Controlling Kids' Portions Could Create Future Food Issues

11SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/20/2010 1:10 PM   :  114 comments   :  18,131 Views

What my children eat and how much they eat is a source of stress for me, as it is for many moms and caregivers. Both of my children (ages 3 and 1) have gone through periods where they don't eat much. It usually lasts for a week or so and then things go back to normal. For that week, I'm constantly worried about whether or not they are getting enough of what they need. But many dietitians follow the philosophy that children should eat when they are hungry and stop when they are satisfied. Instead of controlling portions (or forcing them to eat just because it seems like they should), the idea is that they need to learn to regulate their own appetites.

Recently we took a 5-day trip to visit family. I thought sleep would be our biggest problem, but it was actually food. Things that they normally eat without a problem were suddenly unacceptable. I think it was just because they were out of their normal routine, but nonetheless it was very stressful for me. My husband said I just needed to relax and eventually things would get back to normal. Of course, he was right.

Ellyn Satter is a registered dietitian who is an expert on children and eating. My co-worker (who is also a nutrition expert) gave me her book "Child of Mine; Feeding With Love and Good Sense" before I had my first child. It's a book I still refer to years later. Satter's philosophy is that "parents should be in charge of what to eat, when to eat and where to eat. Kids, meanwhile, should be in charge of how much to eat - or whether to eat at all at that particular meal."

According to Satter, "If a robust child's hearty appetite is restricted, that child may become preoccupied with food and tend to overeat or hoard food, given the chance. Conversely, children who have food pushed on them may become turned off by it and undereat when they get the chance."

My daughter is a much better eater overall than my son. He's picky and even though I try to offer a wide variety of vegetables, he'd be happy if he only had to eat carrots and sweet potatoes for the rest of his life. I am not a member of the "clean plate club", and if my kids are full they are allowed to stop eating- with the understanding that they won't be getting a snack an hour later. If they are extra hungry and want more, that's okay too. I think I am a little controlling when it comes to what they eat and making sure they always get enough of the healthy stuff. But I try not to label foods as "bad", since a wide variety of foods have a place in a healthy diet.

Is your child's appetite a source of stress in your household- whether it's eating too much or eating too little? How do you handle it? Do you agree that it's better to let kids be in charge of how much they eat?


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Comments

  • 114
    What our girls eat has been somewhat kind of a stress. Not so much in the beginning but lately they tell me they dislike something before they even try it. For example, one my girls told me on the way home yesterday that she did not want beef stew. I informed that was what we were having for dinner and she needed to try it. FYI, her twin was not complaining. On and on she went about how she did didn't want it but when she realized we were not backing down she gave in and ate her whole meal which I can not say about her twin.

    I am on the fence of letting my kids decided when, what and how much to eat. I am not so worried about the daughter I mentioned up above but I worry about her twin sister who would eat candy and other sweets all day if we let her. She does like some veggies but still goes for the sweets first for a snack. We have had to limit how much sweets she gets and the same for salty snacks like chips. When I watch her eat I worry she will be like her mommy who also battles overeating. Any tips on dealing with this, I would greatly appreciate it. - 1/27/2011   11:21:01 AM
  • 113
    I don't have children myself, but I can at least speak from my own experiences as a child. When it came to junk food, like cookies after school, my mom definitely limited our portions. But when it came to dinner, we were allowed to eat as much as we wanted. I didn't start becoming self-conscious about food until I got to high school and learned from my friends that you should worry about how much you eat.

    I was always an eater and always a try-er, so getting me to eat a wide variety of foods was never a problem. My brother, on the other hand, ate a steady diet of toaster-oven chicken fingers and french fries, and the only fruit my parents could coax him to eat was a banana. Sometimes, if he wanted a snack, it would be "Okay, but it has to be a fruit," and he'd go get his banana. And the dinner rule was "You eat what I make." No special dinners just because he was picky. He had to eat a least some of it before he could have something he "liked." Since then, however, his tastes have expanded, and he's every bit of a try-er as I am, right down to visiting a friend in Scotland and trying the haggis.

