How to Deal with Constantly Hungry Kids (without Losing Your Mind)

I’m pretty sure my kids are bottomless pits. I have three boys (ages 5, 7, and 9) that I feed three square meals a day plus two snacks, and still they are ALWAYS hungry! Sound familiar?

Despite my weekly meal planning, I often find myself at the grocery store multiple times a week just trying to stay on top of their consumption of milk, bread, and fruit. I am still baffled by their requests. “Hungry? Again? You just ate an entire meal 60 MINUTES AGO!?!” I admit, certain times, I get nearly angry. “No, no, no, impossible! HOW CAN YOU BE HUNGRY, AGAIN?!?” But lately, I’ve come up with a plan: (a.) Accept that I live in a houseful of three healthy, active, growing boys; (b.) Deal with their constant hunger by doing these sanity-saving things…

1. Realize it’s not you, it’s them. Step one is acceptance. I’ve had to realize that I am a wonderful mother with a normal metabolism who happens to be living with a group of rampantly growing munchkins who have metabolisms like the Energizer Bunny. My mother-in-law has informed me that my husband was just the same way as a child, which has helped me realize I’m not crazy.

2. Make them drink water first. Studies have shown that often when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually just dehydrated. So whenever my kids tell me (for the 5 gazillionth time) that they are hungry, the first thing they always have to do it drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes. Oftentimes this solves the problem.

3. Set designated times. Sure, they may say they are always hungry, but I know there are lots of reasons they can make that claim. They may just be bored, be thirsty, or smell the cookies I’m baking. Because of that, I set designated snack times. You can have a snack, I tell my sweet children, when it is (roughly) 10 a.m. or 3:30 p.m. Otherwise, you need to wait until the next meal/snack time. I do this both for my sanity, and to keep them from snacking mindlessly all day and save their appetites for true meals.

4. Give them more protein. I have three very active boys. It seems as though they spend all their waking hours running, jumping, and growing. So I’ve come to realize that I need to stock them up on true building blocks, not just fillers, like snacks and cereal. Because of this, snack time always includes a protein source, such as cheese, hummus, jerky, salami, or yogurt to keep them satiated, not just momentarily full.

5. Let them have as many fruits and veggies as they want. When my kids are reeeeally pestering me about a snack outside of the designated time, I’ll offer them a mini apple or whole carrot to call their bluff. If they truly are hungry, they’ll choose one of those (healthy) options. If not, they’ll wait until the next snack or meal time. I try to focus more on vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and snap peas since the sugar in fruit can add up over the day, but we also do apples, tangerines, pears, or other in-season fruit. I choose things that require zero effort on my part — no cutting, peeling, or dicing needed.

6. Enlist their help. Snack time feels much less like a chore when the boys ask for something they’ve helped me make earlier in the week. One day it may be these peanut butter energy balls or these DIY Lara bars or these no-sugar, no-flour oatmeal muffins. Whatever the choice, if it’s something they’ve helped me make, I know it’s likely healthier for them and cheaper for me.

How do you deal with constantly hungry kids?


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