How to Feed Kids Healthily So They Feel Full Throughout the Day
Kids are a mystery of nature. Sometimes they will lick a piece of toast and jam and be fueled for the entire day. Other times it seems as though they are like a shark, just opening their mouth and swallowing anything that passes by. And even though we understand that it is normal and natural for their appetites to fluctuate, it can be frustrating to say the least. Especially when it affects our lives as a family.
If our kid is at school and hungry, then they may not focus on work and could be disruptive. If they are hungry at sports, then they may not perform well. If we are out and about and our kids are hungry, then we could end up going off course and off budget to get snacks. It just isn't a part of modern life.
But, on the other hand, we should not see their hunger as something to stop. Being hungry is a good thing, because it tells us what we need! Instead, we must find out what our kids need that is making them so hungry. Your child could need energy, protein, vitamins, or minerals, if not all four, which is making them feel hungry all the time, no matter what you feed them. So the solution is not to fill them up on fiber and drinks, but instead to address these needs at mealtimes.
The big priority for making growing kids feel full is protein. Proteins are the building blocks of life. Make sure your kid is getting enough protein at all times to prevent hunger pangs. And remember that before and during growth spurts your child may need a ridiculous amount of protein to feel full, so don't be too worried if for a day they eat everything proteiny they can.
Not only is protein an essential nutrient for growing kids, but the secondary nutrients which we find inside protein foods are excellent hunger limiters too. Protein foods are often high in zinc, magnesium, selenium, calcium, B vitamins, vitamin D, etc. All of these nutrients improve energy and focus, getting rid of feelings of boredom and lethargy which often cause children to overeat.
Cooled starches and fats make for a great slow release energy option. If your kid is just doing loads, constantly on the move, and very physical in everything they do, then perhaps they are just running out of energy. For kids who are always buzzing, try and give them meals packed with cooked, cooled starches and healthy fats. Both these foods become energy very slowly, giving your kid a gradual release of fuel.
When it comes to micronutrients, kids suffer many of the same deficiencies as adults. If your kid shies away from any particular food group, color, or type, such as grains, greens, or leaves, then they may be running low on micronutrients such as vitamin C or magnesium. Check what your kid's nutrient intake looks like by using a diet planning tool. And if you spot any deficiencies, add in some food rich in that nutrient.
When it comes to helping our kids feel full, there are still definitely a few don'ts. The first of which is: don't feed them simple sugars. When kids eat simple sugars, just as when adults eat simple sugars, they get a quick high and then a crash, leading to a cycle of continual hunger. This is because sugar spikes will spike our insulin, which then crashes our blood sugar, resulting in the flatness we often feel after a sugar high wears off. Make sure any sugars your child eats are bonded with fiber, starch, protein, or fat. And limit the amount available in the first place.
Another don't is small, frequent meals. Of course when your child is very young they will still be used to frequent nursing. But a child eating solids needs no more than six meals a day, and older children should be happy on three with maybe a snack. Otherwise, you are just teaching their bodies to be hungry more often, anticipating food all day. By teaching our kids' metabolisms to expect only a few meals a day, and sometimes a snack, we are encouraging their hunger signal to only turn on around the time when food would normally be available.
A final don't is don't restrict food during mealtimes! Of course, if your child is unwell or seriously overweight, that is another matter entirely. But if your meals are healthy, full of plants and proteins and starch and fats, and your kid is healthy, they are hungry for a reason. Make a point of letting them fill up as much as they need on healthy foods that will give them lots of energy, because later on they will not be as hungry.
If you try and stick to this, your kids won't never be hungry again. But the worst of the effects of hunger will no longer interfere with your kid's ability to lead a healthy, happy childhood.