It’s true that we have an incredible understanding now of what is required nutritionally-speaking for optimum health.
But there is concern amongst many health professionals that parents are frequently vastly over-estimating the amount of food children can and/or need to eat.
If a child relishes food and it becomes habitual to consistently eat larger than necessary portions, it is only too evident how this may contribute to the likelihood of obesity.
On the other hand, if a child insists that they are not hungry and/or cannot eat the full plate of food offered, a great deal of unnecessary stress can ensue for both parent and child. And this can exacerbate or even cause fussy eating habits.
Either way, the danger is that the child is not encouraged to trust their internal hunger and satiation cues and doesn’t learn to tune in to their body’s unique needs.
Which is why I advocate that, for most children, if they say they’re not hungry, they’re probably not.
If they don’t finish their plate, they’re likely telling you that they’re full rather than being ‘fussy’.
And if they ask for a snack or they say they’re hungry a little while later, this could well be the case. A toddler’s fist is tiny, and this is the approx size of his tummy too – and sometimes even smaller. It fills quicker than ours, and empties quicker than ours; eating little and often makes a lot of sense.
So rather than overly-stressing when they don’t clear their plate or empty their lunchbox, can I suggest that we focus on being grateful that they’re still maintaining their innate capacity to listen to their body, and haven’t yet overridden or learnt to ignore this inner guidance.
I’m not denying it can be hard, but as far as possible, let’s give them the benefit of doubt and trust that they know their own body better than we do.
Let’s offer plenty of healthy choices, but ultimately let THEM tell US how much they need to eat and not the other way around.
HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR
I'm a mama of 3 and a parenting coach specialising in picky eating and mealtime stress.
I'm passionate about inspiring parents to enjoy mealtimes & help their children develop a healthy long-term relationship with food.
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