Lindsay, A. 2020, Hunger & Fullness - Building Tummy Awareness, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP

EATING & OUR EMOTIONS

hunger child

We eat to provide nourishment to our bodies and help keep our heart, muscles, and bones strong.
But adults sometimes eat for other reasons even when they are not hungry. We eat while we watch a movie or go to a baseball game; when we celebrate a birthday, when we are sad, angry or bored.

Has your preschooler ever eaten lunch, then 20 minutes later said he was hungry?

Here's Why:

Like adults, around the preschool years, many children start to use the word "hungry" to express feelings such as: boredom, loneliness, sadness, or other emotions they don't understand or can't name. Using food to relieve sadness or other emotions will establish the connection between food and those feelings instead of hunger. Over time, this can be increasingly difficult to undo. And it won't address the underlying reason for the sadness.

ASK QUESTIONS

If a preschooler complains of hunger, take a minute to gently ask questions to see what's really going on: "What have you been doing?" or "Would you like me to play with you for a while?" If your child quickly forgets about a snack, you'll know he or she was in search of your attention or just looking for something to do. If the hunger complaints continue, you probably have a hungry child on your hands.

HUNGER & FULLNESS

It's wise for parents and teachers to talk to children about what it means to be hungry and what it means to be full. Most of us are born with the ability to gauge our body's need for food, but over time we learn to ignore these signals, which may contribute to weight gain.

Preschoolers who truly understand when they are hungry -or full - can better regulate how much food to eat. Not surprisingly, children who don't recognize when they're full are more likely to be overweight.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!

Here are some ways to encourage children's awareness of when they're full:

  • Avoid the clean your plate rule. Let preschoolers know that it's okay to stop eating if they feel full. This encourages children to respond to their own body.
  • If a child regularly leaves a lot of uneaten food, try serving smaller portions.
  • Talk to children about how we eat more slowly as we become full. Remind them that it's okay not to take seconds if you're no longer hungry. Say, "This is delicious, but I'm going to stop because Im full."
hunger boy
Remember that children watch what others say and do. If teachers, parents and siblings all model healthy eating habits, a preschooler will have good examples to follow.

REFERENCES

Adapted from Hunger and Your Preschooler

Preschooler M.D., M. L. (2014, November). Hunger and your Preschooler. Retrieved from www.kidshealth.org

Learn more about the author(s)

 

Also of Interest:

 
running obstacles
Cardio Endurance | Heart Smart
Cardio- Respiratory, or “Cardio” Endurance is an important element to children’s physical fitness.
Lindsay, A. & Byington, T. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
begal brunch sandwich
Recipes - Healthy Kids Resource Center
Packing a healthy lunchbox and other healthy ideas.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
toddlers with tablet
Screen Time | Make Time to Unplug
Increased time in front of a screen means less time being physically active, contributing to higher weight and BMI, increased caloric intake & unhealthy food choices.
Lindsay, A. & Byington, T. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
family dinner
Talking Positively At Mealtimes - Your Words Matter
As your child's caregiver, you play the biggest role in their eating behavior.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
Nevada Statewide SNAP-Ed Needs Assessment, 2020-2021
A needs assessment of SNAP-Ed programs statewide in Nevada. In 2020, all counties had a SNAP-Ed program, though they did not all receive individual funding, and 9 had programs, delivered by Extension. This publication shows many counties lack health and nutrition programs and how...
Buffington, A., Webber, K., and Lindsay, A. 2021, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
 

Associated Programs

Kids and leader dancing with colored scarves in a classroom

Healthy Kids Resource Center

A one-stop shop for evidence-based research, resources, curricula, activities and materials that focus on obesity prevention for teachers and parents of young children. It is designed to educate parents and teachers as well as provide the tools needed to teach young children how to live a healthy lifestyle.

two boys holding a large wedge of watermelon

Healthy Kids - Nutrition Toolbox

This toolbox covers tips to increase childrens' overall levels of health and gives information pertaining to changing health habits.

 

Extension Director's Office | On the campus of University of Nevada, Reno