At SP’s two year doctor’s appointment we received a handout with “Tips for the 24 month visit” on it. Under the “feeding” section it said that we could expect our two year olds appetite to decrease and that it wasn’t uncommon for kids to eat only one decent meal a day. Ha! I said, I know this, I’m a dietitian, but this wasn’t my kid at all!
SP’s appetite has never decreased, she just keeps going and going. With all the childhood obesity concern every meal can feel like a minefield when you’re feeding a big kid with a big appetite. SP is two and a half, but she’s been an eater since day one! Well, maybe not day one, you can read about those troubles here. Once the breastfeeding problems were sorted out, SP got the hang of eating, big time! She quickly reached the 85th percentile weight for length, which means she’s right there – overweight! Luckily, I teach and practice the Division of Responsibility, which you can read about here, and it is this approach that has helped me feed SP and allow her to just grow.
How do I do it?
- I make sure her options are healthy, because I know that no matter what, she’s going to eat it all and then ask for more. This means a lot of fruits and vegetables (luckily, she eats both willingly) and lean protein. Protein is the most filling nutrient, so I make sure she has a good source at every meal, to keep her full.
- We start with small portions because she always wants more.
- When she’s already had what anyone would consider plenty of food, but she wants more, I offer a vegetable. Always a vegetable because I figure she’ll only eat that if she is truly hungry.
- B and I always direct her to her belly and ask her if her belly feels hungry or full. She’s getting to the point where she can tell me that she is full – success #1! As a result of my efforts to stick to the DOR, SP gained 3 pounds and 2.75 inches in 6 months – nearly perfect growth, and her BMI is at the 83rd percentile – success #2! I know that I need to let her body grow the way nature intends. I also know that if I ever try to restrict her intake I can pretty much guarantee that she will start to seek out food at non-eating times, she will almost certainly overeat at every opportunity, and her weight will skyrocket.
Restricting a big appetite always backfires. Your child will begin to display food-seeking behaviors and overeating, which will likely make a concerned parent restrict even more. Follow the DOR, serve healthy foods, and allow your child to decide when she is full.