    My parents never worried about either of us because we were active and thin. I think that's the right approach, and I plan to follow it when I have children. Allow them their treats in moderation, and allow them their full servings at meals. Of course, if they're getting no activity and are becoming overweight, that's another issue, and maybe they DO need to be monitored more carefully. It's really up to the parent to know their child well enough to make whatever adjustments need to be made. - 5/10/2010   12:18:16 PM
  • 112
    My son is just ten months old, and my attitude is relaxed when I don't visit the health visitor. My son is varied in everything he does, some days all he will do is sleep and eat, other days it is a real struggle to get him to have a nap (even though he is really tired). If he is tired he won't eat. Everytime he learn't a new skill he would lose weight, combination of more movement and less interested in sitting still to eat or drink. Lots of concern shown by the health visitors and weekly visits led me to give him junk (cakes, chocolate) in an attempt to put more weight on. However, I have now chosen to ignore the weight graphs, as long as he can put weight on, if he loses some the next week I am not going to stress. It is more important that he is healthy, good colour skin, eyes, teeth, hair, nails, etc. He is a happy, very active child who likes his fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat, fish, carbs (not very fond of pasta but eats it sometimes) I give him a balanced weekly diet, he eats what he wants, there are no set meal times because his appetite varies. When he is older we will try to get into a routine, but if that means he has 6 meals a day rather than 3 so be it. - 5/8/2010   3:44:42 AM
  • 111
    I generally let my kids eat what they wanted portion wise. However, if they did not eat their dinner it was saved and warmed up later for the inevitable "I'm hungry" and of course no dessert till healthy food was eaten. Both have grown up normal weight and healthy. ( I expected "picky" eating in toddler hood but it continued till age 6-7 with my kids). I did not make them "Special" food- they ate or did not eat what I made. - 4/26/2010   12:06:11 PM
  • 110
    I am definitely for controlling the what, when, and where of mealtimes but letting my yet-unborn children decide how much to eat.

    My mother didn't give me bad eating habits, I gave them to myself and learned how to shut off my hunger/satiety signals by the time I was 6. In the last year I have completely re-learned how to pay attention to them, and I've been known to prepare a plate of food, eat half of it, and eat the rest two or three hours later. If my kids are full after eating three bites, so be it, but if they are hungry in a half hour, it's back to the dinner plate. There won't be any games played about the menu that way.

    Even though labeling foods as "bad" and depriving kids of all the "goodies" their less-mindful friends get to eat, I do think that, if children are provided only with whole foods for snacks and such (fruit, veggies, that sort of thing) instead of the Little Debbie's and "fruit" snacks, they will naturally prefer them. My brother never allowed my nephew candy or sweets and made sure that treats at Grandma's house were limited (but not totally forbidden, because whose grandmother would permit a marked absence of brownies?), and always scraped the icing off any cake or cupcakes his son was given. By 5, the boy scraped the icing off his own cupcakes because it was too sweet, asked for fruit and Ovaltine for snacks, and at 6 he very politely ordered a salad to go with his chicken fingers at a sit-down restaurant. He's 11 now and while he'll go for a cookie given the chance, he's all about the fruits and veggies.
    - 4/25/2010   4:57:33 PM
  • ANDREALEE10
    109
    My children are now in college and both remain at a healthy weight. I was raised as an emotional eater- anytime I was upset, in celebration mode, mad, etc.... my mom would say "Here, have a cookie- it will make you feel better" or "let's celebrate and go get ice cream!". I don't know what I did, but my kids eat when they are hungry (no emotional ties at all to munching), stop when they are full- yes they eat junkfood- but in moderation. When they were young, what they ate wasn't a big deal. Food was just a part of our routine without paying special attention to it. They ate a variety and were willing to try new things. There were times when they requested the same foods, but again it was not a big deal. - 4/25/2010   8:24:17 AM
  • 108
    Neither one of my older children (Boy and girl) ever ate more than they needed, but neither were they picky eaters, eating most of whatever I fixed for dinner. My daughter did have this "pickiness" that she didn't want her foods touching each other, but otherwise she ate a well rounded diet. Neither one of them have been overweight....which I and my husband are the only ones who are.

    My youngest daughter (bio granddaughter, adopted daughter) is 1/2 Asian. She was stockier as an infant than my other children, but never overweight. Her bio father is very husky, a picky eater, and eats alot of fried foods. He and his mother informed me at one point that they were concerned that she was underweight. I was shocked because she has never been too skinny, nor overweight, but compared to my other two weighed more than they did at that age. She is 6 now and slimming down even more as she attains more height. She is a somewhat picky eater, not liking anything spicy or, as my other daughter (her bio mother) things to touch on her plate. She would rather have a piece of chicken that has been boiled than to have a piece grilled with sauce or seasonings on it. She is getting better about trying new things, but I don't force her to eat it if she decides she doesn't like it, figuring there will be other times that she can try it when older and may like it then. I do feel good about her eating because besides learning at home what is healthy to eat, they are also enforcing it at school. Candy is not forbidden, however, it is not consumed daily or too often. - 4/24/2010   3:21:06 PM
  • KLAMAR2
    107
    I have a 3 year old and try to feed he healthy choices. I never make her clean her plate but always make he taste everything on it. - 4/23/2010   12:06:34 PM
  • 106
    I don't have kids, yet I had my friend's son around me a lot. He would eat anything he wanted (vegetables were not wanted) and he was actually quite big for his age. While with me I would give him a decent size of vegetables to go along with his meal and I made it clear he would not get anything else to eat unless he finished all his vegetables. Usually, after he finished them, he didn't want anything else to eat (and he wasn't in gag mode). I believe kids need to be taught to eat healthy and if this constitutes limiting portion sizes, then so be it. - 4/22/2010   10:17:20 PM
  • 105
    Well I have two children with two opposite problems. One of them is underweight and never finishes his food. For him, I don't make him FINISH it, but I make him understand that if he doesn't finish it he cannot ask me for something different in an hour. He must come back to his food. Which he does most of the t ime. This way I know it's not his way of controlling the menu, just his intake.

    My other son is at risk of being overweight. He is very active, but I don't want him to overeat certain things. If he has two hot dogs, fine. If he wants a third, I tell him no but that he may have an apple or some yogurt. If he wants some chicken noodle soup, that's fine. So I want to give them what they like but don 't overdo it. - 4/22/2010   3:25:42 PM
  • 104
    I do a pretty good job of controlling mealtime in my home -- offering healthy choices, letting them eat until they are full. Trying one or two bites of everything on their plate before getting something else that's healthy as a substitute. Where I really need help is SNACKING. When my kids were little, I didn't do a good job of controlling snack time -- we just snacked whenever we wanted to. Now that my kids are older and able to get their own snacks, I feel like it's out of control. No wonder they don't want to eat dinner -- they're not hungry! I wish I could figure out how to get this back under control -- would love any suggestions... - 4/22/2010   1:44:10 PM
  • 103
    We have gradeschoolers. The 3 rules that work for us about food are:
    1) You must try one bite of everything on your plate - and yes this has led to some forcing to get a real taste of everything.
    2) After the trying bite, eat what you want, then stop - if you don't like the regular meal after trying it, we will help _you_ get an alternative yourself (they are old enough to grab their own yogurt and spread PB on bread when given the parts)
    3) All of the other things that comprise good manners - such as use your utensils, don't kick anyone et c.

    Ari - 4/22/2010   12:39:28 PM
  • 102
    Whenever I see kids being force fed, I would think to myself how nice it would have been if my parents never did that to me because now I have the opposite problem. - 4/22/2010   6:43:44 AM
  • 101
    I have three children, one teen, and two little ones. The teen, who is a runner, eats like there is no tomorrow, understandable. She runs like the wind everyday. The little ones eat the smallest portions of a balanced diet known to this mom. It is shocking just how little they eat. But as long as it is balanced I let them regulate their intake instead of forcing larger portions on them. - 4/22/2010   6:20:24 AM
  • FLUFFY_KITTY
    100
    I don't have children, however, my sister has complained to me that her youngest boy is a VERY PICKY eater. He is 6 years old, and he has to have this or that in a certain brand or else he throws temper tantrum! I feel it is her fault for spoiling him since her two boys are adults. They would eat anything on their plates when they were little.
    Now, my cat is a little piggie. On some days she doesn't want to eat what is on her plate, but on other days she eats and licks off her plate. I know this is not related to this blog. She is my kid, that is all.
    So...I think we need to start our kids on an exercise plan so that they won't gain weight. - 4/21/2010   11:41:14 PM
  • 99
    Great post! I don't have kids, but have been very close to my nieces and nephews growing up. I agree that you shouldn't control portions, BUT I strongly agree that if they don't eat all their food, they don't get a snack an hour later. All 3 of my nieces & nephews did this. They wouldn't like what was for dinner, so they'd claim to be full, but then the next thing you know, they are wanting a snack. I have to give my 5yr old niece props though - if we go out to eat, she wants the broccoli or applesauce before the french fries or anything else! - 4/21/2010   10:36:20 PM
  • 98
    My youngest who is 24 now, as a child (of elementary ages) would eat only the following-
    hot dogs (ballpark only)
    tacos (with cheese and meat only and it had to be extra sharp cheddar which is still the only kind she likes)
    pizza with pepperoni only
    cheetos and potato chips (ruffles only)
    chicken nuggets
    hamburgers & french fries
    meatloaf (but only mine)
    mashed potatoes (no gravy and eventually only instant)
    bread and butter
    ice cream, preferably choc. or with choc. sauce.
    the only veggies were corn & raw cauliflower and no fruits at all.

