Help! 6 y.o. Obsessed with Food

Updated on September 06, 2013
G.B. asks from Princeton, NJ
14 answers

DD is 6 and has always been a big eater. It's probably my fault because she was my first and I overfed her when she was little because I was eager to make sure she was getting enough nutrients so she probably got used to feeling stuffed each meal. I stopped doing that, but now she is always asking for food, even shortly after a big meal. She eats as much as I do and when she's not eating, she talks about food, candy or dessert. I know kids can eat a ton when they're going through growth spurts, but this one does it every day, every meal.

She's always been tall but her doctor said she needs to watch it now because she's getting heavy at an age when kids are losing their baby fat. His advice was to let her wait 10-15 minutes if she wants extra food, but she's happy to wait it out.

I try to take her out to the playground as often as possible to get some physical activity, but once we're there, she just sits in the sandbox. She is very sedentary and doesn't want to do anything, she's happy to just hang out. She did gymnastics and dance every week but that didn't do much.

My 4 year old is the opposite, very good at moderating her own food intake. During growth spurts she'll eat as much as DH, other times much less but when she's had enough she won't take another bite. I want to get the 6 y.o. to a point where she's moderating her own food intake too. I want her to learn to stop when she feels satiated, not eat to the point of being stuffed. Any advice on what we could do to get her there?

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so much for taking the time to respond. Some really helpful advice here. I do try to get the kids to eat healthy food and don't keep a lot of junk in the house. We also don't do much fried food.

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answers from Chicago on

Look at WHAT you are feeding her. Are you feeding her more filling foods?

Now, my son out ate his father at dinner a few times, he too is 6. But he out ate him regarding chicken one night at meatballs the other.

Bottom line is that I suggest you look at what you are feeding her vs. how often you are feeding her. But, yes six year olds can eat you out of house and home.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

my younger was a heavy little fellow, and really loved to eat. what helped with him was to try not to nag (so hard!) but when we homeschooled we did a unit study on nutrition, and when he understood about metabolism and the role that proteins, carbs and fats play in digestion and absorption he really became empowered to regulate his diet himself. by the time he was 15 he was working out regularly also, and now as a college student he's buff gym rat.
rather than limit what she eats, purge the house of junky food and give her lots and lots of options for good stuff. when she gets in the habit of reaching for a piece of fruit or string cheese or whole-grain crackers with peanut butter when she's peckish, you'll be so thrilled.
good luck, mama!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Have you talked to her pediatrician? Honestly, check that first, because if she has a metabolism or thyroid issue, it could be part of it. Perhaps her brain isn't getting an "I'm full" signal.

Don't blame yourself for "overfeeding" her causing this issue. It doesn't help, it makes you overly focused on it, and it doesn't change anything.

Stay with the present. What is going on in her body that she's not getting the I'm full signal? What's up with her metabolism.

If she sits at the playground, take walks. Even slow walking is exercise. You'll see the neighborhood, meet people, and get exercise. She can collect leaves, sticks, whatever. DON'T tell her it's exercise. It's just mommy-daughter relaxing time.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

We have the same thing going on with my 6 year old. Here are some of the ideas we use-
Every night before dinner there is a plate of veggies (carrots, cucumber, peppers, celery, etc) that I leave out. The kids usually munch on those while dinner is being prepared. This way I know they are eating a ton of veggies every day in addition to whichever veggie is for dinner that night. You have to decide on portion control for your daughter. Once you determine that she has had enough then you can give her the same option each night as her supplement. For example, my daughter will eat her dinner and then say she is hungry. Most of the time I think it is from boredom or the hope that she can have an unhealthy snack. The two options I give her are more veggies or yogurt. If she is truly hungry she will choose one of those. If not, the subject is dropped. I never deny her food as I don't want her to become self conscious, but I do limit her options.

As for exercise, what do you mean by gymnastics and dance didn't really do much? Exercise for kids should be enjoyable, meaning find an activity your daughter likes. Soccer, bike rides with the family, tag in the yard, swimming are all options. Don't call it exercise, call it playtime.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I agree with the ideas about higher protein foods which are more filling. If she eats too many carbohydrates (pastas, breads, rice, etc.) cut those way down; they make blood sugar rise and then it crashes and you feel hungrier later than if you eat proteins and fiber.

