How to get a child with Autism to eat more?

My son is three years old and has autism. He doesn’t have a very good appetite most days. But lately, he will only eat once and day with a few snacks here and there. I do give him Pediasure, but I just feel like he’s not getting what he needs. Advance? Home remedies? Help a momma out! Thanks in advance!!


Help a mama out and respond anonymously on our forum. How to get a child with Autism to eat more?

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OT services help with food aversions.

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To help you with the vocabulary just so you know as you learn about your son, he is autistic. Autism isn’t something you have. You are born neurodivergent. My middle son is also autistic. He also has adhd and appetite is a big struggle. They go in cycles that ebb and flow with appetite. Feed as much as able on the appetite days, don’t stress over the non-appetite days. Keep diet as varied as he allows and tolerates. He’ll eat as his body demands. Keep providing options. The less you honestly stress, the lower their anxiety/sensory response such that appetite is more readily self regulated. Also consider providing a snack for his bedroom that he can have in case he wakes up and is a little hungry.


My son is 16 and has always been the same, also with ASD. He’s thin but healthy. I find over time it evens out, like one day he will eat a ton at one meal, one day he just seems to snack all day, one day he eats two decent meals. It usually works out. Just speak with your dr about supplements and vitamins you may want to include. It can definitely be a challenge so I feel for you!

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Autism Inclusivity is a great group to join! It’s ran by autistic adults who want to help your child! Join, and just lurk for a while. Read the files on the page. Use the search bar to find food aversions. It’s really helped me with my son.


My 3yo goes through this also. She has this baby doll though and sometimes I offer food to the doll and then I offer her a turn and some times she takes it and sometimes she doesn’t

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My nephew has sentory and has issues


Get him in OT. Sensory issues may be a big part of it.


This book helped me through so much with my son, he’s 15 now and I still have to use a trick or two.


He needs occupational therapy (OT)


April Kennedy Alexander Wangler

Our daughter is Autistic, I think for her certain foods she avoids due to texture or smell, so try to determine what his aversions are, I make some things that she likes homemade (like muffins, pancakes, ‘sausages’ which are any meat patty but she eats them if I call them ‘sausage’ lol)
There is so much you can sneak into these by making them homemade, like mix in some puréed or grated veggies and if they don’t notice…success!
I do buy lots of the kinds of things she does like that are actually healthy, she loves most fruit. Our pediatrician said she’s doing well, but I do give her a kid’s multivitamin to help round out her nutrition on her pickiest days.

Hang in there it can be tough, ours was mostly non verbal until 3-4 years old. Breakthrough in communication made this process easier and meltdowns lessened.
We have her in OT and Speech.
Good luck​:heart::four_leaf_clover:


autism or not. normal to have a weird appetite… may try to split meals into a muffin tin tray, gives choice and variety.


My son did a feeding therapy with an Occupational Therapist for a couple of months that really helped. I think it helped me just as much, I learned how to manipulate foods to increase the variety of foods he would eat.


he may have sensory issues with it, an occupational therapist might be a good place to start. some food textures can cause issues.

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Kids at that age can be grazers anyways… dont worry to much momma. He will when he needs, just make sure he pees and poos and is gaining weight even if it’s slow amount of weight. Every kid is different! #autismmommatoo

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Try a plate with compartments. Cover proteins, fruit, vegetables and dairy, wholegrains, or as many of these as possible. Your child will reject some of it repeatedly but try to persevere as it is what we are meant to eat anyway. I read somewhere that food may be rejected as many as 17 times before being tried and accepted.

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Find foods he likes. Make eating fun.


Yes. Textures, mixing foods, colors. Not always gonna fly. Kiddo may not be able to realize exactly what’s up with the food they are rejecting, but believe them and try other food. If it’s texture- try a new form. Taste, different or no spices. May take a while before you figure out what works. I’m 37, autistic and sometimes I can’t even eat. Growing up I was punished for My hatred of mushy. If I can’t chew it- I don’t eat it. Also, not always able to regulate when hungry. So maybe try co eating. At regular times that you eat, sit together. Plate for you small plate for kid. Don’t force eating but talk through your experience. So creamy, so cheesy. So sweet. Might be able to interest kid as well as put language to the sensations. 3 is young, but could be very alert. Also put healthy grazing things around. It’s gonna be mostly observation and trial and error.

