Preschooler hunger and fullness cues

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  • Your Preschooler's feeding cues will let you know his likes and dislikes at mealtime.
  • Compared to a baby, his growth and weight rate has slowed down during his Toddler development.
  • Helping himself to food and leaving the table when done all points toward his growing independence.

Understanding hunger and fullness cues

Children two years and older during these preschool years will eat a variety of foods, and they will let you know what they like and what they don’t. But do not let your child’s picky eating or small appetite stop you from offering healthy choices at meal and snack time. Giving in to demands for French fries may get him to eat, but it can take him off the path of healthy nutrition. A good rule to follow is to offer two choices for foods, letting him pick between healthy options, rather than always asking what he wants.

Knowing when to feed

Your Preschooler's growth and weight gain has slowed down compared to when he was younger. He needs less energy, so he may want to eat less. He may, on the other hand, want to eat too much, so offering him the right portion size at meals and nutrient-rich snacks is important. Always pay attention to your Preschooler's feeding cues. Your pediatrician is always a good person to speak with if you have questions about your Preschooler's development.


Preschooler hunger cues:

  • Will express desire for specific foods with words and sounds.
  • May seem tired and irritable if he gets too hungry.
  • He now searches out specific foods in the kitchen that he likes.
  • Comes to the meal table without a lot of fuss.
  • He will be interested in eating when it’s time to eat.
  • A Preschooler is influenced by how you eat and the food you select.

Top Tip

Your Preschooler is making the decisions on how much to eat. Forget the “finish your plate” rule and listen to his feeding cues.

Recognizing when he’s full

Your Preschooler is assuming more and more control of what he’ll eat and how much. Sometimes this behavior is a way to show his independence. This, too, is a normal step in his emotional and social development. Let him guide the way without you enforcing a “finish your plate” rule. As a parent, your responsibility is to provide nutritious food choices at every meal. When he has healthy options, then he can choose what and how much to eat. If he refuses to eat veggies, it’s okay. Learn to listen to his Preschooler
feeding cues and remember that it is his choice to not eat them. Your job is to keep offering healthy options at meals. After a period of time he just may taste them and end up loving them. The preschool years are a time when healthy eating habits are developed and reinforced.


Preschooler fullness cues:

  • No longer interested in what’s on the plate.
  • Verbalizes in simple sentences that he’s all done.
  • Unwilling to come to the table if he’s not hungry.
  • Leaves the table on his own.
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