One of the most important lessons you can teach your kids is what hunger is. After Colin finishes his dessert, he often laments, "I'm hungry." That is NOT hunger. In the middle of a long flight, Cailya, looking a bit bored whined, "I'm hungry." She had recently eaten lunch. That too, is not hunger. When the kids haven't eaten recently, they can get cranky. That is hunger. And when that happens, I know I failed to do my job.
Not only is it important to teach your kids how to understand their hunger cues, it is essential to teach them how to control their hunger. One study found weight gain was prevented amongst children by teaching them to slow down the pace of their eating. Children who waited 30 seconds between each bite lost an average of 3.4% of their body weight during a year-long research project, while those who didn't pace their eating saw their weight increase by as much as 12.6%. Slowing down food intake allows enough time to pass for normal satiety signals to kick in.
Hunger can also be prevented by eating regular meals. Our bodies are sensitive to change. Skipping meals or waiting too long between feedings contribute to more extreme changes in hunger hormones. That is hunger, but not the kind of hunger I want to teach my kids to react to.
You can also teach your kids how to control hunger by teaching them to avoid foods that stimulate appetite and select foods that promote satiety instead. Instead of giving them foods with added sugar and refined carbohydrates, try incorporating some fat or protein into their meals and snacks. Both fat and protein promote satiety, helping kids and adults alike control their portions. Instead of letting your kids go hungry, try teaching them something about Hungary by making this tasty Hungarian Goulash recipe.
Lukits, A. (2016, Feb). Slow EAting May Help Children Keep Weight Off. Wall Street Journal, pg. D4.