By: Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN and Mom of two
Is there ever a dull moment in your kitchen? Well, there sure isn’t one in mine! My husband and I have noticed that our older son continuously asks for food all evening long—from dinner on until his bedtime. And he’s not actually asking for food; rather, he’s telling us that he’s hungry. Since Bobby has always been my famously “intuitive eater,” one might readily think: that’s terrific. Just feed the growing boy!
But of course, nothing is as simple as it seems when it comes to food. Bobby is most definitely growing and can easily consume an entire box of mac and cheese with spinach, an apple and a chicken cutlet—and still be hungry! This is completely fine with me if it isn’t every night just before bedtime arrives. What we have noticed, however, is that Bobby is responding to all statements concerning getting ready for bed, or even going to sleep, with “But I’m still hungry.”
Attempting to find out what Bobby is really “hungry” for, I ask him: Do you want more dinner? Would you like a yogurt stick? How about some ice cream? An apple? A yogurt? Maybe a smoothie?
We tried giving him larger dinner portions, serving dessert with dinner and even calling “last round” for kitchen requests. But it never fails to happen just like this…
Last night Bobby was in bed. The family had read books together and we even shared some “silly” time. Just as I was saying goodnight and leaving his room, he said: “But I’m still hungry.” By this point in time, I don’t want to care if my kid is hungry. Either he needs to learn to be more mindful and check in with his belly and brain before bedtime…or he’s really needing and wanting something else!
Now, as I sit here writing…an important concept leaps into my brain: I’m not sure if I ever asked Bobby if he wanted something else. Like a little more time with mom. Or to talk about a bad dream he may have had. Or perhaps he’s just trying to defy the boundaries his dad and I have set. There are so many possibilities in this scenario.
When I consider this difficult situation from an RD’s perspective, I know just what I would suggest to any of my mom clients dealing with this type of issue: “Have a real heart-to-heart talk with your son. Ask him during the day time—at a non-meal moment —what he’s truly feeling and wanting at night.”
There are a variety of life changes that may be affecting Bobby that he, along with his peers as well as adults, is not aware of feeling. Or perhaps he may just be hungry! The lesson for me and my readers is this: Consider creating an open dialogue at a non-food time to find out if the problematic situation is indeed about food—or about feelings. What you learn will surely help you to resolve the issue. Sometimes the answer may be serving more protein and fat with dinner…and sometimes the answer may be spending a special day alone together…just mommy and me.
I’m so glad I was able to give myself a free nutrition session!
And by the way, my younger son Billy told me he eats his fish sticks with his dad because daddy makes him. But he won’t eat them with me! Yep, that’s a whole other can of “gummy” worms! Maybe the subject of my next blog. Of course, don’t forget you can always ask us your questions by submitting them right here: