Healthy Living: Follow a Feeding Schedule with Kids

Healthy Living: Follow a Feeding Schedule with Your Child to help him regulate appetite, get nutrients and grow well!

Feeding Schedules for Kids

We hear about eating schedules for babies all the time, but a feeding schedule works really well for kids, too. Having a meal routine that offers regular meals and snacks at timely intervals throughout the day can help your child develop and hone his appetite regulation skills — or his ability to eat when hungry and stop when full– and this is the foundation of lifelong healthy eating and living.  

A regular schedule of meals and snacks help children get the myriad requirement of nutrients in their diet on a daily basis (40 different nutrients!), helping children grow well and maintain their health. This feeding schedule may also help normalize appetite cues and reduce hunger complaints.

Let’s look at the typical feeding schedule based on a child’s age:  

What are balanced meals? 

Balanced meals represent most of the USDA MyPlate food groups, including protein foods, dairy foods (or non-dairy substitutes), fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Not only are you aiming for most food groups at a meal, you are also trying to incorporate a variety of foods within each food group. For example, within the fruit group, offer a range of options. In other words, offer most food groups at each meal and don’t offer the same types of food over and over. Mix it up so that your child gets exposed to a number of different nutrients throughout the day. 

A general rule of thumb is to offer four to five food groups at meals, and at least two to three food groups at snack time.

Offer your child at least 4-5 food groups at meals, and at least 2-3 food groups at snack time. Click To Tweet

The Timing of Meals

It is good for children to have a structure to their day, and with meals and snacks, this holds true. Generally, feeding intervals of every three to four hours seem to be most effective in preventing too much hunger and overeating in children. 

What doesn’t work well with children is unpredictable timing when it comes to meals and snacks.  Try to set a daily schedule that stays consistent for meals and snacks in your home. 

For example, breakfast in the morning, lunch at mid-day, an after-school snack, and a dinner at a predictable time. It could look like this:

  • 7 am breakfast
  • 10 am snack
  • 1 pm lunch
  • 4 pm snack
  • 7 pm dinner 

Predictability is Your Friend

Ideally, you want to keep your meals and snacks flowing during the day, especially during the younger years. This routine and rhythm will build predictability and security around food and eating, and help keep undesirable behaviors, such as overeating, at bay.

The emotional response from a child who is unsure about when meals or snacks will be happening can build into an insecurity about food and eating.  This can be seen in rapid eating, preoccupation with food, frequent questioning about when and what is being served for meals, and “sneak eating”.

Promote rhythm in your child’s eating experiences by staying on time, staying balanced and being predictable.  With feeding, this takes a little bit of planning and  practice.   The results? A child who learns to normalize his eating, a healthy weight, and less fixation on food.

Want to see if you’re on track with raising a nourished, healthy child? Snag my checklist!

Send Me How to Nourish a Healthy Child Today! 

Need help with scheduling and planning snacks? Check out my Healthy Snack Planner for Kids!

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  1. Very Informative. A lot to adapt in our life. Age group of 5-15 children need proper nutritious food as the development of children at this age is at its peak. Having right food at right time is essential.
    But many can’t afford and still we are facing malnutrition in children in many countries. Though many charities taking the initiatives to provide food for hungry children through school lunch program, food for street children, malnutrition and hunger are still sin for society.

  2. Thanks Jill. Great topic, Kind of a sensitive one too: how to feed, but not force. How to offer food at predictable times so they feel secure, but also how to let them use their hunger/satiety cues.

    It is an act of balance. Many parents stress too much about their child eating too much or too little, when they sometimes should let go and let flow.

    Nour