16 answers

4 Year Old Son Is Always Hungry!

My almost four year old son is always hungry! I do try to feed him healthy nutritious foods and he never seems to get enough. He will typically have oatmeal or eggs and toast for breakfast, crackers for a snack, a sandwich and fruit for lunch, another afternoon snack, and dinner. Sometimes if he doesn't like what I offer, he won't eat much but I just leave it out for him and tell him he has to eat it if he is hungry. But sometimes he will eat it all, and whine about being hungry an hour later. Does anyone have any tips for how to keep my little boy full?

As far as his body weight/build goes, he is a big boy. He always has been. He weighed 9 lb. 11 oz when he was born and is now as tall and weighs the same as his 6 year old brother. I don't know if this means he just needs more? He is healthy, and not overweight at all.
He does eat mostly whole foods, real oatmeal, real fruit. And I don't let him have junk, or sugar. He typically doesn't like many meat products, which is a bummer because I know they are more filling.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

More Answers

Dear S.,
If you think your son is always hungry now....
Just wait until he's 14.
My son has always gone through phases where it seems there's never enough food in the house and then he will barely eat anything for a few days.
I always know exactly what's coming....All the sudden he's another inch taller and none of his shoes or clothes fit.
For this reason, you need to establish healthy habits now. Aside from breakfast, lunch and dinner, my kids were always allowed to have any fresh fruit or vegetable snacks they wanted. If they ever said they weren't in the mood for celery or carrots or melon or a banana, then I figured they weren't really that hungry and they could wait for dinner.
I have friends whose kids are so fricking picky. They've never tasted a brussel sprout or a bell pepper or string bean in their life. I tell them if their kids get hungry enough, they'll eat a dirt sandwich and be happy to have it.
What it boils down to is, is your son really hungry?
Make sure he's drinking plenty of water, make sure he's getting plenty of exercise.
You say he's not overweight, but he's obviously not underweight either. So he's not starving. You just don't want to get in the habit of him needing to eat something everytime he says he's "hungry", because it could be that he's feeling something else. In between meals you can offer him orange slices or celery with peanut butter. If he says that's not what he wants, then I would guess he's not really hungry.
You could try giving him a little more to eat at a time.
On the mornings you give him eggs and toast, also give him some yogurt or fruit. Mix it up a little. I have to be honest with you, my daughter loved oatmeal but she got so burnt out on it. Try cream of wheat with brown sugar and fresh berries. Try Malt-O-Meal...that was my father in law's favorite and my kids loved it because Grandpa did.
If your son loves, eggs, try scrambling them with a little cheese and mushrooms, maybe some tomato and avacado. Always add a fruit, cottage cheese or yogurt.
One thing my kids loved was "egg in a hole". Passed down from Grandma.
Take two slices of bread and use a cookie cutter or round glass to make the "hole" in the bread. Butter both sides of the bread, including the separate hole shapes.
Use a little non stick cooking spray in a frying pan, heat, and lay down the pieces of bread. Crack an egg into each hole and allow to cook, then flip to the other side. Put the little "hole" pieces into the pan to "toast" on each side. Serve with fruit and/or yogurt. He might just be getting tired of having the same old things so he's not feeling satisfied. Pay attention to things if he says he craves them, it could be a sign of a deficiency of a certain thing like protein or a vitamin or mineral.
If his blood sugar drops he could be feeling the need to eat something, so offering the healthy stuff is your best bet.

I hope you get some great advice!

1 mom found this helpful

It sounds like one of many growth spurts. My son was an eater too, still is. Try feeding him every 2-3 hours, and try to make the snacks/meals more filling.

More protein would certainly be more filling, as well as dairy. Aside from meats there are beans, and nuts. Try adding Almond Butter to his crackers for morning snack, then throw a banana on top. Or top it with a chunk of cheese.

Yogurts are a great snack as well, sprinkle with granola & fresh fruit, and they are yummy!

To get more protein into his diet try making sandwiches with thinly sliced meat, and cutting them into shapes with cookie cutters. I was amazed at the difference making my kid's food fun did to open their minds to more.

Try googling Bento Box Lunches, and Muffin Tin Mondays. Both fun ways to introduce foods to the kids.

Be careful if he is eating more often be sure to brush his teeth more often. When we eat foods that are not green veggies our mouths become acidic. This is a playground for plaque and cavities to grow. It takes our mouths approximately 20 minutes to return to an alkalai state after we have finished eating. If he is eating more often, his mouth will be in an acidic state more often. So extra dental care is needed.

On another note, I am not sure I am all for the Deceptively Delicious idea completely. I feel like if we are deceiving our kids we are not teaching them the importance of eating healthy. Not to mention the concept of hiding healthy foods in a recipe tends to mean cooking the nutrients right out of it. So I would limit this idea a bit. With my kids I may hide foods which they do not enjoy the texture or taste on it's own. However, they are usually right along side of me watching me put the ingredients in. Just another point of view, you have to find the one that is right for you.

