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By Health Promotion Board in collaboration with A/Prof Marion Aw, Senior Consultant, Division of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Nutrition, Hepatology and Liver Transplantation, National University Hospital.

“Mummy, I’m hungry!” You little one has been asking you for food all day long, and she never seems to be full. Should you be concerned?

If your child is at an acceptable weight and has not been experiencing any significant or sudden weight loss, there is little cause for alarm. Not all children are the same: some eat less at meal times and take small bites throughout the day. Some eat more at meal times and don’t require any snacks at all.

Why Is Your Child Hungry?

Your child could be hungry because he’s very physically active. He’ll naturally need more energy to fuel his daily activity. Another reason is he’s having a growth spurt, and his body needs the extra energy for growth.

Of course, your child might also be feeling greedy, not hungry. Teach him to recognise the signs of hunger and fullness. One way is to ask him how his stomach feels before, during, and after a meal. The next time he asks you for a snack outside of regular snack times, ask him if he’s actually hungry or just hankering for something yummy.

Related: How Much to Eat? Perfecting Portions

Here are some tips for dealing with your hungry child:

Include all food groups

Make sure you feed your child food from all major food groups. That includes protein like lean meat, fish, tofu, and beans, as well as carbohydrates like brown rice, wholegrain noodles, and wholemeal bread—these are foods that provide most energy to the little one.

Related: Introducing Whole Grains to Your Child

Food fit for a child

How much you feed him is equally important. Do not feed him adult portions—that’s too much, and might get him in the habit of overeating. Make sure the portions are suitable for a child. Your four-year-old needs only about 1/3 to half the amount of food adults eat. If you’re eating ¾ bowl of rice each meal, your little one needs only about ¼.

Related: A Healthy Food Foundation—for Kids and Teens

Healthy snacks that pack a punch

Feed him snacks that are good for him. Instead of high-sugar snacks like candy or ice cream, try serving some fresh fruit or frozen fruit pops. Avoid high-fat or fried food like nuggets and hotdogs as these are low in nutrients—go for veggie sticks or fruit with a small amount of peanut butter or homemade popcorn with a dash of garlic powder for flavor.

Related: Snacking Smart

Wait for mealtime

If your little one is insatiable and constantly snacking, mummy and daddy might need to put their foot down and tell junior to wait till it’s lunch/dinner time. Do not offer snacks close to meal times, and do not let your child feed himself snacks from the fridge or pantry. Distract him if necessary, with his favourite toy or a colouring book.

Remember, mum and dad are here to guide the little one and help him build good eating habits. Teaching him healthy snacking habits is a great start!


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References:

  1. Jasly Koo. Feeding Children 1-12 Years: How Much and What to Offer Toddlers and Children. Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.healthxchange.sg/children/food-nutrition/feeding-children-one-twelve-how-much-what-offer-toddlers-children
  2. Denise Winterman. (July 25, 2013) Child Obesity: Children Who Can't Stop Eating. BBC News Magazine. Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23404682