    When she went into the Navy at age 18 she learned to eat regular baked chicken, lettuce, apples and bananas. Going to weddings with buffets were a nightmare as far as I was concerned, when she was a kid. She'd usually eat the mash pots and a roll with butter. Nice meal, huh? But I was determined NOT to make an issue of food, so I didn't. If she didn't like what we had for supper, she knew to get out the bread and butter. She grew up healthy and today is training for a marathon. - 4/21/2010   9:47:11 PM
  • GERRIT2
    97
    I worry about my 8 year old son's eating and at times dinner time is a struggle. He will eat most vegetables and fruits without problems, but so far he fusses about eating meat, any kind of meat, whether it is chicken, beef, or pork. He will eat salmon and other fish, but that's only a recent thing. I worry about him getting enough protein, but will sometimes allow him to eat a piece of cheese instead of meat. He will eat hot dogs of all things, something I rarely cook as it's one thing I just see no nutritional value in. However, I'm hoping that by continuing to offer him a wide variety and insisting he eat at least 2 bites of everything I cook he will eventually learn to eat, if not like meat. - 4/21/2010   8:58:58 PM
  • 96
    I'm a new mom, so just starting with real foods. Thanks for mentioning that book. I will check it out! - 4/21/2010   8:56:07 PM
  • AGUAVA15
    95
    I am a child of parents who believed in "cleaning your plate." I vouch that it is not the best way to tackle the food issue. I'm 25 and still struggle with portions. - 4/21/2010   7:24:33 PM
  • 94
    Yes I worry when my children don't eat. I try to get them to eat fruit or veggies if they won't have anything else at least I know that they have had something. I don't worry to much about how much they eat just they eat something. - 4/21/2010   4:30:04 PM
  • 93
    My son was the pickiest eater I had ever seen when he was little. I constantly worried and stressed myself out about it. His pediatrician told me to , "let it go" basically and that he would eat when he was hungry and in the meantime give him a daily multivitamin. I also worried he was just "too skinny".

    Fast forward to 2010. He is sixteen, very athletic, has a muscular, although lean body and is in excellent health. He bikes over ten miles a week and runs track.

    My conclusion is worrying never changes anything. :) - 4/21/2010   3:21:33 PM
  • 92
    I struggle with this with my kids. My oldest is very picky and will only eat certain healthy things, loves most processed and junk foods. My second will try anything, and eats very heartily, both healthy and processed/junk foods. My last is a toddler, and their eating habits change day to day (or meal to meal!). I worry about my oldest, since I don't think she's eating enough healthy foods, and I worry about my second, since she eats just about anything and has a more round, pudgey shape. I try not to convey my concerns, since I think eventually they'll eat what they should on their own (I know my tastes have changed since childhood!). I just worry they might have issues with weight as they get older, but I can't see pushing a child to eat a certain way if it'll most likely hurt more than help them. - 4/21/2010   3:16:07 PM
  • SUGARSMOM2
    91
    when we travel we are in nightmare mode . they want to eat at different places . they do not want to eat this or that . fighting about food daily and when we eat at home it is this is dinner . eat it or leave it . - 4/21/2010   3:07:18 PM
  • BSWEET101
    90
    I agree with Satter's philosophy that parents should be in charge of what to eat, when to eat and where to eat but kids should be in charge of how much to eat - or whether to eat at all at that particular meal. I do, however, require that my children try at least one bite of anything at the meal, and they must eat everything on their plate in order to get a "treat". "Treat" items are also limited to only being available a few days a week, not every day. - 4/21/2010   1:14:34 PM
  • 89
    I love Ellen Satter's book and recommend it to everyone. It has helped me so much with relaxing about my son's eating! - 4/21/2010   12:37:09 PM
  • 88
    I completely agree with this philosophy. I am constantly stunned by parents who buy all sorts of crappy food and then wonder why their children grow up overweight. Geez, stop buying the bad food. On the other hand, I DO keep things like ice cream and such in the house. I was limited in what I could and couldn't eat when I was a kid. I grew up with an eating disorder - bingeing and purging. It shaped so much of the rest of my life and my body image.

