Children Know How Much They Need to Eat

All children know how much to eat: the large child and the small child, the big eater and the small eater. Even children who love to eat will get filled up. Trust your child to eat the amount that is right for her. Trying to get her to eat less or more will backfire and create the very problem you are trying to prevent. 

Your child may eat a lot or a little

Sometimes your child will eat hardly anything. Other times she will eat more than you can ever imaging. It is all normal. Take a look at the figures: 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 restrict how much your child eats or pressure 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. Rather than reacting when she eats a lot--or a little--keep your nerve, hang on to structure, and 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 eat and grow at the extremes

Exceptionally big or small children can make their parents so nervous that they interfere with their eating. 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 


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 to purchase books and to review comprehensive educational materials that teach stage-related feeding and solve feeding problems.

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