Mum I'm hungry

Mum I'm hungry

If you’re struggling to see how your child could possibly need more food, here are a few facts and tips for you. We’re born knowing when we’re hungry and when we’re full. Kids are good at listening to their bodies but over time other things like schedules, your expectations, messages on the TV or smells from the local bakery can affect their appetite.

Children have small stomachs, so having regular eating times helps. Offer your child food about five times a day. For example, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks between meals. Offer meal and snacks based on your child’s appetite and let them decide how much to eat from the food you offer.

Sometimes it can help to let children serve themselves as this gives them a bit of independence and lets them eat how much they need at the time. Family meals like Mexican wraps, roasted meat and vegetables, homemade burgers and filled jacket potatoes are great for this.

Offer foods from the five food groups everyday including grain (bread, rice, pasta and cereals), vegetables, fruit, dairy foods (milk, yoghurt and cheese), meat and alternatives like tofu and legumes.

Set children up for success: always offer an everyday food you know your child will eat like bread or fruit at meal and snack times. That way they can eat enough food to fill them up even if they don’t feel like eating the other foods you offer.

Let your child decide when they are finished – forcing or bribing them to eat can make them forget how it feels to be hungry or full.

Try not to allow your child to graze or snack on food over the day. A regular pattern of meals and snacks with a break from eating in between will help support their appetites.

Children learn from you about food and eating. Help them by:

  • having family meals
  • sitting down to eat
  • not talking about your own dislike of some foods
  • not using food to reward or comfort a child
  • not talking about a child’s eating, such as calling a child a ‘fussy eater’.

Eating should be enjoyable for the whole family. Remember it can take time for children to learn about eating so being patient is important.

For more ideas on how and what to feed young children see Start Them Right a parent’s guide to eating for under 5s. You can pick up a copy from your early childhood service, child health nurse or childcare centre.