Healthy Children

Welcome! This page on the Michigan Academy website spotlights childhood health and nutrition. We will be offering tips for both parents and health professionals. Thanks for visiting, and for helping the MI Academy give ALL children a healthier future!
OCTOBER 2004 TIP: HUNGER CUES
Tips for Parents
Did you know that you and your children eat for many different reasons? Some people eat when they are bored, happy, sad, or stressed (we call this head hunger), or when they are craving salt, sweets, or other tastes (we call this tongue hunger). Eating to satisfy head or tongue hunger can easily lead to overeating if you are not careful. It’s time that we start listening to our bodies and begin to eat when our stomach tells us we are hungry. It is also important to not let yourself get too empty before eating and to stop eating when you are full- this is called gauging your hunger.
Tips to Fight Against Overeating:
  • Never let yourself get too empty before eating: When going out for long periods of time, carry healthy snacks with you (even easier than stopping to get fast food). Some good ideas are fresh fruit, small boxes of raisins, homemade trail mix, or pretzels, and always have water on hand.
  • Fast eaters slow down: It takes about 20 minutes for the signal to get from your stomach to the brain, that your body is getting food. If we eat too quickly, we can eat too much food before our body thinks it’s full. Put the fork or food down between bites and swallow one bite before taking another to eat more slowly.
  • Wait 20 minutes before getting that second helping. Your child may think that they are still hungry right after eating, but it takes the stomach and brain time to communicate the feeling of fullness. If your child is still hungry after 20 minutes, the second helping should be half the size of the first.
  • Find an activity to do if you feel head or tongue hunger­. Get involved in playing a game or reading a book until you feel stomach hunger or it is time for a planned meal. Resist snacking because you are bored. If you believe your child is eating for emotional reasons like sadness or stress, food will not satisfy the hunger they are feeling - talk to them about their problems.
  • Avoid using food to punish, comfort or reward. Don’t let children mix feelings of rejection or approval(head hunger) with the body’s need for fuel (stomach hunger). Help your child to understand when he or she is physically hungry.
Tips for Health Professionals
The sensation of hunger is biological, as well as learned. There are many scientific theories as to why people feel hungry, including the glucose theory, the stomach contraction theory, the insulin theory, the fatty acid theory, and the heat-production theory. One study of the glucose theory found that there is “an association between transient declines in blood glucose concentration and meal requests, and changes in hunger ratings in human subjects isolated from food and time cues.”1 These theories comprise stomach hunger and promote cues such as stomach growls, feelings of emptiness, and fatigue. On the other hand, our bodies also tell us when we are full. These cues include a sudden energy, disappearance of hunger cues, and physical satisfaction. It is these hunger and satiety cues that people should rely upon when deciding whether or not they should eat something and when they should stop eating. Learned hunger includes time cues and sensory triggers, such as smell, taste, or texture. These psychological components are what promote head and tongue hunger, and can lead to overeating. Now, many people feel hungry just because it is “dinner time” or they watched a commercial for their favorite snack. It is important to educate people on how to listen to their bodies and to make them aware of the many reasons they may feel hungry. We should stress that for weight management and a healthy lifestyle people should rely on the biological cues to hunger and satiety more than the psychological triggers.
References/Links
Obesity Evaluation and Treatment:  Expert Committee Recommendations- an article from PEDIATRICS Vol. 102 No. 3 September 1998.
Michigan Department of Community Health
National Institute on Child Health and Human Development
US Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control
United Dairy Industry of Michigan. UDIM is the umbrella organization for the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council of Michigan.
National Dairy Council. Visit the Health Professionals link for the 3-A-Day campaign, Nutrition Library, Newer Knowledge of Dairy Foods, Statements, and Consumer Education materials.
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