Less than 3 full meals a day - Ok?

My mom and I always argue over this. Some nights, my son isn’t very hungry and doesn’t have a big dinner.

He eats well. He always has breakfast, they have a snack at school in the morning, and I know he has a good lunch (he is on an eating program at school…they report how/what he eats to me). But some nights he doesn’t want to eat much. That’s no problem for me. This is only about 1-2 times a week on average. The other nights, he eats very well. He’ll have a big plate of veggies (sometimes meat, but not always)and want seconds. So, because he eats well on those nights, I don’t worry if he’s not that hungry once in a while.

My mom, on the other hand, believes that you should eat every night at the same time. There are times when he’s not hungry at the allotted time so I don’t force him to eat then. I believe that eating when you’re not hungry is a bad habit to get into to.

So, I feed him his supper when he’s hungry, and only the amount that he wants. Mostly, when he’s not all that hungry, it’s just a small plate of veggies. Otherwise he does eat very well.

Is that so wrong? As long as getting his nutrients, does it matter what time he eats it, or how much? Some people say that’s bad because then he’s telling ME what to do and therefore I’m spoiling him. I’m not letting him tell me what to eat, just when he’s hungry. I still dictate what the menu is (and it always consists of potatoes, meat, and veggies). And he eats what I make, not what he wants me to make. And we’re not eating at weird times (like after 8 at night or something). It’s usually in the 5:00-6:00pm range. But if he says he’s not that hungry and only wants a little amount of that all that food, why should I force him to eat more?

Sometimes life is so great you just gotta muss up your hair and quack like a duck!

Supposedly, eating small amounts throughout the day is better than bingeing. I don’t see a problem in what you do. I mean, it sure beats the old, “I don’t care if you’re not hungry, youhave to east EVERYTHING or you’re not leaving this table” mentality too many mothers adpopt.

I think the rules should be eat when you’re hungry, don’t eat when you’re not, and always try and balance WHAT you eat.

Yer pal,

I think you’re doing the right thing. I figured out that I ate healthier when I was pregnant than I did at any other time in my life, because I only ate when I was hungry and I never ate when I wasn’t.

Kids are pretty much the same way unless they get corrupted by the “clean your plate” mentality that Satan was talking about. I do the very same with Bowen as you do with your son…and I’ve done it this way since the day he was born. If he’s hungry, I’ll feed him, if he’s not, it’s not a big deal. If its a while before lunch or supper, I’ll let him have a snack (piece of cheese or a piece of fruit). If there’s a mealtime coming up relatively soon, I just let him have a small glass of water or juice to tide him over.

One tip that may help him to eat a little more (works for me, anyway): I don’t give Bowen his drink until his finished, or mostly so, with his meal. That way he fills up on the food, rather than the drink.
If he eats all of one thing, but only one or two bites of another thing, I’ll try to get him to eat a few more bites of the disfavoured item before I turn over the tumbler.

:::Ramble, ramble, ramble:::

Anyway, I think you’re raising him to have a perfectly healthy attitude toward food (and you).

Veni, Vidi, Visa … I came, I saw, I bought.

I don’t have much to add, but I feel I have to support your position like the others did. I’m speaking as a father, and I know how grandparents can try to influence the way you raise your children. Don’t let them; you really sound like you’re doing fine.

If and when your son wants to eat is his problem (within a certain framework), especially if he’s old enough to go to school. The old “clean the plate” rule may have been sensible for our forebears who lived through hard times such as wars, when you wouldn’t waste a morsel of food because you didn’t know when the next meal would come along. Nowadays, we enjoy the luxury of being able to do what our bodies tell us to do.

In fact, I wouldn’t even apply the drink-at-the-end trick that ChrisCTP suggests, as long as the child isn’t seriously underweight. (And bear in mind that the development charts you often see are just very rough guidelines.) What’s wrong with filling up on liquid (unless it stops the child from sleeping through the night or completely disrupts your daily schedule)? I think a kid will work this out on his/her own eventually. My son did, and I’m confident my little daughter will, too.

Hey, looks like I’ve added a fair amount after all. I guess it’s a subject I feel strongly about.

Personally I don’t eat three times a day because well, I usually can’t even stand to think about eating in the morning sometimes (i hate anything rich or sweet then, pancakes and waffles are out, even cereal). I do eat breakfast and lunch though (I have noticed I am a lot more hungrier for lunch and dinner this semester with my schedule as it is.

Is your son a healthy weight?

