Posts Tagged 'parenting'

The Endless Eater

Although many parents are concerned about their children eating healthy foods, there are also some who need help with a child who seems to eat endlessly.  These parents have observed that if there is food available, their child will continue to eat.  So if the advice is to let your child decide when they have had enough to eat, what do we do with these children, let them eat endlessly?

That might not be a bad first step.  What would happen if you let the child eat until they decided that they had enough?  How long would they actually continue to eat, especially if you are choosing what foods to offer?  By demonstrating to your child that you are willing to let them make the decision to stop you are proving that you respect their ability to make this decision.  Sometimes allowing them to eat as long as they would like to, assures your child that they are truly in control of their food intake and that there will be enough food if they need it.  This may offer the child enough security to start to eat only what they need at the time.

There are other reasons why a child may seem to eat too much at a snack or meal.  Consider the timing of meals.  If meals are too far apart, then when a child is offered food they may eat as much as they can for as long as they are allowed.  They are protecting themselves from becoming over-hungry and/or because they don’t trust that the next offering of food will happen within a comfortable time for them.  Most children need to be offered a snack or meal every 2.5-3.5 hours.  If this is regularly not happening a child may eat for as long as possible when given the opportunity.

Some children have very high pleasure responses to foods.  These children are eating because it tastes good, eating gives them pleasure.  These children need to be reminded that we stop eating when our bodies feel full, or sated.  After a reasonable amount of food has been eaten ask this child, “Are you felling full, does your belly feel like you have had enough?” Keep helping your child to become sensitive to the feeling that food gives their body, not just their tongue/brain connection.  Guide them to feel a connection between food and reaching a comfortable fullness.  If a child appears to have eaten too much you might ask, “I know that food taste good, but how does your stomach feel?  Is it too full?” Remind them that they need to feel their bellies during eating to know when to stop.

Some children start a meal with gusto.  They can’t seem to get the food in fast enough.  Then you may notice that their pace starts to slow, they are becoming easily distracted, and they are engaging in more conversation or starting to play with others or their food.  As soon as that starts, ask this child if they have had enough food.  Let them know that they can have more later, but maybe now is a time to take a break.  Let them leave the table and find something else to do if the food will be too much of a distraction.

Keep in mind that children offered healthy foods at regular intervals over the course of their week will take in the nutrients and energy that they need.  Once you have done this your job is to only offer suggestions or observations when you feel that eating is becoming inappropriate. Connecting the inappropriate eating with an undesirable effect allows the child to realize that they need to make a change.

Preschool Lunches- No Big Deal

Many parents tell me that their child doesn’t eat their packed lunch.  This doesn’t surprise me when I see the portions that are typically packed. When parents see what comes home from a packed lunch where the portions were too large, it looks as if the child ate very little, which is exactly how much they should be eating. 

Do you know what a serving of vegetables or pasta looks like for a toddler or preschooler?  You might be surprised.  I have been observing the lunches sent in by parents at a local preschool.  This preschool does a beautiful job at lunch, putting each child’s packed lunch on a plate and giving them a cup of water and utensils to eat with.  All of the children eat together at a table, assisted by the staff. 

However, the serving sizes of foods are usually way too big.  As just one part of a lunch consisting of 4 or more different foods, I have observed a 1 cup portion of fried rice, a 1 cup container of yogurt, a whole sandwich, ½ cup of crackers, a large apple (sliced) and ¾ cups of pasta salad.  Children ages 2-5 don’t eat or need that much at one meal and these serving sizes are sending the wrong message.  When adults constantly see over sized portions at restaurants, they start to believe that this serving is the appropriate amount that they should eat, but it’s not.   So sending a child too much food, even if it is nutritious food, sends the message “this is how much you should eat.”  No wonder so many of our children are overweight or obese.   

Young children have small stomachs so they need smaller meals and a few snacks throughout the day.  Lunch can consist of 4 choices, at the very most.  Children can become overwhelmed with too many choices.  Examples of serving sizes for preschoolers are:

1/2 -3/4 cups milk or 1 ounce of cheese (one slice) or 4 ounces of yogurt

½ -1 slice of bread or ¼ cup crackers

1 tablespoon of fruit or vegetable per year of age.  (A three year old would receive 3 tablespoons berries)

1 tablespoon of meat, or beans per year of age

1 egg

An exmple of an appropriate lunch for a 4 year old is:

½- 1/3 cup fried rice

4 tablespoons diced chicken

4 slices of apple

4 small carrot sticks

Milk can be served with lunch, but keep in mind that preschoolers only need 2 cups of milk a day, so serving water is fine.  Keep lunch child sized for your child.   You will be surprised how much they eat.