Children are more likely to eat well and try new foods when they feel hungry. They also need to learn to tap into their own hunger cues and eat until they feel satisfied. How much your child actually eats should always be their decision. When we ask our children to eat more (e.g. 3 more bites) or finish their plate, we might be asking them to overeat and ignore their tummy saying it feels full.
By providing your child with meals and healthy snacks at regular interval, you can help them learn to regulate their hunger effectively. It’s also important to remind our children that when they feel hungry, even for a snack, their body is asking for healthy, nutritious food. As you guide them to make healthy food choices, they can learn that eating healthy food satisfies their hungry tummy – and that’s a good feeling!
What should you do when your child is hungry between meals and snacks?
If your child is hungry before a meal, tell them that this is perfect timing! “It’s great that you’re hungry, because dinner will be ready in 20 minutes”. It’s okay to let them feel hungry for a little while.
Timing meals for a family isn’t always easy. If your child feels hungry before dinner, wants food now, and is frantically looking through the cupboards or the fridge because they are ‘staaaarving’, you can use it to your advantage! Children are more motivated to try new foods when they are hungry, so it’s the perfect opportunity to offer vegetables.
Snack on veggies!
You may be worried about spoiling your child’s appetite, but vegetables served just before dinner, either sitting down at the table as an entree or as a snack while playing, can count towards dinner. In fact, as long as you’re able to prepare and serve them, children can be allowed to eat raw vegetables anytime! Try raw carrot or celery sticks, cucumber slices, capsicum strips, snow peas, even frozen peas or corn kernels. You can also offer a vegetable that you were planning to offer with the main meal, for example if you were planning to put steamed carrots on the plate, they can have the raw carrot sticks before hand. It can help to be a little flexible.
If you offer vegetables and your child doesn’t want them, don’t offer something else. Let them decide to wait or eat the vegetables. Remember that they are learning to regulate their hunger – if they eat the vegetables, their tummy is going to feel good. If they choose not to eat them, they will continue to have a hungry tummy. Perhaps their tummy is happy to wait a little, and that’s okay too.
Soon your child will learn to make the right choices to regulate their hunger, and is also likely to start eating more vegetables!