Does your child complain of hunger all the time, even after a meal? Many parents face this problem. And they worry, as there is an emotional aspect to it — they feel that they are to blame for their child remaining hungry. There may be various reasons for a child to feel perpetually hungry. Here are some:
They feel deprived
Parents of overweight children tend to restrict the amount of food their children eat during mealtimes. Even parents of children whose weight is normal make the mistake of restricting their children’s food intake fearing they may overeat. Such diet restrictions often trigger an obsession for food in children. They are never content and always want to eat more.
The food they had is not filling
Many parents think they are dietitians and follow methods such as cutting down on fat in their children’s meal thinking that it will help them maintain a slim figure. What they don’t understand is that fat is necessary and it is fat that gives the feeling of satisfaction or being full after a meal. It is very important for your child to have a balanced diet with all the important types of nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins.
They are distracted during mealtime
Children usually know how much to eat. However, if they are watching their favourite TV show while eating, they may lose focus on the food and eat less than they need to. So, after the TV show is over, they may feel hungry again. The best thing to do is to switch off the TV, computer and phones during mealtimes. Instilling a sense of discipline during mealtimes will help.
It may be just a growth spurt
Children grow in spurts. During these growth spurts, it is normal for them to eat more than they normally do and to eat at irregular intervals. Don’t worry about it. Just ensure that your child eats healthy alternatives instead of junk food. An experiment-based study titled ‘A Prospective Study of Adolescent Eating in the Absence of Hunger and Body Mass and Fat Mass Outcomes’ was conducted by Dr Jack A Yanovski in 2015 in the US. The subjects of the study were 204 children in the age group 8–17. The study revealed that boys ate more than girls of their age at each stage of puberty.
There may be psychological issues
Many children find it difficult to express their emotions clearly and often use the word ‘hunger’ to convey feelings like sadness, boredom, fear, etc. If you notice such behaviour in your child, talk to him and find out how he feels. Ask him if he would like to play with you or go out into the garden for a while. If he forgets his hunger and accepts your offer, then he has been trying to get your attention. But if he prefers to sit at home and have something to eat, then he really is hungry.
So, if your child is always complaining of hunger, regulate her food habits and timings. Let her eat three balanced meals and two healthy snacks a day. If you see any sign of binge eating in your child, seek professional medical help.