My toddler the bottomless pit

Side note: I’m sure you’ve noticed that I changed the blog template. I tried the old blue template since I liked how it looked, but realized that I prefer text on white background. Hopefully this one is here to stay for a while! Now on to the post…

Every single parenting advice I’ve heard, including my toddler’s pediatrician, says that the parent decides what to feed the child, but that the child decides how much. And above all else: do not fight about food with your child. Whenever I hear that, I feel like saying, “But have you met my child?” When you hear about children and eating issues, it’s usually a matter of the kid being a picky eater: she doesn’t want to eat this and that, and will only eat a tiny bit of it. So, good advice says not to force food, don’t fight about food, and just offer what the child will eat.

Well, that’s not exactly our problem. We’re fine that our toddler eats anything, but I’ve often wondered if we’re overfeeding him because he will eat anything and everything like a bottomless pit.

Even the way he eats is insane. Another piece of advice I’ve heard is to let your child self-regulate their eating. The parent presents the child with a plate of food—diced strawberries for instance—and the child will automatically know how much to eat. Okay… the minute I put a plate of diced strawberries in front of my kid, this is what happens: he stuffs about three or four of them at a time into his mouth, and while he’s chewing, will pick up another three or four pieces in his hand, ready to pop them in his mouth. Sometimes I wonder when he even swallows because it seems like the boy is stuffing and chewing his mouth on repeat. Usually he’ll pause to talk, but he is definitely a fast eater! He slowed down when we introduced utensils, but now he is master of the fork and spoon and will pierce and scoop at an amazing rate.

Back to self-regulating: in addition to knowing how much to eat, apparently the child will also know when to stop. Again, I find this advice difficult to apply to my toddler because ever since he was able to talk, he has told us that he wanted to stop eating… oh, I would say about four times. Ever. While he’s very quick to ask for more, he hardly says he wants to stop eating. There are times though when I could clearly tell that he is full without him having to say anything: he’ll start acting loopy, stop reaching out for food, and just generally act slower than usual. But given the choice, the boy will not stop eating: if I were to continue handing him food, I don’t think he’ll ever say “Stop.”

His portions also seem like a lot: I basically give him half of what I would eat. But for all I know I’m starving my kid. His weight is in the 90th percentile—while it’s high, it’s not off the charts. Plus his height is in the 94th percentile and therefore he’s proportional. So technically he’s not obese or doesn’t need to cut down, but every time I see his belly hanging like a beer gut, I tend to think that he may not need to eat as much as he does.

Let me give an example of what he ate today and maybe you can let me know if I am indeed holding back on my kid:

  • Breakfast: one pancake and four strawberries
  • Morning snack: half a cup of sweet potatoes
  • Lunch: half of a thin-sliced breaded chicken breast with half a cup of rice and a half a cup side of pineapple
  • Afternoon snack: one slice of squaw bread spread with peanut butter and one cup of a smoothie
  • Dinner: 1 cup of salmon spinach fettuccine, 1 small bowl of salad greens with chicken and fruit, and a quarter slice of squaw bread

Another advice I’ve heard (oh all these words of wisdom!) is that so long as the food the parent offers is healthy, then it’s okay if the child keeps eating. Our toddler eats nothing but healthy food, so why does it seem like I’m still stuffing my toddler? One of my theories as to why he may not be getting full from all that food is the 20-minute rule: for most of us, our brains don’t receive the signal from our stomach that we’re full until about 20 minutes. So it’s usually when my toddler is wolfing down his food as I mentioned earlier that he tends to want seconds. I’ve had to slow him down a bit by keeping his strawberries in a separate bowl, which I then use to fill up his plate with at a much slower pace than had I just put the bowl in front of him and let him go crazy.

I realize this is a “nice problem” to have, because I’m guessing I would have a harder time if he were a picky eater. At least one thing is for sure: this boy loves to eat. And there could be so many reasons why he asks for more after meals. He could be having a bad day. He could be having a growth spurt. He could like staying at the dinner table and not wanting to get down from the high chair just yet.

Or maybe he could be hungry.


16 thoughts on “My toddler the bottomless pit

  1. My second daughter is similar. Sometimes. She goes through a phase where she eats, eats, eats. (Longer than I would think a growth spurt.) Now she’s in a throw-her-food stage. I would like to go back to the eats-too-much stage, pretty please?

    • We actually noticed that when we give him sips throughout the meal, it helps fill him up more. On a similar note, we decided that if he really, really wants more food, we’ll offer him milk since he seems pretty happy with that too. Seems like having liquid in your system helps keep the hunger away!

      • Don’t worry too much…it is true that a child that is given HEALTHY food will tend not to overeat. If he gets on a food “jag” where all he wants is one food or one type of food. Keep giving it to him in smaller amounts everyday and increasing the other food. Just say “all gone” to the food he is stuck on. He eventually will switch. Not too much milk…don’t want him to drink his calories, will tend to make him gain too much weight or not eat enough solids. 12-16 oz of milk a day for a toddler! Toddlers are great~love this age!

  2. I have to say I am very impressed by your toddler’s healthy menu. I’m so jealous! My daughter won’t eat anything unless it’s white. Bread, pasta, butter…. I hope I can pick up some tips from you!

  3. Hmmm. Sounds reasonable to me!

    I don’t know how typical a day that is but if you would like to fill him up on less I would suggest offering more protein, fibre and some fattier foods (that may sound counter-intuitive).

    They get most of their energy from protein and it makes you feel fuller. Iron-rich protein will help in particular, although obviously over a week get lots of chicken and fish in him.

    Things like omelettes, jacket (baked) potatoes with butter and cheese etc for lunch or tea would be good. I would also suggest a fibrous breakfast like Weetabix, Shreddies (if you have those!) or Ready Brek, mixed with whole milk and mashed or chopped fresh fruit, will fill him up better in the morning.

    Hope that’s helpful, but sounds like you are doing a great job anyway!

  4. Your son and my son are one and the same. I can’t keep him out of the kitchen (its open to the living room where we spend most of the day) and it seems he’s constantly wanting something to munch. He’d eat an entire box of crackers in one day if I’d let him. I do try to give him milk, juice, or water during the day, but he’d rather the cracker or fruit bar.

  5. I’m glad you liked a post of mine so I could find your blog. Are you sure you don’t have my child? We regularly have to tell him to stop and ask his stomach if it’s still hungry. I try not to limit his food intake because I know he’s a growing boy, but when he eats more than my husband and I combined I start to question whether he’s eating because he’s hungry or because it tastes good and is fun to do.

    So many food landmines to traverse.

  6. This is amazing! I have the opposite problem with my toddler but he’s still breastfeeding so I often wonder if that fills him up too much. I would say that as long as he’s eating healthy foods (which he obviously is) then keep giving it to him!!

    • Thanks! Yes I’ve made myself feel better by saying at least the food is healthy! My kiddo breastfed too and sheesh that also seemed like he could breastfeed all day. I’d wonder whether he was really even sucking, or was he full and just liked sucking so he never pulled away on his own. Does your little guy take a long time breastfeeding too, or is he a light eater?

      • My son doesn’t nurse for very long during the day but seems to want to nurse all night! We cosleep so this works okay I guess but I think he’s using me as a pacifier more than anything else. He barely drinks anything out of his sippy cup- maybe a few sips per day. He is very attached to the boob haha! I just wish he would eat more solids sometimes!

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