Also, be sure you only put limited portions on the plate (and on your own and your husband's, so she cannot say "Why do you get more?") and no seconds except on vegetables, for instance, never on carbs. To prevent a fight over "I want seconds," ensure that the meal is very focused: You all sit down, you talk and share while you eat, but you do not watch TV while eating (a huge no-no; it distracts us and we eat more); and when the meal is over it's over swiftly -- don't keep staying at the table, ensure she clears her plate and the other plates (make it her new chore) and be certain she has something she MUST start doing immediately after dinner! If her homework is done before dinner, then always have something she needs to do as soon as dinner is done, even if that something is a walk with you, or a chore, or reading a book. Don't let her linger when the meal is done.

Waiting 20 minutes to feel full is right, but kids don't want to listen to their bodies' "full signals" so having something that must be done when the meal is swiftly ended can help distract her.

Also ensure that she is not eating for comfort or for fun because it's what she does when at home -- she should have other activities at home so she doesn't associate being in the house with getting another snack.

Limit what foods you keep on hand. If she wants to snack all the time, do not have snacks available other than fruit and water etc. She cannot eat what is not in the house! Your husband and her sister might object but you can sell your husband on the idea that your doctor says it's important to watch her intake, can't you?

If she is now allowed to go get her own snacks when she likes, end that, even if you end up having to lock the pantry or cabinet door. (Yes, that sounds harsh but some families do this if a child tends to go get food on his or her own constantly.)

Does she buy school lunches if she's in school? If so, I'd cut that out. School lunches might say that kids have to take one veg and one fruit etc. but the reality is (and I've seen it while visiting my kid's cafeteria) that kids TAKE those things because they must but then throw them out because they fill up on the pizza, burgers, tacos and starchy junk. Pack her lunches and involve her -- appeal to her sense of independence and take her shopping for lunch box foods and guide her toward the veg and fruit you know she likes. She is not too young to learn to cut up a cucumber with supervision, or make a roll-up from half a whole wheat tortilla and light cream cheese....

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I have the same problem with my nine-year-old daughter, and it just boils down to choices. I won't deny her food when she says she is hungry. I simply don't bring junk food in the house. If she's hungry, she only has healthy foods to choose from.

Every now and then we will go out for ice cream or something.

Physical activity is extremely important. I put my daughter in a Taekwondo after-school program so she is getting two hours of vigorous martial arts training every single day. This keeps her from gaining weight, which she is VERY prone to do.

Genetics suck. Our pediatrician has told me, this is just the hand she was dealt, and she has to learn how to play it. I took her to a nutritionist so that she understands that aspect of what she's dealing with, and what the risks are with making bad choices. We emphasize health, not weight.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Muncie on

Not sure what your food budget is like but a bowl of cut carrots and celery always ready may help. Fruits and veggies at the ready will help keep things under control. Ditch the junk or keep it locked away for very special occasions.

Put a time limit on when she can ask for more food. My daughter will snack all day if I let her and then not want dinner. I've had to tell her that she's not allowed to have any more food after 4 pm. That way she doesn't waste dinner.

Someone mentioned water. This is a trick adult dieters will do. A full glass of water just before a meal will trick the body into thinking it's full sooner. It might help. Plus more water intake is just good for the body as a whole.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I like Patricia G answer! Also include more foods that are high in protein. Cottage cheese, cheese sticks, even slices of deli meat like roast beef are good for you. Yogurt is high in protein and gives you that full feeling! Don't let her snack on empty calories or drink to much pop or koolaide. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Great advice from Patricia G!

My 8 year old also loves to eat. He makes good choices most of the time though. He knows about proteins, carbs, and vegetables for dinner. He knows what he should have more of if he is still hungry, and that sometimes an extra scoop of mashed potatoes is okay.

He knows if he wants more food, we have a 30 minute wait period. Because honestly, in 30 minutes normally he forgets he wants more and goes about his day. If he is still hungry, he can have more though.

Talk with her about choices - good and bad, and that bad is okay sometimes and in moderation.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

She's 6. You decide for her when and how much she eats, when she snacks and so forth. If it's not mealtime or snack time, you need to say no. Establish the rules, explain why they exist and enforce them.

When my boys were 6, I would allow a plate, and an extra helping of whatever we were eating. But after that, I made them stop and told them that they'd had enough to eat.

You need to stop allowing your daughter to overeat. She's too young to make healthy choices on her own or to know when to stop eating a yummy thing that she loves.