I had a friend who was a little overweight, he went on a diet that was based on one simple, zany idea: only eat when you are hungry. He ignored the ingrained regimine of 3 squares, and if he was hungry at 3 p.m. he ate a nice lunch/dinner. If he was hungry 10 times a day he had small meals. He lost weight and is relatively healthy. Maybe your son instinctively knows that he should only eat when he is hungry, and only as much as it takes to make him not hungry. If we think “Well, I’m a little hungry, and it’s noon, seems like lunch. Better eat a lot, because I won’t eat again until 7” then we overeat. If we know that we can and will eat again when we feel the instinctive need, we can eat as little as we like at each sitting.

To paraphrase Chris: :::ramble ramble:::

And I concur, let him follow his instinct, get regular check-ups and as long as he stays healthy you are doing fine.

Well kids are not adults and their needs therefore are much different from adults. But putting that aside, it is supposedly better to eat less more frequently.

When I was seriously weight training I constantly got told by the other bodybuilders that eating one big meal a day will screw your metabolism up and make you prone to store fat. Therefore to keep your metabolism going at full furnace you need to eat smaller amounts througout the day.

From what I see on myself they are correct. But children’s bodies are very different from adults they need things we don’t and vice versa.

From that standpoint I would say it isn’t when your child eats so much as what he is eating.

You’re doing fine, MaryAnn. My mom was pretty rigid about mealtimes, limiting snacks, and that whole “clean your plate” mess. There was no room for individual differences. In junior high I began to have trouble with my weight- I started to put on the pounds. By high school, I was flirting with anorexia and bulimia. The harder I tried to eat “right”, the worse it became. I was skinny one year, fat the next, and I was miserable.

Several years ago I abandoned all that. Now I eat only when I’m hungry. I don’t force myself to eat breakfast. I’ve accepted that I simply can’t eat “normally”; what I do is go without eating all day long and then really pig out. I eat one huge meal every day, unless I forget to eat altogether. This works for me. Since I’ve given into my individual body preferences, I’ve maintained the same weight (130 pounds, and I’m 5’8") and I’m no longer obsessed with food or my appearance. I’m in better physical shape than I ever was before.

I’m not saying my method would work for everyone else (or even anyone else); my point is people are different. While it’s important to have SOME structure for your kids (and you clearly do) it’s also dangerous to be too rigid. If your kids are healthy and gaining weight normally, there is no problem.

Just shows the old idea, however you raise your kids, someone somewhere says you aren’t doing it right.

Some people with medical conditions do have to eat three times a day.

Some older not-as-scientific generations have the idea that three meals a day is what people need. The generation I was born in said that the baby should NOT be breast fed at all. & I wasn’t. I got apple juice instead.

In short, MaryAnn, raise your son the way you feel is right. After all, whos going to get the blame either way later? You are :slight_smile:

One point I forgot: Children live in a world full or rules and regulations. Give them this small thing (actually not that small for a child) to decide for themselves; it also saves you some trouble because you have one less rule to uphold.

I agree with all the other posters here. As long as your son is eating good stuff, like veggies, you’ve got nothing to worry about. My 2 1/2 year old daughter is a very weird eater right now. BUT, she’s bright, gets plenty of rest, and has plenty of energy. I was quite concerned for a while, so concerned I called her pediatrician. She assured me that at this age, it’s probably just a phase, and not to worry. Your son is older, though, but from what you’ve said, I think you’re encouraging a healthy way of eating.

I’m going to go one step farther than everyone else - forcing your child to eat when he’s not hungry is a great way to set him up for weight problems later on. One of the differences between overweight people and healthy-weighted people is the overweight people use external cues, such as time or suggestion, to determine when & how much to eat, whereas people with healthy weights tend to use internal clues, i.e. hunger.

One of the first pieces of diet advice I received was - “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and supper like a pauper”

I agree that kids shouldn’t be forced to eat at predetermined times if they aren’t hungry. It sounds like you’re doing great with your son, Mary Ann. My daughters eat the same way; we call it “grazing”. However, I have gotten into a bad situation with my 8 yr. old son by giving too much leeway in making his own food and mealtime choices. He is consistently “not hungry” until everyone else has eaten - today for lunch I made grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken-vegetable soup for lunch. The girls ate, he wasn’t hungry. I told him to go take a bath after lunch. He walks out of the bathroom: “Mom, will you make me a grilled cheese now?” Egads!
My mother was a Weight Watchers counselor (their guidelines are some of the best around, not simply for losing weight, but for eating heathfully in general, IMHO), so I know what the kids should be eating - he just doesn’t do it sometimes. I confess that I am guilty of saying "Finish that cauliflower, and you can have a pudding’. Not the best system, but it works with him.

I’ve been eating “only when I’m hungry” for most of my life, and I’m about 80 pounds overweight.