Be sure to check in with his Pediatrician if you have any further concerns. Good luck, and hang in there!

T.

1 mom found this helpful

veggies and cheese sticks! and no, not because they are "bored" (what a weird culture we live in!), but because they take time to chew, have tons of fiber, and many, many nutrients. My kids love their snacks- red pepper, olives, carrots, celery, jicama, avocado, peas, and BONUS, you can prep it all at once, and it's raw, so it's portable!
Good luck! My parents shake their heads when tey see my kids eating, and say "start saving now to feed these guys when they are teenagers!".

You've goten a lt of good advice here. Te hunger your son talks abot seems pretty normal for a child his age. When our oldest son was about 4- (he's now 9) I started asking hm if he was hungy or bored & the answer is bored then there's no need to eat but find something else to do. Maybe this could work w/your son, as well. Best of luck!

S.,

Kids say they are hungry when you know they are not. If you are giving him healthy meals and snacks and he is properly hydrated, when he says he is hungry, have him drink a glass of water.

I have nephews who always want something else, they are hungry, and they are full. They get down from the table go to the fruit bowl (no matter whose home they are in), grab an apple take ONE bite and throw it down. Is it the kid’s fault….NO, it’s the parents. The kids are running the parents and no one in the family likes to be around them.

I think you are taking proper care of your child…Still on his next visit to the doc…bring the subject up.

Blessings.....

You didn't say what his weight and body mass is like. He could have a very high metabolism - usually these kids are super skinny and eat more than others around them.

Some people have mineral or vitamin deficiencies , which trigger the body to want to eat to get those things it needs.

Graves disease, or hypothyroidism will cause excessive hunger and decreasing weight. (iodine supplements and avoiding all SOY are suppose to help keep your thyroid healthy).

Diabetes can manefest with increased hunger. Also hypoglycemia.

intestinal worms can trigger increased hunger.

Depression can cause increased eating.

Encephalitis and tumors.

Dehydration can cause humans to want to eat. We can actually extract quite a bit of water from "real" food.Many times the body sends the thirst signal but it is interpreted as hunger. Some people think that thirst is only when your mouth is dry as a desert and you feel the thirst in the mouth. Usually by the time you get to that point, you've been dehydrated for some time and have missed or misinterpreted the signals. I notice I crave sugar and junk when I am dehydrated.

Growth spurts can cause a short term excess in eating.

What I would do is look for any other symptoms that could point to an illness. If none are present, I would increase his water intake, and not offer any extra food. You are already feeding him 5 times a day. I would make sure the foods are whole food which you seem to be already doing: real eggs and not egg beaters, old fshioned oatmeal and not instant oatmeal in a cup, Shredded wheat and not froot loops, Raw milks- not pasturized, coconut oils and real butter- not canola,margarine or vegetable,plenty of meat like baked chicken,fish,and beef -not hot dogs an nuggets, whole raw fruit - not juices, limit breads to whole wheat only and cut out crackers/cookies which are empty and cause dehydration. Rice is a fast burner so you'll notice hunger soon after a rice dish. Go with brown rice or mix it half and half to get them used to brown rice.

A little bit of healthy hunger is actually a good thing. Study after study has shown that people who have limited calorie intake live longer than those who eat more calories.
The body was cleverly designed to be able to go through surprising stretches without food. In ancient times people fasted weekly, by choice, and often because food was scarce. It is only in recent modern times that we eat so much food an feel that we must to be healthy.
Try the extra water, take those crackers out of the picture, and see what happens.

S.,

I think your son may be going through a growth sprut. I have noticed my 3 year old daughter has all of the sudden, developed an increased appetite and she too is always hungry. For her, it is apparent- she's growing. Also, my daughter started pre-school in August and the routine of waking up early for school and the structure of the classroom, I am sure have impacted her desire to eat. I believe your son is just growing and this hunger will slow down at least until he reaches the pre-teen and teen years. I suggest that you continue to offer healthy food choices and as his appetitie increases, so will his intake of healthy foods. Good luck.
- T.

Try adding more protein into his diet. On Oatmeal day, have a hard boiled egg and carrot sticks instead of (or in addition to) crackers. What is the afternoon snack? Have an apple and some cheese together. Yummy and satisfying. Try not to stuff him with carbs (I know with a toddler it's hard not to...)
But stick to high protein foods and produce. Do you cook with Quinoa? My toddler loves it. It cooks just like rice but is much healthier for you and very high in protein (for a grain).

Eggs, Poultry, Legumes. Your new favorite food groups. Yogurt is a very non-satisfying snack that tends to be high in sugar (leaving you hungry sooner) So try to keep in as plain as possible (gotta taste good, too) and serve it with something satisfying like nuts and fruit.

Good luck! You're in for many more years of hungry growing boy!

~S.

