Develop Healthy Eating Habits

Help Them Know When They've Had Enough

Mother offering children food
Patience works better than pressure. Offer your children a variety of foods. Then let them choose how much to eat.

Babies know when they have eaten enough. Help your children keep listening to their bodies as they grow.

Kids who "listen" to their own fullness cues stop eating when they feel full and are less likely to become overweight. Give your kids a chance to stop eating when they feel full, even if you think they aren't. They'll feel more independent and you'll help them keep a healthy weight.

  • Let them learn by serving themselves. Let your children serve themselves at dinner. Teach them to take small amounts at first. Preschoolers can practice serving from small bowls that you hold for them. Tell them they can get more if they are still hungry.
  • Avoid praising a clean plate. Your child should stop eating when he or she is full, rather than when the plate is clean.
  • Reward your child with attention and kind words, not food. Show your love with hugs and kisses. Console with hugs and talks.
    • Giving your child sweets when they feel sad or as a special treat can teach your child to eat when he or she is not hungry. This may cause your child to ignore body signals of fullness and overeat.
    • Rewarding with sweets also lets your child think sweets or dessert foods are better than other foods. For example, telling your child "no dessert until you finish your vegetables" may make them like the vegetable less and the dessert more.
  • Try not to restrict specific foods. If that restricted food becomes available to your child, he or she might eat it despite feeling full. This can lead to a habit of overeating. Also, don't restrict sweets or other treats as punishment for bad behavior.
  • Use phrases that help not hinder when helping them know when they've had enough.

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