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Eating: Healthy habits for children

Scheduled feeding (to promote hunger and motivation)

  • Offer 3 planned meals and 2-3 planned snacks.
  • Aim for 5-15 minute snacks and 20-30 minute meals.
  • Space feeding times 2-3 hours apart.
  • Do not allow grazing between scheduled feeding times. When feedings are over, put food and milk away until the next scheduled feeding.
  • Offer milk at scheduled feeding times, offer water in between.
  • Do not allow any eating/drinking after bedtime- only water.
  • Make sure the child is getting adequate sleep.

Focused feeding

  • Provide proper seating. Highchairs and booster seats are helpful.  Children should remain at the table until they are done eating.  Timers can be useful.
  • Offer all foods and liquids at the table or in the high chair.
  • Remove distractions from feeding times. No TV, toys, books, pets, computers, iPads, cell phones, etc.
  • Offer age-appropriate utensils and cups to promote focus and independent feeding skills.

Family meals

  • Eat together as a family whenever possible, children learn through imitation and modeling.
  • Set a good example by eating nutritious foods.
  • Make your child a part of the meal, but not the focus of the meal.
  • Provide opportunities for children to eat with their peers.
  • Remove the pressure. Avoid power struggles over food.
  • Parent provides, child decides.
  • Do not force feed, respect their cues.
  • Avoid nagging, bargaining, or bribing.
  • Do not use food as a reward.

Mealtime tips

  • Offer a protein, a vegetable and/or fruit, and a grain at every meal- including at least one preferred food per meal.
  • Offer age appropriate portion sizes.
  • Offer a variety of foods – persistence is key.
  • Rotate preferred foods.
  • Encourage foods before liquids.
  • Remove all foods from packaging.
  • Offer one set of foods per meal, do not offer back up options.
  • Involve children in food preparation, serving, and clean up.
  • Allow for food exploration.


This provides general information. If you have any questions, please ask your doctor, nurse or other health care team members working with your family.

Reviewed by Feeding Clinic 12/2017

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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