How do you deal with super hungy kids?

Valerie - posted on 06/08/2011 ( 29 moms have responded )

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I have a 6.5 y.o., a 5 y.o. and a 3 y.o. - ALL BOYS!

For breakfast, we normally eat just cold cereal on weekdays. My two oldest always have Raisin Bran with sliced banana on it. Often they want a second bowl (without the banana), and most of the time I give it to them. THEN they usually want at least one piece of toast. THEN a 3rd bowl of cereal. THEN more toast.

Lunch is usually sandwiches, and when I serve PB&J's my 2 oldest will want THREE each. If it's meat & cheese, they'll each want two.

Getting them to eat dinner is usually a struggle because they seem to dislike most anything I make.

My frustration is that breakfast and lunch seem to take over an hour each and I am becoming resentful about how demanding they are and how quickly we go through the food I buy. My husband is also really upset about how fast food disappears around here. Especially at midnight when he goes for his nightly snack and finds out all the Raisin Bran is gone!

So, here are my questions:

It is okay to just say NO when they ask for more, or am I jeopardizing their health?

Without going into the whole "there are starving kids in Africa" speech, how do I teach my kids that they should be thankful they even have regular meals and that I don't want them having attitudes of selfishness and gluttony?

How will they ever understand that we need to be good stewards of the money we have if every time they ask for another sandwich, I just go make them one?

I've begun cutting them off after 2 bowls of cereal and one piece of toast or 2 sandwiches. I try to explain to them that I really can't spend ALL DAY feeding them because we have chores and school to do and that we really can't afford to go through a loaf of bread per day. They act as if they are going to starve to death!

Do you run into these issues, and how have you dealt with them????

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Amber - posted on 06/08/2011

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I think that instead of giving large quantities of food, you need to give large quality in food. Having a high fiber diet keeps you full longer (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts...etc). High protein diets also do (meat, eggs, nuts).

Katrina is right on with saying that they probably don't even realize that they are full. A glass of water is an awesome idea, I have my son drink several glasses a day.

Also, sometimes people eat out of boredom. I sometimes have to ask myself if I'm really hungry...or just bored. Instead of giving them another serving, try to get them busy doing something away from the kitchen. Plan a board game, craft, outside play time, or something. It might help.

This is definitely not a pattern that you want to set for them. I think you should log their calories for a day and see just how many calories they are getting. I bet it will surprise you.

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Feed them! Veggies! If they're not hungry enough for veggies then they're not that hungry. In the morning when they ask for another bowl of cereal tell them they can have another banana... if they don't want the banana, then they're not that hungry!!

I don't run into these issues. I choose what my kids eat, they choose if they want to eat it. Simple as that. I can't make them eat things they don't like and they cannot make me offer them things I don't want to.

Jen - posted on 06/10/2011

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My children did this when they were going through growth spurts. They'd eat about 8 bowls of oatmeal and still be hungry.

I ended up giving them a children's vitamin pill with breakfast and they were just fine with one or two bowls.

Then they sprouted up.

Kristy - posted on 06/10/2011

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Okay, I have noticed that you are feeding your kids a lot of sugar. Not saying that you are being a bad mother or anything, its just that you say that they are always hungry and your feeding them raisin brain and PB & J's. The problem there is the sugary foods are not really filling them up, they are setting them up for diabetes, obesity, and metabolic disorders. Not that this is your fault, most people don't even know that the food they buy is full of sugar and hidden sugars. Since my oldest is Autistic, we have to watch his diet very closely.

Is there a specific reason that you feed them cold cereal every morning? What we do for my kids is we grind our own rice cereal. Since my oldest and my husband are gluten intolerant, we can't do anything with Wheat, barley, rye, or oats in it. So we get a five pound sack of brown rice from Food 4 Less and grind it up in a flour mill and make the rice cereal. We cook a big pot of it right before bed every night. That way in the morning all we have to do is throw it in the microwave and it feeds the whole family. A lot cheaper & healthier than two bowls of raisin bran. We like to put blue berries in ours, but you could put raisins in it as well. You can also do eggs, much more nutritious and a great source of protein, which is what they really need while they are growing, and will fill them up. Plus they are cheap and you can whip up a bunch in a bowl and then put them into the pan for scrambled eggs, another real time savor. You also might try oat meal, also very good for you. Get a big box of Quaker one minute oat meal and sweeten it with splenda or stevia. You could also make that the night before and just nuke it in the morning save time and money there, plus your not filling them up full of sugar. For lunch try meat & cheese sandwiches. You could also try feeding them vegges or salads with a mixture of meats and shredded cheeses maybe even offer hard boiled eggs to add to it.

