Some days, the constant refrain of “I’m hungry” can make you a little worried. Could your child possibly have some sort of parasite? Though it might seem that way, it’s normal for children to want to eat frequently. Fortunately, children are really good at monitoring their own intake, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and you don’t usually have to worry about them eating too much, as long as you’re offering healthy foods and not forcing them to clean their plates.
One of the major reasons kids need to eat more is that their tummies are smaller than adults. Mealtime portion sizes should be smaller and they may not eat enough at one meal to carry them over to the next one. It’s smart to space out meals and snacks so that your child is eating every 2 to 3 hours. Reducing hunger throughout the day can also mean that you will have fewer behavior problems.
When your child was a baby, he may have frustrated you with nursing marathons during his growth spurts. These spurts continue throughout childhood, and during the times when he’s growing, you’ll find that he’s eating more. Allow him to eat extra servings at mealtimes and bigger snacks in between meals.
Sometimes, eating fills a void other than hunger. Your child may be asking for more food because she’s feeling sad, bored or just wants attention. If something seems a little strange about her food requests, like if she’s asking for more food just 30 minutes after lunch, try to distract her for awhile to see if she still asks for food. You may find that reading a story together is what she needed more than food. Alternatively, test if your child is really hungry or not by offering fruit when she’s asking for a cookie. Kids sometimes are just desiring junk food and aren’t really hungry.
Managing Frequent Eating
Parents can agonize over what to feed their children and when. You can give your child some control over his hunger by letting him get himself a healthy snack whenever he wants. Place appropriate foods — fruits, cheese, yogurt, vegetables and cereal — in portion-controlled bags in an easily accessible place. He can grab what he wants, when he wants it. If this control is getting in the way of mealtime eating, though, put a stop to snacking an hour before meals.