Also, 3 yr olds are tough to get to eat regularly

Finding Cooper’s Voice

My 3 year old girls (one is now 10 years old one is currently 3) both have/had terrible appetites at this age. My oldest grew out of it. I’m hoping my 2nd girl will do the same but she’s on the spectrum as well so I’m curious to see if there is a difference.

I used “dipits” to get them to eat more. It’s basically making things dipable. I’d cut things into strips and give them a small bowl with sauce to dip it into. Sometimes letting them choose the sauce helped too…

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Feedingpickyeaters on instagram could be helpful

My son severe autism has been the same he hasn’t been eating pretty much nothing its worrying me also any suggestions or should I take him to our dr

As a mama to two autistic kiddos, both have sensory issues, oral motor and tactile challenges - food aversions are huge in our house. I keep trying, keep making all the foods and just keep offering it. When they do try something new, no matter how long it takes, I celebrate that with HUGE positive reinforcement of excited verbal praise. It’s not easy dealing with food aversions, just know this, it’s not about them not wanting to try because they’re being difficult but more out of anxiety to try because to them, new things are scary as just about everything in this world that we with typical brains can tolerate are intolerable or unmanageable to a Neurodivergent brain. Keep offering and don’t push, as pushing will lead to straight up fear which will lead to refusal of wanting to try.

An OT - occupational therapist can also help with desensitizing his aversions with helping to create a sensory plan to address the root of his sensory defensiveness.

Many years experienced with this, you got this!!


My son is 5 and autistic and has been very picky about what he will eat. We’ve been trying to expand as much as possible, but on his terms. It’s been working pretty well. If we try and get him to eat something new, he has to look at it close and smell it first, sometimes will lick it to get a taste. Just keep trying momma, you’re doing great!

I wouldn’t worry about it. Eating 3 meals a day is actually not the way we should be eating that isn’t how our ancestors ate.
I’ve always eaten like that, one real meal and snack the rest of the day. My Mom use to freak. Especially since it was a fight to get me to eat breakfast. My stomach isn’t awake enough yet. Most kids will not starve themselves, if they get hungry they eat. Long as he isn’t dumping weight. Much better too let him learn his appetite then having someone do it for him. I would keep using the Pediasure, it will make sure He gets the nutrients He needs.


My son was like that he would eat what he wants.and now at 7yo he eats ramen and sandwiches and some meats.and peanut butter or jelly sandwiches. I guess he had a big growth spurt.

My son is 7 and only eats a little bit and may snack some throughout the day…he has moderate autism and it’s not much you can do but offer food throughout the day and see if he wants it. Can’t make him eat though just try to encourage him or offer it to him

Autism aside momma. I think it could be his age! My babe at 3 didn’t want to eat anything! She is 4 and not much has changed!I wish I didn’t (I am not advising you do lol) but I make her noodles and butter or a pb&j most times to avoid the struggle at the dinner table. I know she’ll eat if I make her something she likes. My hubby forces her to eat and she does. It’s a daily struggle lol

Mine is now 16, is 50th percentile for height and weight, and still eats the portions of a small child! They can’t take multi-vits but actually the only thing they’ve ever been short of is vitamin D which is common where we live. Just make sure the snacks are fruit/veg orientated and get them drinking proper fruit juices. Remind them to eat too but otherwise don’t worry too much.

My son is 5, non verbal and autistic. Eating is our main struggle. I could put a whole chocolate cake in front of him and he would never touch it. Won’t eat chicken nuggets or hot dogs or anything. Recently my son actually started losing weight and I feel like I’m failing as a mom but he just won’t eat anything :disappointed: just know you’re not alone in this

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My grandson is autistic and i have raised him all his life he is now 25.all he would eat after the bottle was milk and bread. Then he moved to pbj and chicken nugets and ff to this this day ne will only eat a few things he has all ways been healthy please dont worry you are doing a great job he will eat when hungry just keep on offeren him something good luck

Food therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy. There are so many resources available online as well, you can research different methods. Some YouTube videos about ideas, every child is so different when it comes to textures, and sensory issues. I know this struggle all to well, my son is now nine but at one time he lived off of pediasure, pbj, and muffins. It can get better with time and supports :pray:t2::heart:


As a nurse who was a case manager working with children I can make some suggestions. You may want to get your son a referral from his pediatrician to see an occupational therapist. With sensory issues that many autistic children have, it could be textures that bother him or how the food he’s eating feels in his hands. An OT can help him to learn how to figure that out. He may need to see a behavioral pediatrician or neurologist as well due to his autism, especially if the autism severe. Trying ABA therapy (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy would also be a huge help. Those kinds of therapists come into his environment whether it’s at home or pre-school and would work with him several times a week. Check out what his benefits from the McKay Scholarships as that is a National program is available to kids with autism. If he is involved in a pre-school that’s part of a public school, get him a care plan called a 504 which is also a federal program for children with disabilities. The reason why I mention it is that can allow your son to get OT and PT at school to help with sensory issues.

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There’s…not really enough information here.
So here’s some general info:

  1. Is he constipated? Constipation tends to be pretty common in kids with autism, and it can very much lead to a lack of appetite. If you haven’t addressed this with his doctor then that should be the first step.

  2. If that isn’t an issue, how much does he drink? What is he drinking? If he’s drinking a lot of milk then that will definitely curb his appetite (my SPD kiddo does this). One thing we did was tricking our child. We actually added just a tiny bit of coffee creamer to water (just enough to color the water white). That seemed to help a ton, in the way of increasing his appetite. You could also do first then. First he eats x then he gets milk.

  3. look at how much he’s actually eating. Remember that his belly really isn’t that big. The size of his fists put together at most.
    And everyone is different. My kids tend to be grazers. If allowed they’ll have little snacks off and on all day over structured meals. We just try to make sure those snacks are relatively healthy (fruit. Harvest snacks. Nuts ECT)

  4. Is his lack of eating sensory aversions? Again. SPD kiddo does this. And here what we found to be valuable was to look at the similarities between the foods he would eat. Color. Texture. Flavor.
    Then introduced foods that were similar to those texture profiles.
    So he seems to really prefer red, yellow, and orange food. He likes spicy food. Sweet food. Crunchy food.
    We introduced harvest snaps (as a replacement for regular chips). We introduced chili, tacos, salsa, apples, bananas, and a few other things because they fit his preferences and made him more willing to try them.

  5. This one is difficult and it heavily depends on your child. We made a lot of progress for a while but lately he’s started refusing to eat in favor of snacks. So we’re kind of towing the line between having rules around it and not making his issues worse.

The last thing I would say is talk to your son’s OT (if he has one. If not ask about it). They might be able to help.

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There really is not enough info to go on so there maybe some generalisations here.
If he has sensory processing issues there could be a number of issues at play from texture of foods to not liking the feeling of his stomach being full, to constipation.
Heres what I’d do;

  • contact your Dr to raise your concerns and get advice.
    -Keep a food/toilet diary for a bit. Use this to make sure he’s regular and to track exactly what calories/nutrition he’s getting. This will check the constipation issue and may put you at ease as he may be getting enough from his snacking.
  • Focus less on getting him to eat a wide variety of things and more on getting him to eat a couple of things from each food group. It really doesn’t matter for example if he’ll only eat mash but not chips, roast potatoes etc. If he only likes two vegetables then give him those two vegetables.
  • it may be his natural rythmn/preference to graze. There’s no issue with this nutritionally as long as the snacks are balanced. Make him up some grazing plates and let him eat them at his pace.
  • Make sure he has access to and is drinking enough fluids and be careful of milk intake as this fills bellies.

Carnation instant breakfast Is really good for them. Try making a smoothie other wise just plain is good. God Bless

Its normal for all small kids to barley eat all week but 2 days out of 7 to eat a lot there are many studies on this ive found since i was worried about the same with my 2 and a half year old

Make his favorite things to eat. Try that. Sounds like you have him covered regardless.

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Have you tried looking at or any other online kid plated foods you may pick at for picky eaters.

Pedicure has everything he isn’t getting. If you stop giving him those which is like a protein shake he won’t be full for food. Give him food first if he refuses and after an hour give him one.

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My 8 year old lives on pizza, plain noodles, strawberries and peanut butter and jam sandwiches😭those are the only consistent foods he eats, so although not as bad as your situation, I kind or know the feeling so you aren’t alone! I feel like as long as he’s eating and not starving, I don’t care what he eats lol

Sensory issues are very real when it comes to autistic children…my toddlers eat a lot of nuggets, pizza rolls, and Vienna sausages. Trying different things is a must, to find things they’re willing to eat. Luck momma!!