    While I do control what it is my kids eat (healthy protein, veggie, and maybe a starch for dinner, followed by some kind of fresh fruit, and then maybe a "treat" afterwards), I don't make them eat more or less than what they want. During the day, when they ask for a snack, I make sure to have yogurt and granola bars around the house. Sure, sometimes we'll have nachos for dinner or grab some fast food (maybe once a month, if that) so they don't feel like they're never "treated" to a fun meal, but I'm still in control of what my kids put into their bodies on a regular basis. It matters so much that we make food not about how much or how little, but about healthy choices and family togetherness. We all four sit around the table, play games by asking each other what our favorite things are, and make dinner enjoyable and relaxed. It's no suprise to me that neither of my children are overweight (even though I was as a kid) and neither obsesses about food. - 4/21/2010   12:02:05 PM
  • 87
    Children only learn what we teach them. It is important to control yourself so you can control the amount your children eat - 4/21/2010   11:56:38 AM
  • 86
    My 3 children eat a variety of foods with most being nutritious food, they do have the odd treat but it's just not made available to them at home. I really don't worry about their portions and feel they are the best judges of when they are full. That being said, they cannot have an evening snack if they pushed their nose up at dinner. And fruit leathers are definitely an exception as they are like an addictive drug to my kids and they would eat 6 or 7 in a row if they could regardless how much they had eaten beforehand.
    My eating was controlled as a child and it made me feel badly about myself as a child. - 4/21/2010   11:25:30 AM
  • 85
    I don't think any adult has the right to tell a child they have to eat all the food on their plate, or that they can't have more , or that they have to eat a food they don't like,or that they can't have a snack later. Any one who does this should take a hard look in the mirror and say 'do I know when I am full all the time, or do I sometimes over eat? Am I capable of knowing what my childs appetite is at any given moment? Would I like my child to force me to eat a food I don't like and too much of it? My child has a small stomach it is entirely possible for them to be hungry a half hour after eating.'
    A wide variety of healthy foods like Jen says she offers is perfectly acceptable. Shame on anyone who bullies a smaller person into eating, you are creating future eating disorders. I have a friend who was force fed as a child, her own child was under-fed because anytime she started playing with her food, as toddlers do she was whisked away from it. - 4/21/2010   11:17:35 AM
  • 84
    I never worried about portion control with my boys because I only presented them with WHOLESOME foods.

    Because of the high nutritional quality of the foods available to them -
    they got full WAY before they ate too many calories.

    I never wanted them to have to struggle with their weight as I had to.

    It worked.....
    so long as they ate wholesome foods - they never had weight problems. - 4/21/2010   11:07:24 AM
  • 83
    I do not stress over what/when my kids eat. I only have a few rules 1. They must eat everything in order to get desert (usually just a small piece of candy or 1/2 cup of ice cream) 2. you must try one bite of everything on your plate 3. no eating or drinking anything other than water after 7 pm.
    If they don't want to eat their meals that is fine (as long as they follow the rule 2) just don't ask for a snack between meals. I remember my kids going through what I call a 2 year hunger strike when they were young and barely ate anything. So to make myself feel better I would make their plates with extremely small portions. If they wanted more I would give it to them and if they only ate what was on their plate it made me feel better!
    I am teaching them to look at labels and to make sure they have a balanced meal/diet. That is really the only thing we as parents can control. I believe if they decide later in life to eat junk, well it wasn't because they weren't taught anyother way! - 4/21/2010   10:53:31 AM
  • 82
    My parents were very restrictive on me what I should eat. They were very thin and my brother and I were a tad on the pudgy side. Lots of foods were "bad" and I was put on "diets" at an early age. Because of that my brother and I would ride our bikes to the grocery store and binge on unhealthy food at a young age. It has caused me some issues with how I view food. I know they were just trying to help and doing what they thought was best. At this point, it is my responsibility and not my parents fault, but go easy on the kids. It's habits they will have the rest of their lives. - 4/21/2010   10:42:37 AM
  • REBECCARG
    81
    I have a three year old and a four year old, so we talk about sometimes foods and anytime foods. I try to keep the fridge stocked up with fruits and veggies divided up into portion sized containers. If we my kids are hungry between meals they can choose and anytime food. If they are still hungry after the snack, they can choose a second one. We save our sometimes foods for desserts or special occassions and we only eat one serving of them.

