The Feeding Habits of Children

Today I made the mistake of letting my 5-year-old take a nap. She had a tough morning of soccer in 100+ degree heat, swimming in the pool and then a trip to the grocery store. She was exhausted. Everyone knows that you don’t wake a sleeping child (why interrupt perfection?). My daughter awoke in time for dinner, but ate almost nothing. She ate the cheese off of a cheese dog. I didn’t think this was possible, but she figured out how.

Now it is 9:17 PM and she is not sleepy at all. She is sitting at the kitchen table munching on a bowl of Rice Chex. Where was this appetite at 6:17 PM? Why couldn’t she have eaten the hot dog then, instead of deciding she is hungry now? Clearly children’s appetites are not limited by time or food availability. They don’t care that you just made dinner, they will simply tell you, “I’m not hungry.” Now it is over an hour past her bed time and she ‘has’ to eat. At least according to her, she ‘has’ to eat. It could just be a ploy to further extend the already late bedtime.

This incident made me wonder if our country’s obesity problem might be better served by getting people to listen to their bodies and asking themselves if they are truly hungry when they eat. Even a baby knows when it is hungry (it will cry to inform you of this) and children still have this ability to understand their level of hunger, yet we tell them, “Eat your breakfast (or lunch or dinner) now!” when they may have no hunger at all at that particular moment. As adults we seem to just eat at pre-specified meal times. But why is this? Is this healthy?

Maybe we should all learn something about the feeding habits of children to discover healthier ways to eat that are closer to nature instead of the man-made invention of ‘3 squares a day’. I just finished a chocolate square myself and feel satisfied with that. No need to eat the whole one-pound bar. I am not really hungry for that. So eating food at 9:17 PM isn’t a crime, but we do need to listen to our bodies to determine if this is what our bodies really need. What? You can’t hear what your body needs? Maybe it is time to listen a little more closely because the more we practice, the better we can get at it. Are you hungry, or are you eating just because you are expected to?

Table Manners: Forked Again?

Why do kids think that it is acceptable to take food off of other people’s plates? Tonight at the dinner table my 4-year-old, Paige, decided that she needed to ‘take’ the chicken nuggets off of her older brother Tucker’s plate. Since Tucker had just been told to give her two of the chicken nuggets (he thought they were all for him I guess?) I can see why she felt it was her right to grab ‘her’ food from ‘his’ plate. Immediately Tucker howled because he thought these were his nuggets and she was taking them. Given the amount of food that he devours at each meal, it is no surprise that he was upset and angry to be missing out on two more chicken nuggets. Oh well, he had to survive by eating a half a jar of peaches instead.

As Paige was grabbing the food, my brain fast-forwarded to seeing her as a teenager, out on a date with a guy, and her grabbing food off of his plate without asking. I can’t imagine some boy getting angry with her about food grabbing, simply because she is so sweet and endearing (she tilts her head down to her shoulder when we get angry with her.) Also, she is a tiny little thing and weighs next to nothing (although I don’t see ‘next to nothing’ on the bathroom scale – I wish!) A boy might think she is totally rude and not house-trained and drop her back at the front door immediately. (Something tells me her Daddy would think this was NOT a problem.)

Maybe there is something to be said for teaching good table manners. I mean it is one thing to share food by politely asking for a taste or bite from someone at your table, but to just stab your fork at another person’s plate seems a bit brash. Wouldn’t you think that was rude? Or shocking? If someone did that to me, I think my mouth would hang open and I would wonder, “Why me?”, “Why my plate?”. Why should my plate be the target of this ‘forking’ ambush. I order vegetarian most of the time, so does my food really look that much better?

Could it be my New England upbringing that resulted in my feelings around politeness or merely the result of me wanting to protect my food like a squirrel in winter. Something inside me just tells me that if you don’t ask for permission, then it is like stealing. Don’t you agree? Then again, if you are out to dinner with your spouse/mate, would you really be upset if they jabbed their fork at your plate and ate what they pleased? It is plausible to think this scenario may be acceptable, because I would have said, “Yes”, when queried “Can I have a bite?”. However, they are still making an assumption that this is acceptable behavior. I guess it would be nice to avoid having my hand be the target and potentially punctured by the tines of a fork in a food stealing incident.

Funny how some silly children’s behavior can trigger analysis of human feeding habits. I admit that I am fine with sharing and more than willing to share what I have. However, if someone wants a morsel of food off my plate, it would be nice if they asked first. Wouldn’t you agree?