With all the reports these days about eating disorders and obesity, it is really hard as a parent to find the right balance and know if your child is eating too much or not enough. There is a strong following to the opinion that kids can self regulate their appetites, which may be true. How do we know if our kids are self regulating?
Have a good look at your child – sometimes we are so blinded by how gorgeous they are that we just don't really 'see' them. If you think your child is underweight or overweight you will know. A paediatrician can tell you – but you are their mum, so you really will know if you think there is a problem. For example, is your child wearing the right size clothes for their age? Does your child have a good amount of energy?
Here are some quick family guidelines that we use.
You are the parent, you decide what to eat. This is the most important factor. You make the decisions about the content of their meals. Each meal should be a good balance of protein and carbohydrate. Try to encourage healthy snacking.
You decide when to eat. Our bodies are creatures of habit. If they are fed regularly they will learn to be hungry regularly. If we do not eat within a sensible time frame our bodies may not have digested the previous meal properly or may have gone 'past the hunger point' therefore we are training our bodies not to know when they are hungry and when they are full. It is becoming a recognised fact that kids and adults alike should be eating 5 meals a day – 3 balanced meals and two healthy snacks. Kids approximately every 2.5 hours.
Kids can then decide how much they eat. You know there are days when you are hungrier than others, and kids are the same, so it is important not to make them 'clean their plate'. It's equally as important to not let them say they are full if they have had two bites, especially if the TV is on or there are other distractions: they will come back to you in an hour wanting more.
If you are really not sure you can count calories, however not many of us really like to count calories for ourselves let alone our children. Active kids need approximately 80 calories per kg of body weight (1kg = 2.2lb). If you are worried about your child's weight, either under or over, remember to see your paediatrician.