Some children seem to be "born hungrier" than others.
These tykes have a larger appetite and take longer to be satisfied.
But it's not easy to know if they're born that way or have learned
to eat more from environment and upbringing.
"We do know that children are hungrier when they are in a
growth spurt," explains child nutrition expert Jill Castle, RD,
co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy
Eaters from High Chair to High School. "Some
children seem to naturally have larger appetites, due to a
bigger frame or stature which requires more calories, or their
simple love of food and eating."
A big appetite can be seen early on, but this does not
mean these children are destined to struggle with their
Eating in the absence of hunger peaks between age 5 and 9.
"If children ask for more food shortly after a meal or a snack,
they may be demonstrating boredom or habit-eating, rather than true
hunger," says Castle. This type of eating is associated with excess
On the other hand, if meals or snacks aren't nutritious
and satisfying, or are erratic, little ones may seek additional
"Parents can dig a little deeper and discuss why their
child wants more to eat-maybe the child skipped lunch and is truly
hungry, attempting to make up the shortages of the day. Or, maybe
the meal was the child's favorite and they just want to enjoy
1. Don't restrict the amount
your child eats. This can result in a child who overeats at
parties, school or friends' homes. Weight and body image issues may
emerge down the line.
2. Brush up on age-related
portion sizes and model those at mealtimes.
3. Work on recognizing hunger
and fullness signs with the child, and make sure he or she is
eating for hunger most of the time.
4. Ensure nutritious food is
offered on a regular schedule. Set boundaries around when eating
5. Serve plenty of fruits and
vegetables. Regulate sweets, but don't eliminate them.
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.
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