skip to Main Content

10 Tips for Mealtime Success with a Problem Eater

LLA Therapy’s Feeding Specialist, Mallory Hawley M.A., CCC-SLP, gives 10 tips for “Problem Eaters”

Problem eaters are individuals who have less than 30 foods in their repertoire. They often experience food jags, where they continuously eat the same food daily (i.e., Cheetos) and then suddenly don’t want to eat it again (often times never adding this food back into their repertoire.) Families involving a problem eater often experience a great deal of stress around meals. Here are 10 tips for creating a more successful environment.

1. Each meal/snack offered to the individual should include 1 protein, 1 starch and 1 fruit/vegetable. An example of an acceptable snack could include: cheese and crackers with apple slices.

2. Stop being a short order chef. It often seems less stressful to make the child what they want for dinner to eliminate a battle. You aren’t doing you or your child any favors. They don’t get to explore new foods when they are always presented with what they prefer and you are creating more work for yourself. Make one meal for the entire family to share.

3. That being said ALWAYS offer at least one preferred food. Offer enough of it to sustain them if that is all they choose to eat. Yes, that may mean that they only eat bread for dinner some nights. 

4.  Invite your children into the process of creating a meal. Not only is it beneficial to see what ingredients are included in a dish it also provides a wonderful time for language and sensory development as well.
5.  Begin each meal with a preparatory activity (i.e., setting table, washing hands, etc.) as it can help them organize themselves for the next step.

6.  Strive to sit down around the table with no other distractions for meals. Eating has always been a social activity and a great time for family togetherness. It also provides another opportunity for your child to see what others in your family enjoy eating. 

7.  Serve each meal family style (i.e., passing plates around the table.) Use a “no thank you plate” where each member of the family may put a small amount of food that they don’t wish to eat.  Each person is expected to take a spoonful of everything and either put it on their plate or on the “no thank you plate.” Passing foods offers ample amounts of sensory information including the smell of foods, the temperature, interacting with food by spooning some out, etc.

8.  Don’t use dessert as a reward for completing a meal! When you do this the message you are sending a child is that dessert is the best thing in existence and their meal is now the most evil thing because it is between them and the desired reward of dessert.

9.  Limit high calorie drinks between meals as it promotes a feeling of fullness and decreases what they will consume during a meal. Water is the best option for drinks between meals. Don’t allow your child to participate in grazing-type of snacking as it interrupts the hunger-satiation cycle.

10.  Get messy!! Allow your child to explore foods in whatever way they prefer. Make edible play-doh with different spices (i.e., gingerbread), colored noodles to explore, or edible finger-paint.

Back To Top

Patient Reviews

LLA Therapy

Patient Reviews

Crystal Scheibe

Great place, glad we found them. Been going to Medina over 2 months now and he loves Lauryn and Kyler. Wish they had more ABA therapy places available... live in Wooster and long drive everyday.

Karrie Swan LaRock

My 11 year old son has dyslexia and has made noticeable gains in working At LLA THERAPY. Katie is strong in her approach toward him and also keeps him comfortable enough to perform well. We will continue visiting both the Fairlawn and Hudson offices and recommend them highly.

Ron Monroe

My 9 year old just completed about 9 months of weekly speech sessions (due to his stuttering) with Matt Hagge at LLA and we are thrilled with the experience and results. What I thought might be a negative (what kid really wants to go to speech class?) was made very positive by Matt, and my son never hesitated or complained when we talked about class. He really enjoyed it and really took what Matt taught him to heart. His speech has been greatly improved and we definitely recommend LLA. Thank you so much!

Heather Dougherty-Pantoja

My son’s Occupational Therapist, Jess, is an amazing OT! She gives practical tips on working with my son at home and school!

Terri Apgar

I cannot say enough good things about LLA Therapy. My daughter was a client of Teal Simmons’ for approximately 2 years and was just released from speech therapy! She was diagnosed with Apraxia in 2015 and worked with Teal twice a week. Through Teal’s application of PROMPT therapy, my daughter had age-appropriate speech after one year. All of the staff we interacted with at LLA were absolutely wonderful. They really care about what they do and making sure your child achieves their goals.

Kelli Geisler Davisson

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for my son as well as my family! My son always asks, "When can I go see Ms. Jeannine again, is it Monday??" He has also made huge gains in only 5 months! I would highly recommend LLA and have already shared my experience with friends looking for services!

Victoria Hansford-Price

We are so grateful for our Speech Therapist Ms.Teal. We have seen a great improvement with our sons confidence and communication abilities since we have started "Prompt" therapy. What we love the most about LLA and Ms. Teal is that Kohl feels comfortable and relaxed which has played a critical role in his progress. Thank you Ms. Teal for all you have done.

Laura Lee Hogsett

They have helped in numerous ways. Speech, OT and behavioral. I've had numerous compliments on my son's progress thanks in very large part to LLA. I would recommend LLA before I recommend our local children's hospitals, though they are good, they don't have the staff that LLA does.

Amy Furukawa

We had a great experience with Matt Hagge at LLA! Our Middle School age son was becoming very conscious of his voice, which is nasal due to a cleft palate. Matt helped him to better form his sounds and project his voice in a way that makes the unavoidable nasality less noticeable.Our son is more confident and outgoing & even took on a speaking role in the church play. Matt has the perfect personality to relate with our son, and we would recommend him to anyone needing speech therapy services!

Jessica Havalotti

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for our daughter. I would highly recommend LLA. Miss Grace was so amazing and I can't believe how quickly our daughter showed improvement. Thank you!
Read More