Also, ensure that she's getting enough water. Often, the body's signs of mild dehydration feel an awful lot like hunger. Tell her to have a glass of water when she begs for food.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Wichita on

Great posts already! I'm just going to add a few thoughts to the mix...

First off be careful in your know how it is when someone tells you that you cannot have something. The human body is downright mean when it comes to things like start thinking about it more, you start craving it, etc. So I would say that diversion is better than outright denial of a certain food. My personal motto is that most things are okay in moderation!

Second off, if she has been overeating for quite some time, then her stomach may be stretched to a larger size, which means that her body isn't giving her the "I'm full" signal until she has overeaten. It's going to take a little bit of time for her "I'm full" signal to register at a lesser quantity of food.

I totally agree with the comments about checking her thyroid (I know this one from personal experience) and also about the types of foods that you are offering to her...some foods will cause more crash and burn, whereas others will help her to feel fuller longer.

Watch how much emphasis YOU place on food...never use it as a reward/punishment (it's easy to do....especially when it comes to dessert). Careful with the ole "Yay, you have a HAPPY PLATE" stuff...try to emphasize stopping when you are full....even if it means that there is something left on your plate.

Last thought...try to teach portion sizes. This was a tough one for my younger half sister (who LOVES to eat). It used to be a situation where everyone got 3 oreos (or whatever), but then we got to a point where that really wasn't reasonable...the portion size for a 6 year old should NOT match the portion size for an adult. We had to change the thinking on some things and start to emphasize that portion sizes depend on your body size.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You are the adult and you need to be in charge here. Your daughter does not have the knowledge to make good decisions in this regard and her health is at stake! Every time you feel guilty saying no, think about how guilty you will feel when you have to give her insulin shots because she has developed diabetes due to obesity!

You need to let her know that from here on out, things are going to change. She gets three meals per day, plus one afternoon snack and one evening snack. You put the portions on her plate.

Look at her fist - that's as big as her stomach is. Think about how little food it really takes to fill that small space. She may say she's hungry but she's not. She's just not overly full which is what she is used to.

For the snacks, fresh veggies and fruit. She can have one "treat" per day for dessert.

As for exercise, you need to make her get some exercise. If I see my GD sitting around the house on a weekend, I MAKE HER get her bike out and ride around the block x number of times. I MAKE SURE she gets exercise EVERY DAY! We also just inherited a exercise machine (not sure what it's called but it does a lot of stuff!) I have had my SS make up a short, easy exercise routine for my GD and I go out with her every evening to talk to her and encourage her as she exercises.

Really, it is all about you. You are calling the shots. Stand up and take control of this situation. If you need to, post a picture of someone giving themselves an insulin shot on your refrigerator to remind you of the consequences of giving in.


answers from San Francisco on

Hi Gib

I have the same problem as you Mama! ,with my 6yr old son.
He is very tall and big built for his age.
My doctor ,after his developmental check at 4rs old ,refer us to a dietitian. I was not impressed at first because I have a huge fear that it would give my child a complex about his size etc but off I went anyway and told my son we were going to see how tall he was.
It has been the best thing I ever did because to my surprise she did not focus on my son at all but all on me. I am the mother and the one that is feeding my child. She said it is very common this mammy guilt ,that we are afraid that our child is hungry and that's why we give in to them asking for food. The food I give my child is healthy with the odd treat but I used to give him so much of it lol. She explained that it becomes a habit,a comfort, and their systems gets used to having the extra food. She said I need to be strong and say no ,saying no used to make me feel guilty,
My son is still continuously asking for food,it can be draining at times. The big difference now is that I am saying no and sticking with it.
I can advise the usual stuff, less junk,water,exercise etc etc but we all know this already lol
Best of luck
As with me it is a work in progress,
B. k



answers from Rochester on

Find a naturopathic doctor. get an opinion. she MAY be doing something normal - FOR HER.

Shocker, but a possibility, so sit down:
She may be over eating - or she may have a parasite. I can think of several natural remedies - but I am not a doctor, and what are the TRUE age limits on natural remedies are, only an ND knows (or rather, go only by ND information. Heresay (ie: friend's helpful but free information) may hurt someone.

NOT every child fits the charts. NOT every child fits the 'normal' which is not normal but USUAL of the mainstream doctor system.

GET more information.

HUGS! And do the the work. She'll need you to do it. And She'll need LOTS of help.

Good luck,

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