Just watch the ingredients list when you buy your food. Don't buy anything that says high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, corn sugar, all of which are cheap fillers and actually increase appetite. try to stick to more whole foods as much as possible. In my family we have a rule where we don't buy anything that comes in a box or is prepackaged in any way.Some foods take a lot more time to cook, but with a little creative ingenuity you can cut your time in the kitchen down with out having to use a crock pot all the time.

As for dinner, we make dinner a whole family affair. We all gather in the kitchen and make dinner together as a family. From the time my kids were about 18 months we had them in the kitchen with us at first watching my husband and I cook and then later we had them do little things like puting things into the pot or stirring things. It helped create interest and then they wanted to eat it because they helped make it. Sometimes we ask our kids what they want for dinner and we make that. One of the favorites are chicken drumsticks. They like to add the seasoning to the chicken. We even turn dinner time into learning sessions like counting the number of cups we put in or what colors the spices are, etc. Just a few ideas to help you with time, costs, & nutrition. I hope it helps, good luck.

Angela - posted on 06/10/2011

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You've got a lot of good suggestions already. Here is my $0.02:
For breakfast, definitely find them some protein (and fat); eggs are good and easy, maybe try whole milk on the cereal if you've gone to skim, nut butters on toast. That can help everything stay in their tummies longer and help them feel fuller sooner. Make sure your bread is whole grain, not wonder bread, the whole grains are full of micronutrients that just cannot be replaced by the "enriching" process. Can you offer them more fruit? Maybe after a banana (or instead), they could have whatever is seasonal (and therefore less expensive).
For lunch, again, make sure you have whole grain bread, can you fill up the sandwiches with lettuce or cucumbers, can you give them celery and carrot sticks as part of the meal, then some fruit, all with another nice glass (or 1cup) of milk?
I would concur that the dinner issue is probably because they are eating so much food early in the day, but, hey, if they don't eat dinner, they don't get any dessert or evening snack, so maybe they will learn to eat dinner. If they eat dinner, they may not feel like they are starving in the morning. Also, depending on your schedule, maybe skip the afternoon snack for the oldest two at least, maybe all three (if you are doing one).

One other thing, make sure everyone CHEWS their food well. slamming food down leads to overeating, so if you can control the rate at which they eat (even a little) they may eat less as well. Don't be so fast about refilling their cereal bowls, don't have toast ready and waiting to placate them, let them wait a few minutes for seconds, they may decide that they are full. If they do start eating less at meals, then you can re-institute snacks that are good healthy foods, like carrots, celery and fruits that they can help themselves to if they want (that might be a ways down the road).
What my mom always said about boys was that they have "a hollow leg" (i.e. they eat A LOT). Kids burn up a lot of calories running around (and growing), and with three boys I'll bet they are running after and away from each other ALL day.
Short answer: You are _not_ going to jeopardize their health by not giving them three sandwiches at lunch, but maybe you can find some additional foods to give them that will help fill them up and fuel them for longer.

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29 Comments

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Pure - posted on 01/17/2013

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Lack of nutrients in the food you are giving them switch to fulfilling organic meals and get rid of the hunger pangs. All that cereal and bread is only going to put on weight and it's not a healthy weight as those products contain chemicals that belong in the toxic waste dump not in natural bodies.

Raw Milk is excellent in nutrients and doesn't cause the arteries to scar thereby causing heart dis-ease.

Organic foods are best for growing bodies they give us energy, and help in brain function - why wouldn't you eat organic fresh fruits, vegetables and meats and drinking pure water. You can afford it for both your health and theirs depend on it.

