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4 year old obsessed with food

(28 Posts)
Sugar2 Wed 04-May-16 18:46:25

My 4yo daughter does not stop asking for food. I give her balanced meals and healthy snacks but she is obsessed and asks all the time for more. As soon as breakfast (porridge and toast and glass of milk) is finished she will ask for her vitamin. Just something else for her to eat. Then she will ask me what they are having for morning tea and ask to see it. Its usually fruit and crackers. Then she pesters me until it's time to eat it and then she wants more and more which I don't give and asks when is it lunchtime. If we are out with friends she tries to eat their food or wants to go home as she wants to eat at home. Most snacks are healthy but it's the constant obsession that is exhausting me. I can handle it day to day as I control what she eats and I keep it healthy. But I'm not over strict- I give her a little biscuit in her lunch box and we have ice cream once a week. She gets treats. But when it's a social thing it's awful- she goes nuts- At parties it's embarrassing. She won't play with other kids but just stands at the food table and I'm petrified what would happen if I wasn't there to supervise. People laugh at how much she eats and think it's good she has an appetite. But this is crazy. Only recently a friend had her for a morning and she said she now completely understands why I'm worried. My friend realised just how relentless she is. I know isn't hungry and it's more than that. Her mind does not stop thinking about food and I'm so worried for her future. She's not overweight but I can see her becoming like that as she's more on the bigger end and I keep her weight healthy as I manage her diet
It's starting to really be a problem and yesterday at a party I just started crying after she wouldn't leave the food table. She'd had 2 pieces of cake, a biscuit, packet of crisps, and wanted more. Every time a child came to get something she'd run up to and ask if she can have it also and why not. I'd explain its because they'd only had one thing or nothing so far whereas she'd had lots. But she'd just ask and ask or start crying. I hate it. She's such a bubbly personality and has lots of friends and is very sociable. I just don't know or understand this behaviour. It's a daily battle. My son is 2 and he's now starting to go the same and I'm sure is learning her behaviour.

Please people don't tell me just to offer healthy snacks as thus is what I do already. It's when we are at parties when I can't control the food that it's a huge problem. But also her mindset that bothers me- the complete obsession which I don't think is healthy. I'm thinking of going to GP but I can't imagine I'll get much help. She's not overweight and I'm sure won't understand how bad it is.

I'd love to hear from people who have been through something similar.
Thank you.

MattDillonsPants Thu 05-May-16 06:37:22

I can see why you're bothered. I must ask regimented is your daily meal plan and is her breakfast and morning tea always the same?

Perhaps it's too ordered...also what does she have for lunch and dinner?

What you say about the party experience concerned me a little...two cakes, some crisps and a biscuit is not a HUGE amount at a party you know. Even for a 4 year DDs could both eat that and more at a party...neither of mine are at all overweight but at both on the scrawny side aged 8 and 11.

Maybe you could try offering her something I've seen on Mumsnet before...a daily snacks put in their "allowance" of food for the day...not their main meals of course...and tell them that it's theirs for the day and they can choose what to eat and when to eat it but if its all gone very early then it's all more will be given.

Some examples of a snack box might be a handful of nuts, a satsuma, an apple, a bannana, some cheese and perhaps a very small bag of air popped popcorn or similar.

Giving her the power over snacks might help.

BarbarianMum Thu 05-May-16 07:53:33

<<She'd had 2 pieces of cake, a biscuit, packet of crisps, and wanted more.>>

That doesn't sound like that much to me (my ds' would have eaten all that plus sausage rolls, tomatoes, carrot sticks and a piece of pizza at 4 and they are both slim).

Do you ever let her eat until she says she is full, or does this never happen? Maybe try by offering unlimited vegetables with every meal (eg 3/4/5 helpings of peas and carrots if she wants them). Make sure she drinks plenty. If she can't get full even on veg, I'd go talk to your GP as there are (rare) conditions when a person is actually constantly hungry, which is very different to when a child is constantly pestering for biscuits.

also, if you don't mind me asking, how 'not overweight' is she? Very slim or top end of healthy?