    At meal times, I put toddler sized portions on their plates and let them eat whatever they choose during the meal. At the very least they must take a "no thank you bite" of something they think they don't like or don't want to eat at that meal. If they eat all of at least two food groups from their plates, they can ask for more. If they don't like what is served they can request an alternate meal (generally pb&j or cheese sandwich). When they leave the table the meal is over and they can't come back for more. They also must wait an hour after the meal is served before coming back for a snack. - 4/21/2010   10:42:05 AM
  • 80
    We live in a society where disordered eating is the norm. Parents will know how to feed their children when they learn how to feed themselves. - 4/21/2010   10:39:23 AM
  • 79
    Children if not given JUNK FOOD will eat when they are hungry. Forcing them to eat just causes problems for them. - 4/21/2010   10:31:41 AM
  • 78
    My daughter was one of those children it was hard to feed. She didn't like to eat and would go weeks without eating. the doctors said she would not starve herself but she also had no energy to complete daily activities. I believe you need to find a balance. Sometimes you have to convince them to eat and to eat the right things. Snacks have never been an option in my house unless it was fruit or veggies. To this day that is what both my kids have for snacks. My son is now facing a similar problem with his youngest and is following the same road we went. Healthy foods are there to eat when you want to eat, snacks will be fruit and veggies - not cookies, chips or candy. Not sure if it was right, but it worked for me. - 4/21/2010   10:27:08 AM
  • 77
    I don't have children, but my boyfriend has a 6 year old daughter and when she's over he lets her have whatever. I remember, when she stayed with us during the holidays. I was getting ready for work and she was eating a pop-tart. A few minutes later, she was eating cereal. Right after that he made her the same food he was making us for breakfast: eggs, bacon, and hash browns. I think it's too much sometimes what he gives her or what she asks for. She already has a little belly, but I guess he thinks that she's active enough it won't affect her negatively later but I'm thinking otherwise because when she's with us, she doesn't do much physical activity. She spends a lot of time watching TV. I don't know what I'd do in the situation. Probably feed them when they are hungry but if they get to the point where a bowl of cereal isn't enough, then they can have fruit. I would refuse to give more cereal or give something sweet that isn't good for them. - 4/21/2010   10:04:34 AM
  • JDADDIONE
    76
    I don't have any children yet, but this is something that I think about often. My parents pushed food on me and also made comments when I ate too much. I have a very disorted idea of what I should and should not eat and I know that was shaped from my childhood. Parents need to be very careful how they approach this with their children. - 4/21/2010   9:59:28 AM
  • 75
    My parents had pretty strict rules about food. There were 5 kids, so understandably, meal times were structured and we ate what was served! We were also required to clean our plates and I have very traumatic memories of trying to finish all of my food when I was so uncomfortably full. (To this day, I HATE to be full)

    We were also required to eat everything, including rubber chicken hearts in soup, liver, and various other traumatic things.

    We were not allowed snacks between meals despite how hungry we might be. It took several years after leaving home before I could stop eating when I was full vs. finishing everything on my plate.

    To make matters worse, my parents were both OBSESSED with weight and made it clear that those who were over weight lacked self control (I won't mention the other horrible things they said). In an appropriate twist of fate, they both ended up over weight later in life...

    My sister was adopted from Korea when she was 3. Understandably, she always wanted to eat everything she could get her hands on since food was in short supply in the orphanage. My father was so mean to her, called her names and put her on a diet when she was very young. She turned to hoarding food and telling teachers and students at school that her parents didn't feed her in order to get more food. Needless to say, she continued to struggle with her weight for years. Fortunately, she was able to overcome these issues as an adult and is a very healthy person today. She eats very healthfully and runs 3 miles or goes to the gym 5 days a week.

    All of these things had a subliminal and blatant affect on my views about food and weight.