Check out Elaine Hollingsworth - Take Control of Your Health and Escape the Sickness Industry http://www.doctorsaredangerous.com/

...her book can be borrowed from the local library (in Australia).
Have the kids involved in the preparation of the meals - give them free access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and for goodness sake dress them in natural materials, synthetics cause the body to overheat making us feel tired and lacking in energy.

Toni - posted on 06/15/2011

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I have a 7(almost 8) yr old, a 5 yr old and a 15 month old. All boys, and we have dealt with the same thing. I have to just tell them no, and they get over it pretty quickly. I don't think it is good for them to eat like that. My oldest is the worst, and he would eat himself stupid if I let him. just tell them they have had enough, and the next meal will be here before they know it.
I promise, they will not starve to death, and you should explain that to them. If you are eating less than they are, there is a problem, at least for now. When they are teenagers, we are both in for it!!! We will all have to have second jobs to feed them! :D

Eileen - posted on 06/13/2011

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I couldn't read everyone, but most seem to be on the right track. Excessive hunger is a sign that they are missing some nutrients and fiber. Instead of allowing them to eat more than on serving of cereal, offer other foods, such as fruit or protein. Tell them that one sandwich is enough, but you will gladly give them all the vegetables they want. Do some study on balanced meals, and cut out some carbohydrates. Two-thirds of what they eat should be fruits and vegetables! Fresh is better. What does your diet look like? Lead by example. Also make sure that the foods you serve are not overly processed. It takes out the nutrition, but leaves in or even adds calories.

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They may be missing something in their diet which is making them want to eat more. I know that I can easily eat several bowls of cereal and still feel hungry even though I know I'm full. Maybe you can try smoothies in the mornings with some greens and oils in it. They won't even notice if you blend with some frozen fruit and hemp milk. Oil I use most often for smoothies is virgin coconut oil. When we have days that we're just eating all day, dd and I will eat coconut oil mixed with a little almond butter and a drop of honey and it will stop us feeling so hungry.

You could even get the oil on your pbj sandwiches. And if you can switch to almond butter that's even better. Also when m kids are wanting to continue eating, I leave apples and carrots, sometimes cucumber out for them. So if they complain they're hungry, they know that those are always available and now they ask for them.

Amanda - posted on 06/12/2011

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My kids are almost 4 and 2, and constantly in the fridge. They eat healthy food, and i limit junk but still always seem to be in the fridge. I let them pick some stuff for breakfast lunch etc and then if they are still hungry afterwards i tell them to have a drink, and they have to wait till the next meal or snack. Alot of the time its boredom, or habit, and if i get them into an activity they forget about being 'hungry'. if all else fails, rice cakes sit in their bellies for a while. lol

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My 9.5 year old twin girls pretty much haven't stopped eating for the past year. They do eat a lot of 'snacky' foods which I realize they should have better options more often, but they eat ALL the time.... no matter what I have to offer. One of my girls ate 3 lunches today.... about 3.5 hours ago and she's ready for dinner right now (it's not ready for her though).

They are extremely active and very skinny (size 8 pant legs and a size 6 waist.... still). They are just bottomless pits. I don't limit their foods (usually), but if they aren't full by what I make them.... they make their own stuff.

Jodi - posted on 06/12/2011

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You've already had some good advice. I was just going to commiserate - they aren't even teens yet and they are doing this to you. Oh boy...... :\

You actually haven't mentioned what else they are eating during the day, but kids need more than just 3 regular meals a day. They DO need to snack in between, especially when they are growing. My kids both have healthy morning and afternoons snack between meals.

If you stick with wholegrain cereals only, and also include some proteins, these will keep the kids fuller for longer too. Another tip is to have them slow the eating down. Sometimes kids can shovel it into their mouths and eat so quickly that the message doesn't have time to get from the stomach to the brain that they ARE actually full. I believe that signal takes 20 minutes. So make mealtimes a slower process.

