13 answers

Help Handling a Constantly Hungry 2 1/2 Year Old

It feels like my 2 1/2-year-old daughter is always saying, "I'm hungry" and "I want more" and "I want A LOT." Her pediatrician doesn't think that at this age she is eating out of boredom, but instead that she is saying these things because she really is hungry. But I am worried that she is eating too much. She is a big girl – at 97th percentile for height, but off the charts for weight by a few pounds. She is not a picky eater, and we feed her healthy foods, no junk – she gets fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy. When we give her fruit-flavored yogurt, we mix it 40-60 with plain yogurt, to cut down on the sugar. She drinks water and 1% milk only, no juice. The struggles we have are over the amounts of foods – like, she wants more grapes ("A LOT!") when she has already had a bunch of grapes.

Now that the weather is getting nicer, she will be getting out more and getting more exercise, so that should help equalize the height/weight disparity, but I still am concerned about how much she eats and how she never seems to be satisfied. Fwiw, her fraternal twin sister gets the same foods and is also a good eater, but she is much less food-focused and doesn’t talk about being hungry all the time (she’s also smaller).

Any advice from other moms who've gone through something similar would be really appreciated. I don't want to start getting into epic struggles that will make food an Issue, so that she has an unhealthy relationship with food down the line.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I think you daughter may need more protein in her diet. Also you may want to give a drink of water or milk with her snacks and meals. I think it is als very important that when a child eats that eating is the only activity they are engaged in,i.e. no TV or playing while eating, or no giving snacks while driving in the car. Having a child sit at the table and eat a snack helps them to feel their full cues.

More Answers

I think you daughter may need more protein in her diet. Also you may want to give a drink of water or milk with her snacks and meals. I think it is als very important that when a child eats that eating is the only activity they are engaged in,i.e. no TV or playing while eating, or no giving snacks while driving in the car. Having a child sit at the table and eat a snack helps them to feel their full cues.

As someone stated bellow she might just need more fat. It's ok to give children full fat foods and omega 3 fats are important. She might be craving it, just a thought.



Good luck and God bless,

She might have a vitamin deficiency and is eating to give her body what it needs. Try giving her a vitamin/mineral supplement. Even though you are feeding her healthy foods, different people process their food in different ways. Otherwise its up to you to limit the amount she eats and distract her with something else. You dont have to make it a struggle, just give her the same amount as her sister and when its gone its gone. Period.. Sorry, there's no more, time to go outside and play.

Hi There,
First of all, it is great that you are so receptive to your child's needs. It could be just that she is a large child with a big appetite, or she is going through a growth spurt, or that she needs something else in her diet (ie. more fat). However, the fact that she doesn't ever seem satisfied concerns me. I am an Occupational Therapist who has worked with young children with a variety of special needs. Have you ever heard of Praedar Willies (sp?) Syndrome. People who have thise condition do not have the same sensation of "fullness" that a typical person would have. They tend to over eat because they simply don't feel full... sometimes to the point that they will scavenge for food, eat off the floor etc. Many poeple with this condition are over wieght (not always) or have "low muscle tone". Learning disabilities and behavioral issues may also be involved. Has she always had a huge appetite, or is this new?? I don't want to alarm you, but if you are truly concerned that it is more than just a growth spurt or just a child with a hearty appetite, I would get a second opinion.

stretch out the food.. fill the plate but with littler pieces.. cut grapes in 3 instead of whole or in 2 pieces.. 3 pieces look like more. make sure she is drinking a lot of fluid and getting outside to run around a lot. Go on a bike ride... run and play ball. When she wants a snack.. show her the clock and point to the big hand.. and tell her when it goes to this number ... pick a number and then she can have a snack.. tell her to play until then. so say it's 6 p.m. tell her when it's 6:30 and show her where the big hand has to be. Good luck.... just spread the food out..

she may be stress eating. she may truly be hungry. give her veggies with a protein, or fruit with a protein. the protein has fat in it and will keep the child more satisfied. the fruit without the protein will make mor hunger. always feed with a protein, even pretzels. and, yes, she may be bored. weather's getting nicer, go for more walks and the park and outside things. then a snack after running around is quite appropriate, if she's hungry. another suggestion is to not ask if she is hungry and see what happens.

I have to agree with your doctor I don't think she is bored. As long as you feed her healthy with fruits and veggies she is not going to get fat. She may be going through a growth spurt so I wouldn't deny her food she is very young and growing.