Sounds to me like he might need more protein and healthy fats. The frequency is good. Maybe add cheese, yogurt, or nuts to his snacks. Or even a boiled egg. It may also keep him from getting grouchy if he is inclined to be grouchy when hungry. :)

S.,

My 5 year old daughter is the same way. She's skinny and tall and can out-eat most of us. They just have high metabolisms and can burn what they eat. She is a total grazer and seems to need to eat every 1-2 hours, which, doctors say is the healthiest way to eat. I have to make sure there are plenty of things for her to snack on. Ready-cut apples, I give her a plastic knife and peanut butter (protein!), carrots, dill pickles are a favorite snack. If you make ready-snacks ahead of time it helps your sanity so you don't feel like you are in the kitchen all day long! My daughters know where to grab a snack. Frozen blueberries or raspberries when fresh are not in season are kind of a treat because she thinks it's like a popsicle. I also freeze tube-yogurt and give it to her like a frozen treat instead of ice-cream. They love to eat sugar-snap peas. I can't seem to keep enough in the fridge, but they are a protein. You don't have to worry so much about meat, kosher hot-dogs have no fillers or preservatives and my kids gobble them up, diced grilled chicken too. Cottage cheese is a good protein as well as cheese sticks and I cut up block cheese and put it in bags. He'll get what he needs, don't worry. But do a bunch ahead of time and you won't be bothered by it while he's running in the kitchen 583 times a day.

Hope it helps, take care!
D.

Hi S.,

The soils are depleted and it is effecting our children's nutritional intake. That is why we see so many children that are becoming obsese. I have found a great protein drink that is safe for anyone and it really helps to supplement what is missing in our foods today.

My grandaughter used to eat and still be hungry and now I give her this drink for breakfast and she stays full for a few hours.

If you want more info let me know.

N. Marie

Because our body doesn't know the difference between thirst & hunger maybe he is not getting enough water all day long? Maybe whenever he is hungry if you think he shouldn't be give him water before the food. Remember also it take 20 minutes for our bodies to know we are full so having him eat slowly will help with eating the correct amount of whatever it is you are feeding, rather than if he is hurriedly shoving it down in the first few minutes...Also fiber-apples etc stay in the stomach longer than carbs & is more filling...high fiber & high protein should help-if you are low on ideas just google it & I am sure you'll get more than enough snack ideas.

We have always joked that our skinny little boy - now 5 years old eats like a Hobbit (11 times a day). When he eats a big dinner at his friend's house at 5:30 he usually wants to eat again when his daddy gets home and will eat all of what's on his plate and then climb into Daddy's lap to eat half of his food too. Within a few days we usually notice that either his shoes are too small or his pants have gotten high-water so he was just having a growth spurt.
Keep feeding him healthy stuff - try giving huim peanut butter or almond butter to dunk his apple slices in - good source of protein and filling. ;)

Keep doing what you are doing. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register that you are full. If he is still hungry after 20 minutes, try giving him something to drink. Sometimes the body confuses the thirsty signal with the hungry signal. If that doesn't work, try fruit and peanut butter. Natural sugar+protien+carbs=lasting fullness the body can use. Also, try increasing the portions of the healthy stuff a little at a time to find out exactly how much he really can eat before he is full. Good luck.

Ok, so interesting responses so far. Personally I think the answer is to just offer him more food. Not more often, just more at the times you are already feeding him. Putting him back on a newborn routine of eating every 2 hours is not sustainable once he's off to school. Every four hours is just fine (as a matter of fact this is recommended for adults as well), just offer him more food at each sitting. You are already feeding him the right foods. As far as the cracker comment, just make sure they are not empty crackers. Kashi makes some really great crackers that my girls like with cheese. Don't worry too much about meat. Just make sure he's getting enough protein from other sources. Does he like burritos? My hubby is British and he was raised on baked beans on toast. Sounds weird, but actually it is pretty tasty and filling.

The boredom and dehydration comments are quite valid. Our bodies do often mistake thirst for hunger. Make sure he's drinking plenty of liquids. In our house all of us have a cup on the counter to use throughout the day (unless we drink milk which requires a new cup!) to make sure we are all reminded to drink more. As for the boredom, just stick with the larger meals and keep him busy in between. My youngest complains of hunger when she is bored. I just tell her not to worry, lunch/dinner/whatever will be soon, but in the meantime would she like to play a game? Or something else. Just something to keep her occupied. Once she's engaged in another activity hunger is not an issue. :o)

Good luck on your mothering adventure!

S. I feel your pain! My two boys are always hungry also! They too were big from the start and are still growing! From what you described as your sons eating habbits, they seem to be normal. My oldest likes meat more than my youngest so I fill my youngests protien needs with beans and legumes. Both of my boys are tall for their age and I feel we are just going to have tall men! As long as your son is getting enough exercise and not putting on the pounds then I say feed him!

You should also mention this to his Doctor just to ease your mind and make sure there isn't an underlying problem. Again I do feel that your son is just going through a big growth spurt!

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.