Children Know How Much They Need to Eat
Your child may eat a lot or a little
The average toddler eats from 960 to 1700 calories a day. Add on to that a normal 20% over and under day-to-day variation, and that child will eat between 760 to 2040 calories a day. Children of other ages show the same variation. If you are restricting how much your child eats or pressuring her to eat, her day-to-day variation will be even greater. Your child will eat less or more depending on who has the upper hand.
Your child will grow in her own way
If you follow the division of responsibility with feeding and activity, she will eat, move, and grow in the way that is right for her. She can even make up for her mistakes in eating. Raise your child to be competent with eating. Preserve her sensitivity to her internal sensations of hunger, appetite, and satiety. She will do well with her lifetime of eating much as she needs and weighing what is right for her body.
Your child may grow at the extremes
Exceptionally big or small children can make their parents so nervous that they interfere. It backfires. Large children (or any children) who don't get enough to eat - or fear they won't - become preoccupied with food and tend to overeat when they get a chance. Small children who have food pushed on them become turned off by it and tend undereat when they get the chance.
Trust your child to eat as much as she needs
- Maintain a division of responsibility in feeding.
- Do family-friendly feeding.
- Offer sit-down snacks between meals. Don't give food or drink handouts, except for water.
- Let your child grow up to get the body that is right for her.
For more about raising children who eat as much as they need and get bodies that are right for them (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter's Your Child's Weight: Helping Without Harming, Kelcy Press, 2005. Also see www.EllynSatterInstitute.org/store to purchase books and to review comprehensive educational materials that teach stage-related feeding and solve feeding problems.
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