Mealtime Behaviour Management Strategies

December, 2021
Managing mealtime behaviour

Helping someone to eat can significantly improve the experience of mealtimes for everyone involved.

Remember helping someone doesn’t necessarily mean physically assisting someone to eat. Wherever possible, everyone is encouraged to eat independently if they can.

Here are some tips to empower you in helping beyond ‘feeding’ someone. Be mindful, each person will benefit from different combinations of the below and the same person may require different strategies on different days.

Eats too fast

  • Offer food in small portions
  • Provide verbal cues to slow down or model slower eating
  • Reassure the person there is plenty of food available

Slow eating and prolonged mealtimes

  • Serve small portions so the food stays warm
  • Consider if they would benefit from 5-6 smaller meals rather than 3 large meals

Eats other people’s food

  • Keep other people’s food out of reach
  • Sit nearby & encourage the person to eat from their own plate

Interrupts food service or wants to help

Give the person a role in the meal service- such as setting the table, pouring water or helping others to the table

Plays with food

  • Remove items
  • Serve smaller portions
  • Provide regular verbal prompts and model eating the food

Distracted from eating

  • Remove distractions, aim to provide meals in a calm and quiet room
  • Ensure the person is ready (e.g., has been to the toilet, has their glasses, dentures, hearing aids if needed)
  • Model eating and provide positive encouragement

Stares at food without eating

  • Use verbal or tactile cues to eat e.g., placing food or utensils into their hands
  • Model eating and provide positive encouragement

Shows impatient behaviour during or before a meal

  • Make sure that the person is not alerted to meals too early.
  • Offer something to eat if they must wait for a meal
  • Consider serving courses (e.g. entrée, main, dessert) one at a time to minimise waiting times
Dietitians Australia
Aged & Community Care Providers Association

Don’t let your residents or budget experience the side effects of malnutrition or dysphagia.
Call us on 1300 850 246 or email and request a call back.

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