Ask The Expert – Stop Your Child From Overeating

by Naveen Agarwal

in Ask The Expert,Helpful Tips

Ask The Expert is a weekly column on Littlestomaks.com. The idea is to have a reader-submitted question answered by a nutrition expert or a pediatrician. Feel free to submit your question in the comments section below.

This week, Registered Dietitian Laurie Beebe recommends a simple method to stop your child from overeating and develop long-term healthy eating habits.

LaurieBebee

Laurie Beebe

  • B.S. in Clinical Dietetics from the University of Florida
  • M.S. in Clinical Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University
  • Expertise in weight management
  • Experience: As a registered dietitian for over 25 years my resume includes clinical dietitian positions in hospitals, dialysis centers and doctors offices; appointments at universities teaching nutrition and dietetics; and writing and speaking to groups of both lay people and professionals to educate a range of clients about nutrition and health.
  • Website: http://www.mycoachlaurie.com
  • Twitter: @lauriebrd
  • LinkedIn Profile
  • Contact: via email laurie@coachlaurie.com

Question: How can I model healthy eating behavior for my kids without emphasizing ‘dieting’ at this young age?

Answer:

Recently, a client of mine asked me this question:

“My husband and I are both active and in good shape, but sometimes I eat a bit too much, especially in the evening, and go to bed feeling bloated.  I notice that my 3 year old and 5 year old also want second helpings sometimes and afterwards there are times they complain of a stomach ache.  How can I model healthy eating behavior for them without emphasizing ‘dieting’ at this young age?”

In my opinion, one of the best things you can do for your children is to teach them healthy eating habits while they are growing up.  They don’t need to have any information about what eating too much will do to their future health at this age; only that it might give them a tummy ache!  Just as you need to discover that the signal “you are full” does not reach your brain for 15 minutes after you really have had enough, this is something you can teach them, too.  Show them that you are setting a timer for 10 minutes when they ask for second helpings (especially if you allow them extra portions of foods that are low in nutrient-density, like desserts).  Let them know that their body needs time to realize they are full and if they keep on eating their only signal is a tummy ache when it is too late.  Assure them that if they still want more food in ten minutes then it is theirs, but you want to be sure they don’t get sick from eating too much.  (You don’t need to remind them in ten minutes by asking, “Did you still want more macaroni and cheese?” but do give them a small amount if they come to you for more when the timer goes off.)  Chances are, they will be distracted by some games or toys and forget about the desire for more of the tasty food when the impulse passes.

This is a healthy lesson they will learn for life and they will grow up, not with an idea that “food that tastes good is bad and makes us fat and sick”, but merely “I need to stop and think whether or not my body feels hungry before I take an extra helping”.

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Disclaimer – Information provided in Ask The Expert column on Littlestomaks.com is intended to give you general guidance on a question related to toddler nutrition. It is not meant to be treated as medical advice. You are welcome to contact this expert for a detailed consultation on your specific situation to determine what actions, if any, you should take regarding nutrition and health of your toddlers. We do not recommend you to take any action based solely on the information presented in this column. Experts have agreed to provide their professional opinion on toddler nutrition related questions on a voluntary basis and no compensation is offered to them by Littlestomaks.com.

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  • John

    Great information! Really the children are more interested in junk food and that’s make them fat and unhealthy. Thanks for nice suggestion.

  • John

    Great information! Really the children are more interested in junk food and that’s make them fat and unhealthy. Thanks for nice suggestion.

  • melissa

    i have a six year old daughter who has an obsession with food. it is all she thinks, talks, and lives for. i am constantly on her about eating trying to explain to her how it is not healthy eating habits. it’s beginning to run our lives it’s more than i can bear our lives revolve around food in fact i am scared to even get something to eat cause i know she’ll want something too. my fiance and i have to sneak food when she is around he even goes to the garage to eat. we try buying just fruits and veggies but even that doesn’t help she eats anything. she cries even at times cause she says she is hungry but i know she is not. it’s even gotten were she tries to lie about how much she has ate. i am afraid she is going to get a complex and i might be the cause of it. please help i don’t know what else to do.

  • http://www.RaiseHealthyEaters.com Maryann

    Melissa,

    I ran across your comment and wanted to recommend a book for you. It’s from Ellyn Satter, RD “Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming” She has great advice for children who love to eat. Sometimes when a child knows their food intake is limited, they will eat every chance they can. Satter’s Division of Responsibility of feeding solves this problem. She has many real life examples in her book — check it out!

  • http://www.RaiseHealthyEaters.com Maryann

    Melissa,

    I ran across your comment and wanted to recommend a book for you. It’s from Ellyn Satter, RD “Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming” She has great advice for children who love to eat. Sometimes when a child knows their food intake is limited, they will eat every chance they can. Satter’s Division of Responsibility of feeding solves this problem. She has many real life examples in her book — check it out!

  • Christine

    Hello,

    I have an eight-year-old daughter who has always been a very good eater from the time she was born. Since she started school, she has become somewhat overweight, and I find that food is taking an increasing importance in her life. We do not try to make it a big issue, however, we do try to help her make the right choices. On occasion, I find food and a jar of peanut butter hidden in her room. Since I am overweight myself, I am trying to get her to have good habits before it is too late. I try to tell her that hiding is not a good thing and she should talk to me about it, but she does it anyway. Do you have any suggestions?

    (If you publish this answer online, please don’t use my full name. Thank you so much for any help you can provide)

  • Christine

    Hello,

    I have an eight-year-old daughter who has always been a very good eater from the time she was born. Since she started school, she has become somewhat overweight, and I find that food is taking an increasing importance in her life. We do not try to make it a big issue, however, we do try to help her make the right choices. On occasion, I find food and a jar of peanut butter hidden in her room. Since I am overweight myself, I am trying to get her to have good habits before it is too late. I try to tell her that hiding is not a good thing and she should talk to me about it, but she does it anyway. Do you have any suggestions?

    (If you publish this answer online, please don’t use my full name. Thank you so much for any help you can provide)

  • Paulina

    My step son is eight years old and loves to eat. He will wake up in the middle of the night and sneak food and act like he didnt do it. He is very overweight, weighs about as much as me and I only weigh 156. We caught him eating a whole jar of mayo and half a tub of butter. We dont know what to do, can you help in some kind of way please?

  • Paulina

    My step son is eight years old and loves to eat. He will wake up in the middle of the night and sneak food and act like he didnt do it. He is very overweight, weighs about as much as me and I only weigh 156. We caught him eating a whole jar of mayo and half a tub of butter. We dont know what to do, can you help in some kind of way please?

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