I’m often asked what to do if your child has finished eating, but an hour later complains of being hungry. Should you feed them on demand?
The answer is to have a kitchen closed policy unless it’s a meal or designated snack time.
Closing your kitchen isn’t unkind. It’s a way to set limits with your children.
Children thrive on structure. Structured meal and snack times are part of this and reassure your children they will be fed.
An open kitchen policy can give the message that food is for everyone, all the time. It may encourage overeating, and can lead to impulsive rather than intuitive eating, eating from boredom rather than genuine hunger.
Even though you’ve fed your children a snack after school, you may find they are looking for more food closer to dinner time. Or some children will announce they have finished dinner, only to complain of being hungry an hour later. Remind your children of the kitchen closed rule before they leave the dinner table. If they are still hungry, offer them seconds (if available), or a piece of fruit. This helps children learn that dinner is the last meal of the day. If they don’t eat to satisfy their hunger at that time, the next food won’t be until breakfast or snack time. Some children may leave the table hungry in the hope that there will be something better later on.
A word about hungry teenagers. Adolescence is a time of huge growth and increased appetite. Your teenager may genuinely be hungry a couple of hours after dinner. If this is the case, offer a pre-bedtime snack of banana, toast, breakfast cereal, and/or yoghurt.