How Much Should I Let My Child Eat?

How Much Should My Child Eat?

I want to confess something. It breaks my heart when I hear a child ask her parent if she’s full. I silently scream. Unfortunately, I’ve seen it many times. Here's the answer to "how much should I let my child eat?"

How Much Should I Let My Child Eat?

The overwhelmingly vast majority of kids are born knowing when they are hungry and when they’re full. It’s only through social learning that we lose our ability to listen to our bodies and learn to overeat.

When I hear a preschooler ask her parent if she’s full, I know that she’s lost her ability to listen to her body. She'll now look to external cues to tell her when she’s full.

It takes trust to let your child choose how much to eat. You’re a good parent. You care about your child having enough to eat. So I know that it’s so very tempting to tell her that she needs to finish those peas or eat two more bites of chicken before she’s done.

It doesn’t help that she’ll likely be completely inconsistent in how much she eats. Eating lots some days (what my Grannie called “having a hollow leg” – as in “I don’t know where the child puts all that food. She must have a hollow leg”). Other days she’ll eat almost nothing (which causes parents to say “I think that she must pull nutrients out of the air like a plant – she certainly isn’t eating them”).

Sure, sometimes kids will get it wrong. Sometimes they'll choose a more interesting activity and not eat enough. Other times they'll eat too much and get a stomach-ache (or perhaps even throw up). It's just like everything else in life - kids sometimes get things wrong. Giving them the opportunity to practice lets them learn from their mistakes. If you're consistently offering 5 - 6 opportunities to eat each day in a low-stress setting, they'll get the nutrition that they need over the course of a day.

Hold back from commenting on the amount of food that your child is eating. Let her gain food-confidence by controlling how much she eats.

In other words, how much should you let your child eat? As much (or as little) as their tummy tells them to eat.

Showing that you trust her and letting her build food-confidence is an amazing gift that you can give.

Looking for more strategies for picky eaters? Get tips emailed to you on how to support your child to become a good eater.