Find the things he does like, & just stick to those & the shakes. He will be ok. Introduce new stuff that’s bland & do it slowly.
Mashed potatoes, Mac and cheese, yogurt, pudding, oatmeal, cream of wheat, shredded cheeses, noodles, scrambled eggs, toast with flavored butter, bananas, berries, ect.
Meats usually take a bit for kids to adjust to anyway so don’t sweat that.

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If he won’t eat big meals do more small, snack meals instead. I’m the same way. I prefer snacking so I eat alot of snacks that are high in protein like yogurt and granola bars.

It’s so hard at that age to not worry but keep in mind that when they are hungry they will eat. My son enjoyed carnation instant breakfast drinks; it was recommended by one of his doctors and he still drinks them several years later.

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Talk to dietitian but in mean time see if you can get them to try small amount of something similar to what they like. (If they like toast with melted butter and are not allergic to nuts maybe try toast with melted creamy pb) it doesn’t always work (I have a nephew who is autistic and always been very picky) just have to keep trying til you find what works usually :frowning:

Don’t force it. My only advice. I used to really really worry about my kids and would be panicking emailing their dietician. Now I just go with the flow :joy:

Both of my children have autism and I don’t even worry about this anymore. My eldests (also 3) eating issues started around 10 months.

I just give him what I know he’ll eat. Rice, plain spaghetti pasta and the green tub Pringles :roll_eyes::joy: (obviously I don’t give him the whole tub at once lol)

And then I put liquid vitamins in milk for him at bedtime, he loves milk still but only allowed it once a day to not replace it with food.

My 2 year olds issues with food started a lot later he was a great eater, but around a year now we’ve had the same issue. And I’ve done the exact same thing with him

Both thriving and putting on weight. I give veg with every Meal even if I’m giving them rice and spaghetti and I know they won’t touch it but it is there so they get used to seeing it and they know what it is.

Also my kids are most likely to eat chicken nuggets from the oven if any meat so I get the quorn ones sometimes which are higher in fibre and protein. There’s lots of little options that are slightly better for them that look the exact same so they wouldn’t know! My 3 year old knew straight away :roll_eyes::joy: but my 2 year old eats them sometimes. Xx

Also I’m sure you have but watch what foods it is he isn’t liking. He could’ve just decided he doesn’t like something now and doesn’t know how to communicate that to you.

My kids don’t eat wet food or big chunks of food.

I cut everything down to like literal rice size because they like To pick small bits up with the very ends of their fingers. (The things we notice when we have to​:joy::rofl::roll_eyes::woman_facepalming:t4:)

Have you tried juicing fruits and vegetables? My daughter loved when I made her juice (beets, cucumbers, apples, carrots, etc) and she hates most fruits and vegetables

My son is 8 and has 2 sidekick pedisures a day 1/2 a serving of chow main in the morning and 1/2 for dinner 2 bags of funions1.75oz bags and one bag of cookies lol belvita a day and he drinks 3-4 4oz water and 2 5-6 oz of juice and he’s on the soectrim everyday we introduce a new food always offer him new choices but like his food therapist said he will try it but he’s not ready to change his routine I also give him vitamins in his juice he has no idea I do this and still drinks it trust me I know how you feel

We offered a few healthy items for breakfast, lunch dinner and a few snacks. He will eat when hungry. Most kids this age don’t eat but snack more then enjoy a whole meal.

My son likes to dip.every thing in ketchup i mean everything i dont care if he has bannana maybe ranch or peanut butter bbq sauce worth a shot dipping is repetitive for him too

Stop the snacks in between meals .it might work .

My son has sensory issues with certain textures, he won’t eat anything “wet” or that can make a mess on him. I get him to try new foods by licking it first (he won’t bite it). He was like that around 2. Just recently his palate has expanded and he has started eating more. Some foods he has to be fed still though by me. It takes time but just try to pay attention to his reactions toward foods. Maybe there’s certain textures he doesn’t like. Routine is also a big help. Some kids with autism do best with a strict routine

Leave snacks out. If he likes TV let him watch it while eating during meals. May help too put him in a highchair with a tablet in front of him. I know it’s not recommended but if he likes TV desperate times you can be flexible. I know I sure am!

Look into food therapy