25 answers

My Daughter Wants to Snack All the Time

I'm looking for suggestions. I have a 4 year old that always wants to snack between meals. An hour after eating a meal, sometimes less, she starts saying she's hungry and wants a snack. She's eating pretty well and balanced, but I think she gets bored and distracted quickly at meal times and doesn't eat until she's full. I don't mind one snack between breakfast and lunch, and something a couple hours before dinner, but she'll ask constantly for 3 or 4 snacks. I only allow fruits or vegetables or something healthy between meals, but I think she's not slowing down to fill up at once- she is pretty active. I am not worried about her weight at all- I would just like her to eat a full meal and not be asking for more food a half an hour later. It's very tiresome to have to stop to fix another snack right after I clean up lunch. Should I not allow any snacks between meals and just put up with the whining, or allow her to "graze" all day? How can I encourage her to eat more at mealtimes? I try the 3 more bites, but she's says she's full, then an hour later, hungry again. Just a growth spurt she'll outgrow? Thanks for your help!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

kiddos tummies are tiny and they need a lot of small "meals" instead of the typical "3 meals"
Let her eat as long as it is healthy in between the reg. meals...

1 mom found this helpful

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I would NOt Worry at all. I bet it's a growing spurt. My is 3 1/2 and been going this for the past few wks. As long as she is eating healthy and you are giving her some good choices she will be fine.
Kids eat a lot more than us as adults do.
Hope this helps

1 mom found this helpful

kiddos tummies are tiny and they need a lot of small "meals" instead of the typical "3 meals"
Let her eat as long as it is healthy in between the reg. meals...

1 mom found this helpful

Kids usually eat 5-7 times a day. Also, kids this young are still the most honest. They usually do only eat when they are hungry. As they get a little bit older they begin to worry about weight and how people see them. So small portions severals times a day is probably best, escpecially for you active 4 year old. She burns it very quickly. You may want to add some healty grains that tend to be more filling. You may want to go ahead and start asking her/telling her... We only eat when we are hungry. Are you hungry do you need mommy to help you find something fun to do? Good luck!

I encourage grazing. I just have stuff where they can grab it... cut up veggies, washed fruits, string cheese - that way they get what they need and I don't have to stop and cook.


have a home Day Care and we eat snacks between meals. Breakfast or snack in the morning. Lunch. Nap then snack then dinner then snack before bed. They are eating about every two hours except when sleeping. They wake up and the kids from school are here for the afternoon snack and that is before dinner.
Breakfast if early kids
snack at 10
Lunch at 12
nap fromn 12:30-3:30 some times 4
Snack once they wake
Dinner at 6:30
Snack at 8

I serve a cracker any whole grain and fruits or veggies. Water because we need to get the kids to drink water. We do not serve a lot of juice in fact I quit buying it.

God Bless G. W

I say that as long as the snacks are healthy, it's fine. (ok, except for the Diego Fruit Snacks that I'm sure aren't the healthiest but that my son is OBSESSED with.) My son is a great eater who likes a variety of things, and when he's hungry he eats. Sometimes he inhales a big meal, sometimes not so much - but I've learned not to obsess over it and to let him listen to his body and his hunger cues. "They" say several small meals a day is really the best diet, and these kiddos just haven't been forced into the 3 square meals routine. I also agree with the poster who suggested keeping the breakfast or lunch food around longer and offering that when she wants her snack - most things will keep just fine in the fridge for an hour or two. By making sure that the snacks we offer are as healthy as the meal-time food, I don't think we can go wrong.

Hmmmm, I love that you have healthy snacks so that will help! I wouldn't push too much the "clean your plate" idea b/c that's what got America so large. I would check with her doctor and if all is good just be more strict on limiting snacks...save the meal and she can finish that when she gets hungry...keep up the healthy snacks.

Hi R., I am a R. as well and I thought you were writing about my 5 yr. old! LOL Our stories are exactly the same but all that I can figure is that she eats what her little belly will hold and then she asks for more later...we to only allow healthy snacks and she will take them so I know she really is hungry. I just make sure that I keep lots of apples, bananas, carrot sticks etc. on hand and because I have two others to care for as well, I keep them on a shelf where they can reach them after they have asked for a snack so that I am not stopping whatever I am doing every hour. :) HTH.