Wendy - posted on 06/12/2011

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My daughter is like this and she is only 14months old. Eats and eats and eats. We limit her now because she will just keep eating if she is given more food, or will keep asking for it. So we stop when we think she has had enough and if she is still hungry about 30minutes after a meal she has a chunk of cheese or crackers or a small bowl of grapes or raisins. Also don't let them make the calls on what you are giving them, you buy the food, therefore you own the menu. If you want to give them a choice, let them choose one from two pre approved items and that is it. Around here, you eat what is made - no special requests unless it is a birthday or you are sick. If you won't eat it, you are the only one suffering.

Jane - posted on 06/12/2011

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I serve a specific amount of food at each meal. Everyone can have up to two servings if they really eat all of their first servings. Then, if anyone is still hungry they can have fruit, carrots, non-fat yogurt, or any one of several snacks that are in the snack cabinet. If they don't want this stuff, then they aren't hungry.

I do notice that sometimes one of my kids will seem to be bottomless pits, but generally that is a warning sign of a growth spurt. However, generally it is only one child at a time.

Also, I do try to have a protein at breakfast, to try to keep the cravings down until lunch. My kids like scrambled eggs rolled into a tortilla. My son also like breakfast sausage, although I limit him to two pieces because of the fat content. Both kids like low-fat deli ham at breakfast. You can roll up a slice of it with a slice of cheese so the boys can have a breadless sandwich.

My suggestion is to add some sort of protein to breakfast and lunch. cut off their meal after a reasonable amount of food, and keep nutritious and allowable snacks available. You may find that you have fewer struggles at dinner by limiting their consumption earlier in the day.

You don't say where the boys are in terms of weight percentile for their ages and height. You should probably keep track for a while after you start the new food routine to be certain everyone is within normal guidelines.

And if you DO give anyone a second bowl of cereal it needs to be WITH the fruit.

Kristi - posted on 06/12/2011

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"I think that instead of giving large quantities of food, you need to give large quality in food. Having a high fiber diet keeps you full longer (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts...etc). High protein diets also do (meat, eggs, nuts)."

Yes, this. Except, I would try to cut out grains and cereals, even "whole grain" ones. Fix them eggs and bacon for breakfast. And for lunch, fix something that doesn't involve bread. The reason: breads, cereals, pastas, all those drive an insulin response in your body. When you eat them, your body immediately converts them basically to sugar. Making the body require more food just to have energy/try not to crash.

Read the Primal Blueprint. It basically explains all that ^^ in better terms. Try to eat primally: fruit, veggies, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, and stay away from grains.

We recently went primal, and when I did, it went from 3-4 bowls of cereal for breakfast plus fruit every day, a snack between breakfast and lunch, then a huge lunch, with sandwiches, fruit, cottage cheese, etc, and him coming away saying he was still hungry, then a snack between lunch and dinner, and another huge dinner, to a breakfast of bacon and eggs, and either a banana or apple, a healthy lunch with protein and veggies for lunch, a small snack in the afternoon, and a decent dinner, again, protein and vegs/fruit. And he never says he's hungry!

Carly - posted on 06/11/2011

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I have 3 girls (7yo, 3yo, 18mo) and they eat everything in sight. We feed them mostly fruit and veggies in between meals. When we get back from grogery shopping for the week we make a veggie tray for them and put it in the fridge. We also have a fruit bowl on the center island. They are allowed one other snack a day (fruit snack, granola bars, yogurt, popcorn). As long as were not cooking dinner they can eat from any selection as much as they want. They are only allowed water in between meals as well. If they are truly hungry they will eat what is offered and with a selection available their bodies crave different things each day so I know they are getting a good balance.

Kayleigh - posted on 06/11/2011

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my son is 3 and he is going through this, i feed him then he says hes still hungry or his tummy is rumbeling he just wants to constantly eat, i resorted to giving him a glass of water when he first says it after food and then later on if he is still hungry between meals a healthy snack

Camille - posted on 06/10/2011

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I partly agree with Kristy, especially the PB&J's. When I eat them they make me more hungry. Carbs are addictive!!! The peanut butter is good. Do they like peanut butter with bananas?????

