“I’m hungry!” – two words that strike fear into the hearts of even the most experienced parents. When children need food, they mean it!
Unfortunately, we’re not always sure how we should respond as parents. Yes, we want our kids to feel full, but whipping up a meal at 10 pm isn’t exactly fun.
So what can you do? Here we share our tried-and-tested tips on how to foster a positive relationship with food and systematize how you deal with your kids’ hunger once and for all!
Respect Their Hunger Cues
When kids tell you they’re hungry, they’re not trying to be annoying. Instead, they’re vocalizing unpleasant feedback from their bodies. Don’t force them to eat when they are not hungry, or stop them from eating when they are hungry. This approach can cause them to lose trust in their body’s sensations, potentially leading to over- or under-eating later on.
Instead, offer them regular meals and snacks that are balanced and nutritious, and let them decide how much they want to eat. This way, they can calibrate requirements for their body.
Remember, children are extremely diverse. One kid’s body shape and nutritional requirements can vary significantly from another’s.
Teach Them About Hunger And Fullness
The next step is to help them put words to the sensations their bodies produce. Feeling hungry isn’t a nice experience, but kids might not understand what it is.
Teaching them about different types of hunger also makes them more self-aware. For example, physical hunger usually comes on gradually, affects the stomach, and can be satisfied by any food. Emotional hunger usually comes on suddenly, affects the head or heart, and craves a specific food. There’s a big difference between the two!
As a parent, you never know when hunger is going to strike your children. That’s why it’s a good idea to have easy snacks for kids standing by. You want something you can just grab in an instant, so you don’t have to wait for mealtimes. Kids who are too hungry may look for unhealthy options outside of the house or gorge themselves at dinnertime and wind up feeling sick.
Make Mealtimes A Pleasant Experience
Don’t turn mealtimes into a battleground. Ensure they are a pleasant experience for all parties involved.
Parents often try to control food intake and quality, but this is often a losing battle. The best approach is to model healthy eating yourself and generally ignore what your child is doing, trusting their biology to do the hard work for you.
Mealtimes should feel like a pleasant experience and a chance to catch up on the events of the day. Kids should want to come to the table and take part in the food. They should also have some ownership over what you serve and how you present it.
Don’t Criticize Yourself
Lastly, don’t skip meals or criticize your own body weight. This sort of behavior can brush off on kids, causing them to adopt unhealthy practices. Be a positive role model around them if you can.