Child: Mom I’m done, can I go play?
Parent: Have you eaten all your food?
Child: But I’m full!
Parent: Finish your plate, there are starving kids who would love to have that food you are wasting.
Have you ever done this? We all have because that’s the way we were raised. At one point we needed to be this way because there was a hard day on the farm ahead or because it might be a while before the next big meal.
Unfortunately it is teaching our kids to ignore their natural hunger cues. We are born with the ability to know when we are actually hungry but over the years we train our kids how to not pay attention to that and eat whenever food is in front of them.
If you think of when a baby is first feeding. You don’t just feed it at a certain time always, you wait for them to tell you they are hungry. As they start to get older most parents still allow the kids the freedom to eat whenever with the exception of dinner. Year after year, we get more strict until they only eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and maybe a snack. They eat because it is time to eat, not because they are hungry.
As you force through hunger cues, you can’t read when you should start or stop eating, so a bunch of mindless calories start to add up. This can lead to added weight gain during childhood as well as lead to creeping obesity as they get older.
To fix this we need to let them stop eating when they are full and start eating when they are hungry. This doesn’t mean however they can stop dinner after two bites because they were snacking on candy the last two hours. It also doesn’t mean that 20 minutes after dinner they can ask for ice cream.
One strategy is to limit sugar intake between meals, but that is another subject for another post. Another is to take their food when they say they are finished and put it in the fridge. When they say they are hungry again, bring it out for round two. This way food doesn’t go to waste.
When your kid asks to go play, let them. Put the food in the fridge for later and let them get back to listening to when they are really hungry.