A large population of parents these days is struggling with their kid’s meals and the one of the topmost complaints that parents have is that their child is never sufficiently hungry to be able to finish their lunch and dinner. They state that their child is only snacking for most part of the day and is not eating what can be termed as a full square meal. Let’s look at some of the common causes that lead to a child who eats only snack sized meals all day long and eventually ends up waking in the middle of the night because he/she is hungry.
Are you one of those parents who offer milk to your child multiple times a day? Stop it right away because your child is too full from the milk all the time to be able to eat anything else substantially. Offering milk as soon as the child returns from school or playground or a place where he has probably burnt away all the body’s energy and needs a wholesome meal is the number one culprit when it comes to spoiling your child’s appetite. Give your child the recommended amount of milk as per his age group and don’t fuss about it if it is lesser than what he should be consuming. It’s not a big deal and the same nutrients can be found in other dairy as well as non-dairy sources too. Plus, milk is quite heavy to digest and is a meal in itself. So next time you think of offering milk to your child..stop and think..is it the right time? is there anything else that he can eat instead? Can I give him some other form of dairy like yoghurt or the hundreds of different varieties of cheese or some homemade dessert made with milk or should I just wait for sometime and offer him lunch/ dinner instead?
2. SPACING MEALTIMES INCORRECTLY
This one is again a game changer when it comes to your child’s eating capacity. Are the mealtimes very poorly spaced or are you offering him food every now and then in the hope of getting him to eat just about anything? Let’s say you just came home from somewhere and its already lunch time but the lunch is not yet ready. You hand over a bowl full of crackers or juice or other snacks to your little one and cook in the meanwhile. By the time lunch is ready your child’s hunger has already disappeared or he is almost too full to eat anything any soon. For you it might seem like just a few Goldfish or veggie sticks or whatever snack that it was. But that “little” snack was enough to fill your child’s stomach at least for a while. So plan your chores around your kid’s mealtimes and make sure they get the meal that they were supposed to at the specific time. And have a sufficient gap between meals and snacks and don’t let them munch on something just because they are bored or as a distraction from something else.
3. NOT LETTING THEM GO HUNGRY
This might seem as a cruel thing to do but hey, it’s perfectly ok to be hungry for a little while and no one eats better than a child who is super hungry. Parents nowadays are uber protective of their children and can’t see their kid in an uncomfortable situation for even a second. As soon as the kid says that he wants something to eat..he gets something to eat. And the same goes for almost any other thing that the kid wants. I am not asking you to keep your child hungry for hours just because that will ensure that he eats well. All I mean to say that five to ten minutes here and there are not going to make or break your child. It is important for them to learn patience and just wait for a few minutes if the food is not ready at the moment they want it. Remember, the minute you hand them a cookie just to make them feel better while you set the table for dinner you have lost it. Don’t expect your child to eat well later and be ready for the next snack in a short time since that cookie was not all that filling you know. There you go..a series of never ending snacks just because you could not see your child hungry for a few minutes!
4. IRREGULAR BEDTIMES
This one is one of the most underrated causes which can cause quite a havoc. Mealtimes and sleep times are the two most crucial things in the lives of growing children and both can equally affect the health and long-term well being of your child. Waking up too late is bound to push all the meals of the day ahead of their normal times and in turn affect the amount of food that they will eat. Let’s say your child is used to waking up at 7 am on most days and he wakes up at 9 am on the weekend because you stayed up late the night before. By the time you child will finish breakfast it will almost be his regular lunch time. The child will not be as hungry for lunch and will end up eating late and the same goes for dinner. The cycle continues over the weekend and suddenly he has to wake up at 7am for school again. Children’s bodies are not very fond of changes in routines and can significantly affect their overall health if this keeps repeating over and over. So try to stick to the same routine even on the weekends and put them to bed at the same time everyday. After all, who fancies running behind their child all day on a weekend with a plate full of food? Its simply not worth it!
5. NOT LETTING THE CHILD ASK FOR FOOD
This one is again a new generation parent problem that is affecting the way kids eat these days. A lot of parents just offer food to the child when “they think” the child is hungry. When in fact it is the child who should be telling them that they are hungry and need something to eat. Parents need to stop micro controlling their child’s lives and making decisions for them all the time. Something as basic as food and hunger is so natural to the human body and even a new born baby is able to communicate his hunger by crying and makes sure his need is taken care of. Why then do we try to take this away from them as they grow older? Let the kids tell you when they want to eat. Help them set a routine by keeping meals and snacks separate and well spaced but thats all you need to do as a parent. You possibly cannot decide whether your child should eat now or not, however smart and hands on parent you might be. Look for cues in the child and learn to find the pattern if he is not able to properly communicate and let you know clearly that he needs to eat. Its not rocket science and will solve a host of food related struggles in your kids life!
Last but not the least, if you have genuinely followed all the above things and your child says he is not hungry..trust him! Let him not eat if he doesn’t want to. Don’t feel guilty that its your fault or start worrying as if it’s the end of the world. Its quite normal to feel less or more hungry on particular days depending on the activity levels, general well-being, growth spurts, teething and a host of other factors. So please, please trust your child and let them decide if they want to eat or not. Just provide them with healthy and tasty food..thats all you need to do. Happy parenting!