Camille - posted on 06/10/2011

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I hope my girls were like your kids!!!!!!!!!! I understand the dinner part because dinner is not always fun for kids. I do understand their craving of cereal and sandwiches because kids tend to like that kind of food. My daughters? Not even that!!!! Feel happy because the opposite is more of a problem.

Erica - posted on 06/10/2011

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I feel the same way with my kids at times. You know your kids, if they eat two sandwiches, then expect that. I do not think that their health is at risk at all if they do not eat a third sandwich. Maybe they need something more then a bowl of cereal or a sandwich. It doesn't always have to be the same & it doesn't always have to be frustrating for you. You can't get upset that they expect that third bowl of cereal or third sandwich if you have given it to them. That is what they now know as breakfast & lunch. I also don't think that there is anything wrong with telling them about how other kids live throughout the world. It does exsist outside of your table. In time they will learn to appreciate what they have & who provided for them, but while they are still growing & in the process of learning, just find what works best for you & your family. I do not think that they will grow up to be selfish or gluttonous based off of this. Good luck.

Jackie - posted on 06/10/2011

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i think with all the food they are having throughout the day maybe they are just not that hungry to have dinner. I do not think that its a good idea to say no to them when it comes to food. Maybe find a solution to making something that will fill them up for longer period of time. Or maybe get them to make their own sandwiches on the table? Maybe they might hesitate to make another one lol

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I agree with the previous posters. I think you have to try different, more filling foods: fibre-rich foods, protein, healthy fats, and a wider variety vegetables and fruit.



For example, instead of raisin bran, would they eat oatmeal with fruit and honey? You could also try barley cereal. These hot cereals are cheaper, more nutritious, and more filling than cold breakfast cereals (which are full of sugar and overpriced, imo). You could also try scrambled eggs with whole wheat toast and fruit.



For lunch, you could try whole wheat pita bread stuffed with lean meat, veggies, and cheese. Or whole wheat pasta in a simple tuna salad with canned tuna, cottage cheese, and vegetables.



Snacks: plain yogurt with fruit, apple with a small amount of peanut butter, whole grain crackers with cheese, etc.



There should be a balance of food groups at every meal.

Valerie - posted on 06/10/2011

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it's hard to say if it is hunger or what you are feeding them...for sure cold cereal isn't the most filling so i would consider hot cereal...peanut butter toast for breakfast along with hot cereal would be more sustaining...i doubt it is gluttony. are they fat? are they active? all these thins play into the answer...if they are skinny i would say they have high metabolisms and would visit the local free food bank to supplement...lack of adequate nutrition is the number one contributor to brain damage in children...kids grow and thrive on healthy food. if you are feeding them white bread, switching over to a whole grain might decrease their need for as much food as well as it is more satisfying..if you live in a larger city you might find a bakery and buy day old breads...i wouldnt make food about money...i would make sure that your money is buying quality wholesome food..raisin bran sounds good...if money is tight try to get assistance

Louise - posted on 06/09/2011

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This is way to much food for your children to be eating if they continue like this they will eventually store the food and gain a lot of weight. One standard bowl of cereal and a banana is enough for a child of this age. For lunch two slices of bread filled with whatever a bag of crisps and either fruit or yoghurt is enough and should not take hours to feed them. If you cut back the food earlier in the day they will be more inclined to eat a proper dinner in the evening. By what you say you are feeding them they are eating far to much carbohydrate which turns to sugar and will turn to fat. Try reducing their portions so that they will eat meat and vegetables at night. They will of course moan when you do this but stand firm if they are hungry they will eat their evening meal which will have more vitamins and minerals in it than bread and cereal.

Christy - posted on 06/09/2011

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I have three boys. I totally understand. The biggest problem that I see is that you're feeding them mostly carbs, which digests quickly and doesn't fill you up. Even though they're healthy carbs, I would recommend some protein in there.

With breakfast maybe they could also have a glass of milk, a chunk of cheese, or some yogurt, all of which have some protein. Another helpful idea to get them full is fruit. Banana has a lot of sugar in it, so I'm guessing it's digesting pretty fast. Try apples. I've got an apple slicer and an apple peeler corer slicer that my kids love. My personal favorite is apples with peanut butter!