My snack size rule of thumb is to use something like a to-go size pringles container or a sack-lunch size chip bag.
I give out graham crackers or kix or cherrios or chex or popcorn. Or the cracker packs or a cheese stick
What ever you give out, make sure its low in salts & sugars. Adjust to what your child likes and change it up but stay firm in what you hand out.
Try to limit the snacking so it doesn't create a problem later and become comfort eating. If she sees you snacking, she will want to also.
Set times thru-out the day for a snack. Stick to those times. A snack evenly spaced between meals & maybe a very small treat 1hr after dinner is good.
Make sure that she understands that once she gets down from mealtime, she get nothing until snack time except drinks. This will also cause her(once she realizes you mean it) to finish her meal.

My four year old son does this in spurts. I think he just needs more food sometimes because of a growth spurt. I can't say too much because I eat the same way. It is actually healthier to eat every few hours than to eat a few large meals. However, it isn't very convenient for the person making the meals, is it? At least she is not obsessed with food and has a weight issue like so many kids today.

I have 3 boys and they do this all the time and have since they were little. I let them graze. It is frustrating at times. But I believe healtheir in the end. I would put something in the fridge that was "approved" and let her start getting it herself as long as she can clean it up also. We also used a timer that went off every two hours when they were little. That way I didn't get all the whining. They knew when we would break from homeschool and eat a light snack. You may be thinking her stomach is bigger than it is. You may need to be giving her more protein also. Like apples with some peanut butter. The protein takes longer to digest so she shouldn't be hungry as quickly. But my kids are usually hungry within an hour of dinner. As long as it's fruit etc. then I let them eat when their bodies tell them they are hungry and let them stop when their bodies tell them they are full. I do notice that they do it more during growth spurts. Just one of those things I guess.
Good Luck,

I let my kiddos eat whenever they are hungry, for the most part. I want them to learn to listen to their body's cues. I want them to eat when they are hungry & stop when they are not. I have read that it is actually healthier to graze throughout the day instead of eating just 3 big meals.

As long as kids are eating healthy foods and not processed foods full of empty calories, they should be fine. That is the key.

If she is getting snacks very close to meals, that could be why she isn't eating more than 3 bites. You could try not giving her much of a snack close to meals. You could just giver her a handful of grapes, 1 or 2 apple slices, or a couple crackers at that time.

Another thing to consider, at her age, is, she may be using snacks as a way to eat the things she likes. Are the foods you fix for meals as preferable to her as her snacks? I know my ds, who is pretty picky, would prefer to eat fruit than what I fix for dinner many nights.

Also, I agree with what another mom here suggested. Keep snacks ready to give out so prep and clean up will take up much less time. You can buy a natural fruit preservative at the grocery store (check where they keep canning supplies) called Fruit Fresh. It will help keep cut up apples and pears from getting brown for longer, once they are cut. Fruit, cheese cubes, etc can be washed, cut up and bagged in sandwich or the smaller snack size bage ahead of time.

If she is only eating fruits or veggies in between meals then I would allow it. 1) we really should be eating 5 small meals a day- it would reduce obesity and help our digestion, 2) she isn't eating foods that are processed and fatty- she is eating exactly what she needs to eat. It may be a hassle for you, but it is what all dieticians recommend for a healthy lifestyle.

R., Not to sound like Mommy-Dearest, but what if you told her you will save the meal she didn't finish & she can have that later on for her snack? If she finishes w/it, let her have a different healthy snack. If she balks at that, let her know that if she eats up at mealtime she can go back to the other snacks! (Otherwise, that's the way it is!) You could try it for awhile! She might not want snacks as much? If you are going to try it though, I'd do it w/conviction. Don't wimp out. Just keep making it be "her choice." Just an idea! S.

Our 3 yr. is just like that. Just a couple of bites at meal time. Then a bit later wants a snack. Try this. At Dinner give her, sliced bananas, apple slices, carotts sticks, If she likes them, maybe cucumber slices, or even bell pepper slices,or any kind of her favorite vegetable. plus a childs yogurt,to dip the fruit in.Apples and peanut butter is very good. I love it. Trix brand is good. And a cup of milk or juice. it is all very healthy for her and they love it. Or sometimes i will say "oh don't you eat that, don'tttt you do it. And smiling the whole time, oh course she eats it and we all make a good thing out of it. If she only wants a few bites of food, that ok. She will eat when she is ready. It is all very normal to have this kind of trend about eating. Some times there is something more interesting than eating. GOOD LUCK.