She doesn't sound like she is overweight and you are obviously feeding her a good variety of healthy food so I don't think you should worry about quantity. Certainly concentrate on getting her outdoors and being active rather than focussing on food, as you don't want to make food an issue.
My older daughter who will be 9 in July is very hard to fill up. She eats about the same amount I do at meals and I have a good appetite! Plus she wants snacks betweentimes. She is constantly hungry and I have never seen a child put away food so fast. She was an average sized baby but has grown very fast - she is 58 inches tall and has the same shoe size as me. She is on the 99th percentile for height and about the 75th for weight, so is not in the least overweight. She obviously just needs the fuel to grow so fast, plus she is very active - swimming, judo, cycling etc. I would rather she ate plenty and did lots of sport than try to control her eating. I think there are so many unhealthy pressures on girls about body image nowadays that I want to be sure not to add to those. Concentrate on a positive healthy attitude towards food.
My second daughter hardly eats anything and is way smaller although I put the same foods in front of them at mealtimes!
All kids are different and so long as they are fed a healthy diet they will let you know when they are full.

I go through this with my 2 year-old at times, as well. In my child's case, I think sometimes it can be an attention thing or that "testing" part of the terrible twos with her seeing just how much she can get away with and work herself up into a tantrum.

At that point, what I try to do is choose an activity to in the kitchen without food or drink---usually painting, play-doh, or coloring at the table. Once she gets distracted enough we move on to another activity and she forgets about the food.

Hey! My son is 23 months and eats and eats and eats. He pretty much always has and has been off the charts for most of his life (for weight, head circumfrance,and sometimes height). The doctors always tell me not to worry and that his fine. That he is just going to be a "big" guy so I try not to worry too much. However, I do cut him off when it seems that he clearly has had enouph. If he really insists he is hungry then I always will give him rice cakes (plus of course water). Just thought I would commiserate!

It sounds like your daughter is not getting nearly enough fat! Small children NEED fat to grow and thrive - our cell membranes are made almost entirely of fat, and her body is producing new cells at a very high rate. Fat in our diets is what satiates us - keeps us from being hungry all the time. She's getting plenty of food, plenty of calories, but replace the skim milk with whole milk, the yogurt with a whole milk variety (Stonyfield Farms YoBaby yogurt is whole milk AND low sugar), and add in plenty of good fats. Butter (cultured varieties are a healthy choice), walnuts, avocados, even coconut oil and flaxseed oil blended in with the yogurt would help her. Just a little more fat will help her not to be so hungry and will give her that healthier relationship with food that you are seeking. Don't worry about saturated fats in her diet - modern thought on fats is changing so much. If you're concerned you could check out the research of Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig, Dr. Joseph Mercola, and others.

you could try letting her have granola bars,nuts, pretzels, etc... for snack. These types of foods might help fill her up better.

First, kudos to you for being so health conscious with what you offer your daughter. She's a lucky girl. Veggies and fruits are great and you can't really eat too much of them (or at least it's hard). The fact that she's still hungry says to me that she craves something she needs that she's not getting. I don't know what your approach to fats is, but kids need a lot of good fats when they are developing. The brain is primarily cholesterol, after all. The key is they have to be good fats. Now, there is a lot of new research challenging the old ideas about what that means. Even mainstream dieticians are now saying real butter is better than any imitation. And kids need saturated fats. They don't need ones full of chemicals or additives or that have been processed with heat (which destroys the molecular structure, etc.) Some of the most interesting research concerns the difference in fat and cholesterol make-up in industrial meat , dairy, and eggs, vs. pastured/grass-fed meat, dairy and eggs. The omega 3's are much higher in the traditionally raised stuff and the nutritional breakdown is radically different. Just finding good eggs from a farmer that lets his/her chickens roam free would be a great first step. To read more on fats I suggest Sally Fallon and Mary Enig's work, or Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. Oh, I think there's another book called Good Fats out there.

Please know that I am not suggesting you switch your child to a meat-heavy diet. Just that you look at possibly substituting other fats fr what she currently gets. For instance, whole milk for 1%--lots of additive go into reduced fat milk to make it palatable to the average American. It's not like they just skim most of the cream off, the way a farmer would.

Every parent has to read and decide what they think is best. Good luck!

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