The biggest thing I do is shop the ads. If it's not on sale, we don't eat it. When it is on sale, I stock up. If you are serious about making your dollar stretch to feed the boys, order a Sunday paper for every member of the family just for the coupons. Then you watch the ads to see what's on sale and use the coupon on top of the sale to bring the price of the item half price or below. You can even get stuff free! There are some websites that I watch for my local area. I bet you can find someone that blogs all the deals for your area, then the grunt work is done for you. They post on their blog which coupons to use at which store to get the best deals! www.Freebies2Deals.com will teach you more about couponing if you want to learn. It really works! But it is a lot of work. If it's a matter of having more food to put on the table for the same price, it's worth it.

The majority of our budget after paying the mortgage goes to food. I have two teenagers and two younger boys and holy cow, we go through milk like you would not believe. It's really up to you how much you want to limit them. I know families that don't allow snacks at all and once the meal is gone, there's no more. I don't agree with that method, but that's just me.

Medic - posted on 06/08/2011

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I am not one that believes in telling kids no they cannot eat. But I do give two healthy options and if they do not want either than they are not hungry. I do let my kids graze all day on fruit and sliced veggies and cheese but they also eat their meals. We do not eat cereal or pb and j's but we have healthy foods that seem to fill my kids up. When we actually eat breakfast at home my kids (boy 4.5years and girl 16 months) get 8 of the organic mini apple cinnimen(sp?) waffles with flax seeds and organic apple sauce to dip them in. and they will usually have an egg. My daughter usually gives some of her mini waffles to daddy. Then they have the option of whatever fruit is cut and clean that day or a yogurt for a snack. They usually drink a whole cup of milk with breakfast and get water with their morning snacks. For lunch we eat meatloafs with hidden veggies, with sides of fruit and cheese. For afternoon snack its usually fruit or veggies with juice and dinner is whatever we make and served with milk and the older one gets a yogurt before bed and the baby gets yogurt mixed with her milk before bed. I think the goal is to have healthy eating choices and portions available and if kids are truely hungry they will eat what is available. I will sometimes test my son and tell him his choices for a snack are something he really doesn't like that much and if he still wants it I know he is actually hungry. If your husband is upset about how much food kids eat then maybe he should have thought of that before making them.

Crystal - posted on 06/08/2011

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I think its definitely important that you set the portion limitations now while they're young. I have a 5.5 year old boy and we call him a lil garbage disposal. lol We absolutely cut him off. We explain to him that he doesn't need to feel so full that his stomach hurts, just enough to where he's not feeling the hunger anymore. at lunch we usually give him a half a sandwich, some fruit (fruit cup or apple slices/banana), a handful of crackers or a granola bar and some juice. Thats it. After "resting time" he gets a small snack and then has to wait till dinner to eat again. Maybe try giving them water throughout the day to fill them up before meals?

Katrina - posted on 06/08/2011

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Maybe you could explain to them that it takes 20 minutes for the stomach to recognize whether it is full or not...then give them an acceptable amount of food ie 1 bowl of cereal with the banana or the one sandwich...if they want more after that, tell them they have to wait 20 minutes and then see if they are still hungry...if they are, give them a healthy alternative so for example, instead of giving them an extra PB&J, give them an apple. My mum had 5 kids and the answer was always, "well, if you don't want to eat the apple, you must not be very hungry!"
Another trick you could try is to give them a glass of water before meals...if you need a drink, your body actually tells you you're hungry, if you feel THIRSTY you are actually already dehydrated. A glass of water before food (letting it settle first) will take the edge off the hunger and hopefully cut down on the amount of food they eat.
Oh, and another idea...investigate those foods that are healthy but which actually fill you up properly. Bread in particular is a bad one for "filling up" on.. and then 30 minutes later your hungry again. Maybe talk to your doctor or a nutritionist or similar for ideas?

Try to get a handle on it as soon as possible...from watching my brothers grow up, they went through a loaf of bread EACH per day when they hit teenage years...for a 6.5 and 5 yo to be well on the way to that already is pretty worrying.

Good luck with it all.

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