Hunger and Satiety Regulation: Part Two

In this two part blog from our Dietitian Lisa Grentz, we talk about hunger and satiety regulation during a wean. Read Part One here!

Hunger and satiety regulation not only impacts feeding behaviors, but it can tell us if a child is getting enough nourishment to sustain sufficient growth.  A review of growth records can tell us if your child’s growth is following an upward trend, is proportionate, is consistent, or if your child is experiencing acute weight loss due to illness, constipation, or other medical issues.  Our goal during the weaning process is to allow children to understand their hunger and satiety cues so that over time they learn to consume and tolerate adequate energy for consistent and proportionate growth.

Children that prefer a grazing method don’t grow well because they are not eating for hunger. Instead, they are nibbling to take the edge off of their hunger.  The types of foods selected for grazing tend to be crunchy carbohydrates like crackers, chips, or cookies, and these foods provide a source of calories but have no real nutritional value.  Children that eat meals and snacks spaced at regular intervals over the course of the day eat better because they have the opportunity to build hunger. The nutritional quality of their diets is better because the foods offered at meal times tend to be more balanced to include protein, fruits, and veggies.

Inadequate intake of foods and beverages during the day can impact sleep. Children that don’t sleep well may not be getting enough nourishment during the day, causing them to wake and want to eat or drink in the middle of the night.  Establishing a structured feeding schedule during the day that allows your child to build hunger and eat sufficiently at designated meal and snack times will improve the duration and quality of sleep at night.

Eating behaviors impact overall nutritional status and growth trend.  The individualized weaning plans created at Growing Independent Eaters focus on providing mealtime structure, creating positive meal environments where delicious nutritionally balanced foods are offered so the child can feel safe with food exploration.

Lisa Grentz, MS, RD, CD, Dietitian