    I didn't pass these horrible things on to my kids and they (now 23 & 25) both eat well and exercise without the psycho trauma.

    Bottom line...provide you kids with healthy food and let them eat what they want. Be sure to educate them about nutrition, balanced diet and exercise and most importantly, be a good example! - 4/21/2010   9:50:32 AM
  • 74
    My niece measures all her food @ 8. So I don't want to go to extremes, but I do think that portions are something that we need to teach kids. - 4/21/2010   9:13:14 AM
  • 73
    My father always says, "if they get hungry enough, they'll eat wallpaper." In other words, don't bother forcing them to eat, just wait until they're hungry again. - 4/21/2010   9:05:32 AM
  • 72
    I don't stress over how much my children eat. My oldest does not over eat and enjoys darn near everything. My youngest is diabled and is the difficult one - it is either feast or famine behavior. We just go with the flow and everyone appears to be doing ok. - 4/21/2010   8:57:13 AM
  • 71
    my daughter just turned 1 and she is eating like a boat worker (!)
    And when she is finished she wants our food..
    We have to watch how much she is eating. - 4/21/2010   8:30:40 AM
  • 70
    I'm not so concerned about how much they eat it's what they eat that concerns me and I can control a lot of that by just what I have in the house to snack on and what I serve for meals. - 4/21/2010   7:43:28 AM
  • 69
    My son is 15 now and is long and lanky. He was always small and marginally underweight. I think my Health Visitor was more concerned about his lack of weight gain due to not eating than I was! He ate when he was hungry and not when he wasn't. He went through stages of only eating certain foods such as yogurt and rusks. As he has got older, his diet has got more varied although he very rarely eats breakfast - if he does I know he is on a growth spurt! He has a snack at school during their first break at 10.15 am. He is allowed "treats" but only if he is still hungry after he has eaten his dinner but I will not let him have treats if he hasn't finished his meal.

    I have noticed that when his appetite increases and he "eats me out of house and home" he is on a growth spurt. His eating, and his height/weight growth, have now settled down and he is growing at the rate that he settled into when he was younger. He is still slightly underweight according to growth charts but he is happy and healthy (or as healthy as he can be due to disability) and I have learned not to get stressed about the lack of breakfast. He makes up for it during the rest of the day. - 4/21/2010   7:38:15 AM
  • FLUOROMASTER
    68
    I don't fuss to much about portions for my 5 year old. I put a range of healthy foods on his plate and let him eat what he feels like. there is no dessert (usually fruit or yoghurt) unless most of dinner eaten or a good try. tonight he chose to eat nothing. He went straight to bed after dinner. he will be hungry tomorrow but will be offered a range of healthy meals and snacks. He rarely asks for junk food as my rule is 'healthy food before junk food' ie a piece of fruit then he can have whatever he likes, but fruit usually fills him up and he doesn't end up having the junk. i also insist on fruit and a glass of milk before parties, and find he hardly eats any junk then either. the only food allowed in front of the tv is fruit..works well. - 4/21/2010   7:00:23 AM
  • 67
    Who chose the picture of the child eating a huge bowl of fruit loops? Yuck! It would be great to see a picture of a child eating something unprocessed next time.

    I follow Ellyn Satter's advice, too, and I think it is helping me teach my young children good nutrition habits. - 4/21/2010   6:58:27 AM
  • 66
    One great thing about kids is that they don't come with a lot of baggage like adults do. They usually eat when hungry and stop when full. Grant it, they may not like ALL vegetables, but they'll usually have one or two favorites. For younger children, you may have to restrict sweets, but if you start them out with healthy eating and they see you eating healthy, they will probably develop a healthy outlook toward food. Kids pick up on our obsessions, so be aware of how you relate to food around them. Extremes on either end can have an adverse affect. - 4/21/2010   6:45:35 AM
  • KAKIPOPUP
    65
    My kids are now in their mid-to-late 20's, and hindsight is always at least 20-20, but I tried to stay away from eating battles. After they were more than 5 years old, or so, there were two rules: you may have as much as you want but you must eat what you take; when you are presented with a new food, you must try it but you don't have to eat it if you don't like it.

    We always had cereal (like Cheerios) available for those occasions when the kids were bottomless pits, and that was also the only alternative for those nights when any of them refused to eat whatever was intended for supper.

    It worked for us. - 4/21/2010   6:42:06 AM

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