The prevalence of children obesity is on an upward trend. According to National Health Survey (NHS) statistics, 52.7% of Singaporeans are at moderate or high risk of developing weight-related health problems, most of which begin to develop from a young age. We definitely don't want our little angels to end up a staggering 40kg - at 2 years old! So with such worrying statistics and news, it’s no wonder that parents think twice about their children’s diets.
How can we tell if our growing child is really still hungry? Are there any causes for overeating? These vary from child to child, so here are some general guidelines to spot the signs and symbols of overeating.
1) Are they “hungry” when they see others eating?
Warning signs to notice include the child’s expectancy to be served each time there is food on the dining table, and asking different people if he “can have some” of their food, especially if he has already eaten.
Don’t take Junior’s word as the law. When he says that he is “hungry” every time he sees someone having a meal, chances are that he isn’t actually hungry, but simply getting tempted by the sight of food. This is especially true if he has already had his meal. On this occasion, it is best to control his meal intake since young, and stick to three solid meals a day. This way, you are able to control his intake, and not give way to having frequent meals at irregular times of the day.
2) Are they snacking frequently between meals?
Snacking is not only a common problem; it is one of the leading causes for rapid weight gain. Because of this, it is imperative that you train your child from young to adopt healthy eating habits. Children snack when they are bored, and if left unchecked, this can become a habit that is wont to continue in the future.
3) Are they still hungry after a full meal?
Determining whether or not your child has had his fill depends very much on each individual. Some little soldiers have much higher metabolic rates, or are generally more active than others. In these cases, they probably need the extra energy. Take note, however, as weight loss, in spite of heavy eating, may result from other causes, such as tapeworm infection.
On the other hand, if you notice that hunger translates into more sluggish behaviour, or that the amount consumed does not comply with their levels of activity, this may point to overeating, be it due to boredom or medical reasons.
4) Do they sneak food into their rooms at night?
This includes sneaking sweet drinks, hoarding snacks, and even tricking their siblings or friends into letting them have their share of food. Resorting to such means for food should be monitored closely, as it usually points to more serious causes than actual hunger, particularly if you observe such behaviour alongside the other symptoms listed above.
More serious causes of “hunger” include medical situations, such as Compulsive Eating Disorder, where children are not aware of feeling full, or other causes such as stress, usually resulting from outside pressures. The point to note is that when children overeat, it is usually due to a need to overcompensate for something else that they feel is lacking, be it attention, help, or self-image.
In this case, if you have already tried to tackle the issue unsuccessfully, it is best to consult a paediatrician or dietician about your child’s nutrition.
On the flipside, if you still are unable to detect the signs, try giving your kids something healthy to snack on instead. Bite-sized fruit pieces, oatmeal granola bars and fresh fruit juices make tasty treats for when your kids get the munchies. (NOTE: beware of “healthy” snacks which are actually laden with sugar and calories!) And if you need a little more inspiration, here are some other ideas for nutritious snacks. Good luck!
For more articles on your child's health, see: