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Is your child acting like Hungry Hungry Hippos™? It's best to teach your kid how to recognise the signs of hunger and fullness, as well as exercise portion control.
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.
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.
How Much to Eat? Perfecting Portions
Here are some tips for dealing with your hungry child:
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.
Introducing Whole Grains to Your 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.
A Healthy Food Foundation—for Kids and Teens
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.
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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This article was last reviewed on
Monday, June 21, 2021
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