence.
The Eating GameIf your child has eating challenges and will only eat a limited number of preferred foods (a list that does change over time) then have a look at the Eating Game: Eating Game
Substitute jelly for waterFor children and adults who don't like drinking or find it difficult, give sugar-free jelly instead. Particularly useful in the summer when fluid intake needs to be increased.
My son ate next to nothing for 5 years. No meat, fish, eggs, cheese, fruit or veg. To get him eating, his teacher started with crisps and added a tiny bit of baked bean sauce. Once he was eating that he would put one baked bean between 2 pieces of crisp. Once that was accepted a bit of mashed potato went on. It took about a year but once he was able to tolerate the different textures, my son began to eat more or less everything.
As our daughter, who has Down's syndrome, was bottle fed from the beginning, I tried to use lots of different shaped teats to exercise more muscles and give her more sensations.
Turn it into a game
We found it really hard to get Magdalena to eat lunch, so we came up with this game: to close your eyes & guess what food she's eating.
Make healthy snacks a 'treat'. Make smoothies together. Melt chocolate and dip strawberries and grapes in. Put fruit in jellies .
Our daughter has a chromosome disorder and has developed a habit of holding food in her mouth for long periods before swallowing. If you gently massage each cheek in small circles it encourages her to swallow the food. This techinque is used by many speech and launguage therapists too.
Hide the treats
Toby loves ice lollies, given half the chance he would eat a whole box up in one go. I had a brain wave one day and washed an empty frozen vegetable bag out and put the lollies in there and there hasn't been a problem since. You can apply the idea to other foods eg hide sweets in a muesli box.
Thicken it up
Jojo needs her food pureed. We use instant mash (the powdery type) to get the consistency just right. Be careful though as it thickens more once you have stirred it. For sweet meals we use baby rice or baby breakfasts (up to 4 months on the packet). For the healthy alternative you can use chia seeds or tapioca.
Stop throwing the food about
Henry is always throwing his food around. We found a pot which allows fingers to push through and grab the food, but when he throws the pot the food stays inside. It was a really useful little pot to put snacks in. It’s hard to find but you can make one out of a tupperware container, cut a piece of exercise band place it over the top, hold it in place with an elastic band and cut a small cross in the centre.
Make cakes with the mini cake cases, the smaller sizes can be eaten in one mouthful and are easy to hold, making less mess. Best to use low GI flour such as spelt or quinoa to avoid sugar rush you can sweeten them using stevia.
Ciara doesn't drink much but loves her bedtime milk. I found heating up ribena during the day encourages her to drink it.
Extra caloriesMy son is very skinny, I give him an Ensure drink (you can get them over the counter from any chemists) to boost his calories. They come in lots of flavours.
Add butter, coconut oil or olive oil to each meal to increase the fat content.
Melt in your mouth
Wafer biscuits are good snacks for children who have sensory issues around their mouth. Wafers melt in the mouth
Spice is right
Add turmeric powder to meals to help bones and digestion.
We give all our children "Eye Q" (fish oils) every day as this helps with joints & is renowned for helping children with memory & concentration problems.
Use cinnamon and /or unsweetened coconut to sweeten food rather than sugar - they can also help balance the sugar.
'Glucosamine Hydrochloride' (recommended dose of 1500mg) can help with joint stiffness. After just 5 days of taking this, we noticed a HUGE difference in mobility! It may be possible to get this through the NHS.
Protien's importantProtein with each meal helps release sugars slowly. Which means you feel full longer. Meat, fish,eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, pulses and cheese are all good proteins.
Good snacksHere are some good alternatives to sugary or unhealthy snacks, try: raw nuts (make sure you are not allergic), fruit, raw vegetables. Read the labels of commercial snack bars from health food shops, they can be full of sugar.
Avoid empty CaloriesAvoid foods that have no nutrional value, they make you feel hungry again soon after you eat them and cause weight gain, foods like sodas, sweets, chocolate, pastries, syrups, cakes.
Watch out for diet foodsDiet drinks and foods containing sweeteners and additives upset blood sugar balance and affect brain function: they can casue agitation and anxiety in those susceptible.
Regular meals keep up blood sugar levels and help aviod the loss that can lead to irritability. They stop people from getting hungry and reduce the need for filling up on foods that may cause weight gain.
Got a tip to add to this page? Tell us