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How Many Meals a Day Should Kids Eat?

By Jeff Wise July 10, 2023

Nowadays, everyone has an opinion about how many meals a day should be eaten.

There are numerous questions. How often should you eat? How much should you eat? What’s the most important meal?

Although usually adults are worried about eating recommendations, these questions also apply to kids.

How Many Meals a Day Should Kids Eat?

Kids and Eating Habits

Anyone with kids knows how challenging it can be to feed them.

They go through different phases in their childhood. One day they love chicken nuggets; the next day they hate them.

They will throw fits over some healthy foods you give them. Then they'll devour tons of the unhealthy foods you don’t want them to eat.

Sometimes they want to consume a lot, while other times you worry that they're not getting enough.

It can be very challenging to navigate parenting decisions when it comes to food. Hopefully, this blog will provide some help and comfort.

How Many Meals Should You Eat a Day?

For as long as I can remember, the standard for daily meals is three large meals with 2-3 snacks between.

Most of us are used to eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at set times.

In recent years, we've been hearing that there are more benefits to eating six small meals a day instead of three larger meals.

One reason given for this eating plan is that it supposedly increases metabolic rate. But this is now known to be a myth. There are other ways to increase your metabolic rate.

Another reason for six meals a day is to balance blood sugar levels.

It's believed that eating meals more frequently stabilizes blood sugar better than just eating three meals, but that's not necessarily true according to some studies.

You can easily find multiple sources to support all sides, but the bottom line is that there's not just one right way to eat.

Does This Also Apply to Kids and Their Eating Habits?

The same is true for kids. It's easy for parents to worry about what their kids are eating (or not eating).

As a parent, I've not only had experience with my own kids, but also with many others.

I have friends who have been so worried about their kids' lack of eating that they've sought medical help.

Some of my kids' friends never eat breakfast. Some are super picky. Some prefer to graze instead of sitting for a meal. Some never seem to drink water.

Overall, they're all healthy and not suffering due to their eating habits. I do sometimes wonder, though, how they’re able to have so much energy.

As a parent, if there is a point that you're worried your child isn't consuming enough calories, seek help from a medical professional or nutritional counselor.

But for the most part, kids go through phases and we shouldn't be concerned.

Most kids don’t have to worry about metabolic rates or blood sugar levels, they just need enough calories to keep them healthy and active.

Tips for Kids and Eating Habits

When it comes to kids and eating, follow these tips.

1. Feed them when they're hungry.

Many adults eat for different reasons; not just when they're hungry.

To keep our kids from developing bad eating habits (like eating while sad), encourage them to eat when they’re hungry, but not for other reasons.

Also, if a child is hungry, even if they just had lunch an hour ago, it's because they need more energy. Don't force them to be hungry until the next mealtime.

2. Let them stop when they're full.

I've got to be honest, sometimes this is hard.

When my child doesn't want to eat the broccoli on his plate because he's "full," I have a hard time not forcing him to eat it.

Honestly, I know he's not really full. He just doesn't want to eat healthy food.We need to use discretion, but kids do become full quicker than adults, so we shouldn't force them to eat more than they can at the moment.

Teach kids to listen to their stomachs so that they don't develop unhealthy overeating habits later in life.

3. Present them with many different healthy food options.

Even if our kids don't always want to eat healthy foods, we shouldn't stop buying or preparing them.

Keep giving your kids healthy food options because eventually, they will start to like them.

4. Don't panic if your child isn’t following the standard rules.

It's not the end of the world if your child likes to eat a couple of bites, run off to play, and then come back for a little more.

Grazing won't hurt them. And if your child isn't a breakfast person, that's okay too. They'll eat when they're ready.

Relaxing About Kids and Meals

Whether your child is a standard, 3-meals-a-day eater or they like to eat six smaller meals, you shouldn't worry.

While ultimately, you are the parent and must decide what is best for your family, there can be a lot of stress around kids and meals.

Sometimes it's better to choose your battles.

As long as you are teaching them about health and healthy eating, the amount of food they eat or the number of times they eat a day isn't as important.

Think of the big picture when it comes to your kids and eating.

It's more important to teach them healthy habits that will serve them into adulthood than it is to stress over daily mealtime struggles.

In the end, that will have a bigger impact on their lives.

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