Hi R.,
small meals are better for everyone, however if she is just trying to get away from the table thats different. My 31/2 year old did that for a while, then we started having "meal time". Every one comes to the table and leaves the table at the same time. IF he is full he still has to wait for everone else to finish (we have great conversations). Sometimes he just wants to get down and play. Sitting there usually gets him to eat a littel more plus it is family time. Then if he is hungry later he gets the leftovers from the meal. All food is eaten at the table. If it is something that does not save or reheat well, I let him have a healthy snack. No sweets or chips unless all of the healthy meal is gone.

A few things:

1. Keep her left over lunch and when she says she is hungry, give her that again.

2. She might truly be hungry. If she is goign through a growth spurt, she might eat a lot. My son sometimes amazes me with how much he eats.

3. She may not want to "stuff" herself at lunchtime. Eating smaller meals throughout the day is actually good for you.

Actually R. as most have concurred the way your daughter is eating is perfectly healthy and smart.
As long as she is not getting junk between meals, let her stop eating when she is full and eat when she is hungry.
You might also consider putting some of the food up and offering it to her later when she is hungry again.
Children are naturally intuitive when it comes to what they put in their bodies, this should be encouraged.
We'd all be better off if we all ate the way she does!

My daughter is 13 and STILL does that! She is skinny as can be but eats all the time. What works best for us is to make sure she is getting high protein foods at meals and snacks. The protein will keep her full longer. At this age she is burning off alot of what she eats. Apples with peanut butter were a favorite for a long time, then it was celery and peanut butter. Cheese is good too. If she will eat eggs. a scrambled egg is a good start. Even oatmeal has protein in it...if you make it with milk it has more. To add even more protein(as long as she isn't allergic) add some ground nuts to it. You may even wat to try the new Special K protein water between snacks or if it is close to meal time and a snack would hinder how much she eats. Hope this helps! Good luck.

Hey R. our 5 year old little girl does that also. It was getting pretty "over the top" so now if she doesn't finish her dinner she doesn't get snacks. That way we know that she is getting her 3 balanced meals. I don't feel bad now when she wants a snack...Good Luck!

Adding a nice dab of REAL butter to her meal might slow down the hunger thing.

Make sure there is no corn syrup in her food. Corn Syrup makes us hungrier and never satisfied with what we eat. ("That" corn refiners commercial about how high fructose corn syrup is "natural" and all that is bunk!) http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2007/0... to see dangers of this stuff.

MSG hidden in foods can also make us hungry hungry hippos. www.truthinlabeling.org will show you how MSg can be hidden in stuff.

let her eat!!! that's a GREAT eating habit that all people should have!!! ...especially americans! if she eats only 3 times a day, but fill up each time, it will take the body longer to process the food and it won't process all of it, which turns into fat eventually and is stored in the body. when you eat less but more frequently, the body processes food faster and actually uses up most if not all of the nutrients from the food, which is better for weight maintenance and overall health! so, as long as she's eating lots of fruit and vegetables, she'll be just fine!! to make it easier on yourself, just give her fresh fruit or veggies, like bananas, baby carrots, broccoli, apples...or even make little sandwiches in advance. just make sure you don't start filling her up on chips and cookies, or else you'll have a big problem on your hands!! but definitely let her eat...and perhaps you could switch to her routine for yourself! good luck!

I suggest keeping her main meal in the microwave or fridge and when she says she is hungry pull it out and have her eat it instead of snack foods!

Maybe she's thirsty. Nutritionists (and those of us who have been successful at losing weight and keeping it off) will tell you that our body will act like it's hungry even if we're just thirsty. Try giving her something to drink instead and see if that helps, especially if the meal she just ate had sodium or was full of low-moisture foods.

And, if you think she's just bored, try finding a new activity to occupy her. You don't want her to grow up thinking she's hungry just because she's bored.

If you don't think she's eating enough at mealtimes, then make her sit at the table until she's eaten a certain amount. There's nothing wrong with the "clean plate" club - despite what some "experts" might think. It won't make her fat as an adult.

I've always heard to eat smaller meals and have snacks in between. Healthy snacks like you are doing and good proteins and vegs at dinner and lunch. Also, breakfast should be less on the sugar side. No donuts or items like that. :-) My son's doctor said that not to worry as long as he eats. He'll eat when he is hungry and vice versa. As long as your daughter is doing well in the weight dept. I don't think I would worry too much. You seem to be giving her the right foods.

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