Do you often notice your child complaining of hunger shortly after a full meal? If your child eats large portions during meals but quickly begins reaching, or asking, for snacks, these patterns can lead to overeating throughout the day. Every child consumes food differently, but constant hunger unfortunately has the potential to cause excessive weight gain and other nutrition-related medical conditions in children.
If you’re interested in remedying your child’s frequent hunger, first try to focus on incorporating appropriate foods into his/her meals that will provide stronger, lengthier feelings of satiety. If needed, you can also look into behavior strategies that encourage feelings of fullness and suppress those of hunger, both during and following meals. Ready to up your child’s fullness factor?
- Trade in simple carbohydrates for complex. Simple carbohydrates, including sweets and processed grains like white bread and pasta, are digested quickly; meaning their impact on hunger suppression is more temporary. Complex carbohydrates, including whole grain bread, rolled oats and quinoa, typically contain more fiber and protein – two nutrients responsible for slowing down digestion and increasing satiety. Starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and corn are also great sources of complex carbohydrates.
- Don’t forget to include protein. If you can include a serving of protein, such as meat, eggs or dairy, with your child’s meal, this will help balance his/her diet and promote fullness at the same time. For example, if you’re serving pasta and garlic bread, both carbohydrates, you can replace half of the pasta with lean protein, like turkey meatballs or grilled chicken.
- Include healthy fats. Fats play an important role in a healthy diet. They are not only filling, but also add flavor to food and provide essential nutrients for your child’s growing body. Including natural sources of fat, such as avocados, nuts, and dairy products, in your child’s diet is a great way to increase the satiety level of meals.
- Eat mindfully. It’s easy for anyone to overeat, or eat too quickly, if distracted during a meal. You can help your child focus and slow down during meals by limiting distractions (i.e. TV, homework, etc.) and restricting eating to certain areas of the house.
- Put thought behind how food is served. Feelings of fullness can also be altered by how you serve and present your food. Choosing appropriately sized plates, bowls and cups can make portions appear larger, almost tricking the mind. Including a variety of colors and textures in your child’s meal can also increase overall appeal of what they’re eating.
These are just a handful of several strategies you can choose to employ if you want to increase the level of satiety your child achieves regularly. Feel free to give one (or more) a try in order to see which strategies work best within your child’s overall healthy eating plan.