Is Your Child Always Hungry?
“Mom, I’m hungry!” yells your child
“But…” you say, “You’ve just eaten lunch!”
“I know, but I’m still hungry,” your child replies.
As a mom, it’s hard to refuse our children when they’re hungry. But at the same time, we want to be careful about encouraging irregular eating habits or about our child gaining weight, especially if there’s a history of obesity.
On average, our kids require 3 meals and 2-3 snacks to help cover their daily energy needs. Ideally, if they’re growing normally and their weight gain is steady, their eating patterns shouldn’t worry us. But if there’s an insatiable, inexplicable hunger, it might be a sign that something else is going on. And we need to address these underlying issues.
Here are a few reasons why our children say they are ‘hungry’ even if they really aren’t.
1. Boredom, stress, frustration.
Sometimes children find it difficult to express their emotions and use ‘hunger’ to express feelings like boredom, fear, stress etc. To keep this from growing into an unhealthy pattern, we need to talk to them, help them learn the difference between various emotions and how to handle them. This could go a long way in curbing ‘emotional eating’ as they grow older.
2. They are distracted during mealtime.
When kids watch TV at meal times, they don’t register how much they are eating, and may eat less than usual.
3. They’re going through a growth spurt
During growth spurts, there might be a sudden increase in appetite. To handle the increased hunger, we could provide nourishing, satisfying food – nuts, cheese, fruit, whole grain crackers, homemade muffins etc. rather than chips or sweets.
4. Kids are not on a regular routine of meals
Kids who ‘graze’ (eat small snacks whenever they feel hungry) are less likely to eat a regular meal, and so feel hungry more frequently. We need to gently discourage grazing and create a regular routine. For example: If our child feels hungry in the evening, we can announce that dinner will be served early and include a variety of food so that he can get his fill.
What else can we do to make sure our child’s hunger is satisfied?
- 1. Start with a nutritious breakfast as it will help in regulating hunger and snacking habits through the day.
- 2. Involving our child in the daily menu planning will allow them to feel a sense of control and also look forward to mealtimes.
- 3. Protein-rich foods are great for hungry kids as they not only keep them fuller for longer but are also important for their growing bodies. Example: peanut butter toast, Fortified milk such as NIDO® FortiGrow, cheese, mixed nuts.
- 4. Sometimes our kids mistake thirst for hunger, so we need to ensure our child drinks enough water through the day and in between meals.
If these tips don’t help in regulating your child’s hunger, it may be wise to check with the pediatrician who can help overrule a medical condition.