Q: My granddaughter never stops eating, at age 3. Example: 8-11am, 2 servings of cereal, 6 oz Chocolate milk, yogurt, 3/4 banana, and another whole banana. Isn't this too much and then @ 11:15 was saying she was hungry again, ate another bowl of cereal with milk.
A: Looking at your granddaughter’s food intake on this particular day, I can understand your concern that she might be overeating. But generally, it’s necessary to know where she falls on the growth chart to make a determination about whether she’s eating too many calories. Is she gaining too much weight too rapidly for her age and height? Or it could be that she’s in an active growth phase right now, and she really needs the extra calories. It’s also important to take a look at a week or more of her food intake, rather than just a single day or a portion of a day. Some toddlers are naturally hungrier in the morning than they are in the afternoon, and they consume most of the day’s calories in the morning. And toddlers are notorious for their erratic appetites—they might seem to eat everything in sight on one day and then eat very little the next day.
Still, with the information you’ve provided, it seems that she might be consuming a bit more simple carbohydrates, including sugar, than is ideal. Most types of cereal, as well as chocolate milk, yogurt, and bananas are high-carbohydrate foods, and this combination of foods is giving your granddaughter quite a bit of sugar. Even though it’s not as bad as eating donuts and candy bars, because there’s at least some fiber in the cereal and the banana, consuming this amount of sugar can trigger cravings for even more sugar, creating a rather vicious cycle.
When parents and grandparents have questions and concerns about a child’s diet, appetite, or weight gain, I always recommend a consultation with a physician and a pediatric dietitian, and in your case, I think it would be very wise. Your granddaughter’s pediatrician or family physician can help you understand how your granddaughter is progressing on her growth curve, and whether she might be at risk for becoming overweight. The physician can also help determine if your granddaughter has any hormonal, metabolic, or behavioral issues that might be contributing to her appetite. Meeting with a dietitian can help you determine which nutrients your granddaughter might be getting too much of or too little of. This professional will work with you and your granddaughter to design a nutrition program that is right for her, and you’ll end up with a good understanding of the amounts and types of foods that will most benefit your granddaughter.
Taking these steps will help keep your granddaughter healthy, and as a bonus, it will help give you tremendous peace of mind.