Aviva Allen's Blog
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How Much Food Should My Child Be Eating?
As parents we all go through periods where we worry about how much our kids are eating. This is especially true when dealing with a child who is underweight or seems to have a small appetite. It is also true when dealing with a child who is overweight and sneaking food. Yet even when we are dealing with a child who has a perfectly healthy weight, parents will often still wonder if their child is eating enough or too much and how this will affect their future growth and eating habits.
While it is not our job as parents to determine how much our kids eat, there are ways in which we can support them in their eating.
Young children are very good at self-regulating if we let them. This means not interfering with their quantities by the use of pressure tactics. They are the only ones who know how much their bodies need. Even though at times they may eat more or less than they need, they will usually make up for this by making the necessary adjustments at other meals.
Planned meals and snacks
Planning scheduled meals and snacks is one of our feeding responsibilities. Your child should be allowed to eat as much as they want at each sit down meal or snack and will be better able to regulate their amounts compared to being allowed to graze throughout the day. Snacks do not need to be what we tend to think of as “snack foods”. Think of them more like small meals and ensure the same balance that you would at breakfast, lunch and dinner. We should be offering our kids 4-5 opportunities to eat throughout the day so that would mean 1-2 snacks.
Proper spacing between meals and snacks
Use snacks to support mealtime and space them out properly to ensure your child comes to the table hungry, but not too hungry. If you wait too long, some children will be cranky and more likely to have a meltdown at the table while others may overeat. If your meals and snacks are too close together, your child will be more likely to reject what is offered at the table or eat only a small amount. This often results in parental pressure to eat in the form of negotiations and bribery. Your child may legitimately not be hungry and teaching them to ignore their internal huger cues can lead to trouble down the road.
Ultimately it is not our role to determine the appropriate quantity for our children to eat. We provide healthy and balanced meals and snacks. We provide them with a positive mealtime environment. We provide them with structure. Then we need to take a step back and let them do their job. Sometimes they will eat too much, sometimes they will eat too little and sometimes they will not choose to eat from all of the important food/nutrition groups but we need to let them make these mistakes in their eating and then learn to make up for them.
For advice on nutrition and feeding that is specific to your child and your family, call/email or book online to set up an in-office, phone or Skype consultation.