Then again, most of my spurts of weight gain have come after I went on a diet whwere I only got to eat certain amounts at certain times, lost weight, and then fell off the wagon back into my old eating habits.
Oh – and yes, it really is that bad not to have 3 full meals a day. I skipped lunch once and died of malnutrition not 2 hours later! Or maybe I’m lying…

Visit the Internet Stellar Database at www.stellar-database.com

A few years back, I was doing a good job controlling my weight, but it seemed like I was hungry all the time. So I said, “From now on, I will listen to my body, and eat when it tells me to”. Over the next two years, it told me to gain 22 pounds (10 kilograms).

The next five years I went back to watching carefully what I eat, and I’ve lost 9 pounds (4 kilograms). I’ve found what works best is to eat a regular breakfast and lunch–I need food to do a good job at work–but either skip or have a very small dinner.

I don’t have a scale, so I weigh myself once a year at the state fair. (The Department of Agriculture sets up a scale where you get your weigh printed on a colorful receipt). So next month I’ll know how I’ve done for the past year.

RE: the OP:

You’re doing the right thing. As long as the I’m not hungry statement is not a ploy to get out of eating veggies so he can go right to the pudding, don’t force food on him.

Another way to look at it: Have your child make a fist. That’s the size of what his stomach should be. The food on the plate should never be larger in mass than his fist. If that’s not enough food for him in three meals a day, then add another meal. As someone already pointed out, the ideal human eating habit is four to six small meals over the course of a day.

Although, there is an exception: After eight hours of fasting (which we usually call ‘sleep’), he should definitely eat a well balanced breakfast whether he wants to or not. If he says he’s not hungry upon waking up, then he’s eating too close to bed time or doesn’t like what’s in front of him.

There is one thing you should do, though, as he gets older, start cutting back on the amount of meat. Children can get by on the high saturated fat content of meat (esp. cow, lamb, and pig) because of their high metabolism (and as long as they’re active – couch potato kids should be made to exercise or have their red meat taken away from them). The meat, potatoes, and veggies regimen is not healthy (over the course of a decade or two) for adults unless the meat is very lean or in very small portions. Start teaching him to eat non-meat meals.
RE: Eat only when your hungry

You’re all forgetting the rest of the story, which is, …as long as what your eating is healthy and you’re excercising.

If the only thing I ate when I get hungry was Oreos and pork rinds, sure, I’d ballon up. If I ate all the oatmeal, veggies, fruit, and non-fat dairy I wanted whenever I was hungry, I’d loose weight…

…as long as I was exercising. It is the consensus of all medical health professionals who are not trying to sell you a fad diet program that you can’t loose weight healthily without exercising.


Let me add something else important about kids & food.

Often kids use eating habits to get attention.

So, if they refuse to stay on that three meals a day & that gets them ANY kind of attention, they are going to continue doing that to get attention.

A child psychiatrist that I had a class with at school (and a damn good one, as near as I can tell) told us that most kids, over time, will eat a balanced diet of their own choosing, if good foods are available. (On the other hand, if the house is kept stocked to the gills with Twinkies, the kid may try to live on Twinkies.)

They may not fill out the food pyramid in a single day, but over a longer period of time they will. In short, don’t worry too much about it.

A friend of mine is the type that eats one big meal every day or two, and then eats a little when he is hungry. (Works for him.) The summer before he left for grad school, he moved back in with his retired parents, who eat big meals at three set-in-stone times a day. It bugged the hell out of him.

My habits are more European–little bite in the morning, big meal in the middle of the day, little big in the evening. Works for me.

Dr. J

PS: I also enjoy a good siesta in the late afternoon.

To those who wondered about his weight…he’s 8 years old, weighs 115, and wears a size 18. I forgot how tall he is, but I’m 5’7 and when he stands by me he comes between my chest and chin. People have told me that they thought he was 13. When he was 2 he was the size of a 5 year old.

Yes, he’s big, but it’s mostly muscle. I tell his doctors what and how he eats, and how active he is, and (after they give me some suggestions on how to keep his weight down but it’s stuff I already know and practice) they tell me that it looks like I have a future Green Bay Packer on my hands. :slight_smile:

He doesn’t tell me he’s not hungry so that he can get dessert. He doesn’t like sweets (he sure doesn’t get that from ME!)so I don’t have to worry about him eating too many of those. He does, however, like french fries and pizza a little too much so I’m trying to curb that. That kind of food is given as a treat but not a meal. So you see why I don’t become concerned when he says that he’s not that hungry. :slight_smile:

Sometimes life is so great you just gotta muss up your hair and quack like a duck!