Nine Healthy Eating Habits & Routines for Children with Autism Toronto 



Getting a child to fill up on healthy food earlier in the day, so they don’t turn to junk food when they’re hungry, is a big part of being a responsible parent. However, food aversions, sensory sensitivities, and behavioural challenges can pose distinct challenges when it comes to developing healthy eating habits in children with autism Toronto, however, is the perfect city to find a plethora of professional and culinary expertise. With a little creativity, patience, and consistency, parents and caregivers can cultivate routines that promote nutritious eating and support the health of children with autism. 


Here are nine healthy routines and eating habits tailored to the needs of children with autism in Toronto.


  1. Get The Child Involved In Meal Preparation


Who couldn’t use a little help in the kitchen? Involve your child in meal preparation activities, such as stirring ingredients, washing fruits and vegetables, or assembling sandwiches. This hands-on approach can develop their interest in food and empower them to make more nutritious choices.


  1. Establish Consistent Meal Times 


Having a set meal time gives a child something to look forward to, and mentally prepare for. Build a structured meal schedule with fixed times for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and make some room for snacks as well. This consistency allows children with autism to feel secure and understand what to expect, reducing anxiety around mealtimes. Alternatively, try to offer mini-meals or snacks throughout the day to maintain energy levels and prevent hunger-related meltdowns.


  1. Offer A Wide Variety of Foods


Variety is the spice of life (and delicious dining experiences). Introduce a wide range of nutritious foods, including lean proteins,  fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products. Expand your child’s palate gradually by encouraging exposure and exploration of different textures, colours, and flavours.


  1. Respect Food Preferences and Sensitivities


Not everyone is going to like the same things all the time. Make a list of meals that are a hit with your child and serve those more often. Respect your child’s food preferences and sensitivities and understand that their personal taste might not be the same as yours (or the rest of the family’s). If certain textures or flavours pose a challenge, explore alternative options or preparation methods to accommodate their personal preferences while still providing necessary nutrients.


  1. Model Healthy Eating Behaviours


Kids pick up on the things that adults do and they mimic their behaviour. Lead by example by demonstrating healthy eating habits yourself. Showcasing positive eating behaviours can influence choices and attitudes towards food.


  1. Make Use Of Visual Supports


Sometimes a little walkthrough of what to expect can help to settle the nerves at dinner. Use picture charts, visual schedules, or mealtime social stories to help children with autism understand mealtime expectations and routines. Visual aids can reduce anxiety and provide clarity by offering a sense of predictability.


  1. Create A Calm, Sensory-Friendly Environment


During mealtimes, consider creating a nice place setting with dim lights, silicone spoons, and gentle music. Reduce sensory distractions by minimizing loud noises, bright bulbs, and pungent odours. Look into providing comfortable seating and softer utensils that accommodate sensory sensitivities. This will work towards fostering a calm, enjoyable eating environment.


  1. Utilize Positive Reinforcement


A well-timed hug or high five can go a long way. Be generous with praise and encourage positive eating behaviours, such as using utensils appropriately, trying new foods, or sitting calmly during meals. You can motivate children with autism to continue making healthy choices with a little positive reinforcement.


  1. Seek Professional Support If Needed


At Monarch House, we can help you connect with the professionals you might need when it comes to mealtime preparation and routine.  If these challenges significantly impact your child’s nutrition and well-being, we can put you in touch with a healthcare professional, such as a pediatrician, dietitian, or one of our occupational therapists. They can offer personalized strategies and guidance to address specific needs.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so be patient when it comes to changing the eating habits in your neurodivergent child. Nurturing healthy eating habits in children with autism in Toronto requires patience, flexibility, and a tailored approach that acknowledges their distinct preferences and needs. By building structured routines, offering a variety of food options, and fostering a supportive mealtime environment, parents and caregivers can cultivate nutritious eating habits that contribute to the overall health and well-being of your child for their whole life. With perseverance and some understanding, every mealtime can be an opportunity for exploration, growth, and nourishment.