EatShitDerek Thu 05-May-16 07:57:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MattDillonsPants Thu 05-May-16 09:07:11

Barbarian gives very good advice OP.

ChoudeBruxelles Thu 05-May-16 09:12:22

If you're very regimented with food then maybe she's worrying about it. Maybe she's hungry. Fruit doesnt really fill you up - better to add a bit of protein with it so an apple with some cheese for example.

Kids eat differently to adults. Ds grazed constantly at your dds age. He's now 10 and is far better at eating bigger meals and less snacks although he still always seems to be hungry and is skinny as a rake. If he's hungry I always let him have something(except when a main meal is nearly ready) b

PurpleTraitor Thu 05-May-16 09:25:20

Good advice from Matt Dillon and barbarian I think

My two never stop eating, it feels like. Smallest one is similar age and got back yesterday after a full day of eating regularly (nursery) the first thing she did when she saw me was ask for snacks, got back and inhaled a piece of chocolate fudge cake, followed that up with an apple, pestered until older one provided her with unsalted crisps, I was cooking dinner but caved because of constant food whinging and provided a bowl of plain pasta, some pieces of ham and some avocado, which were eaten. We then went straight into dinner, chicken, roast potatoes, gravy, carrots, green beans, all went down the hatch, then melon and strawberries, then an oat bar and a glass of milk.

Then toast with butter had to be provided with more milk before bed.

All that went down the hatch between 4-7pm. Kids are skinny as rakes but drive me batshit crazy with constant demands for food! We went for a picnic recently and I actually knew were weren't going to do any actual distance walking unless I properly stocked up. We ended up with one full picnic at 11am and another full picnic at 2pm....snacks too....the amount of food I had to carry was ridiculous

So I am there with you! Some kids just eat, or go through phases of it.

wooflesgoestotown Thu 05-May-16 09:31:40

Yeah I agree with pps, maybe you need to let her have more control over food.

Some kids don't eat 3 meals a day, they just graze and consume their calories throughout the day. Actually I think that's probably more natural and normal for most young kids. So it may be you are trying to force her away from her natural inclinations around food which is why she's getting obsessed with food.

I fear your behaviour is actually creating the problem here.

I agree with pps, put her food for the day in a box and let her control when she eats it. If she finishes it then give her free access to something like rice cakes.

At parties just chill out and leave her to it, the novelty will wear off when she realises she's not being controlled all the time.

It's rare for kids to be overweight if they're only/mostly offered healthy foods and are allowed to establish their own eating rythm - ie not being forced to eat a certain amount at certain times.

wooflesgoestotown Thu 05-May-16 09:33:56

Also saying she wants more food after breakfast - maybe her natural pattern is to load up in the morning and eat less the rest of the day? (That is actually my eating pattern, I can eat breakfast then eat more an hour or so later but I don't eat much in the afternoon/evening)

MattDillonsPants Thu 05-May-16 09:34:46

I've been watching my 8 year old today out of interest and here's what she's eaten (We're in's evening now)

Breakfast: Bowl of porridge and an apple at 8.00am ish

At about 9 she had a satsuma and a Babybel

before lunch she ate a homemade peanut and oat bar and a bowl of iceberg lettuce (don't ask, she loves it on it's own!)

Lunch: Cheese and ham sandwich with more iceberg and some cucumber...2 slices on the sandwich with butter...a blueberry muffin, satsuma and an ice cream cone

Tea: Spaghetti bolognaise

It's now 6.00pm and she will have another little eat before bed...probably a peanut butter sandwich or cheese and crackers....probably another piece of fruit or some carrot sticks.

To drink she has milk and water depending.

She's tall and skinny. She's always asking for food.

Artandco Thu 05-May-16 09:38:21

That sounds fine tbh.

I think it is maybe too regimented also. Mine wouldn't have a clue when a snack time was, most days just breakfast then lunch, only snack if hungry but wouldn't know that at breakfast time

If sounds low in protein which is filling. What kind of things do they eat for lunch and dinner?

Maybe swap breakfast so she has porridge, milk and a boiled egg rather than toast as its more filling.

Snacks off natural nuts, seeds, cheese, fruit. Not just carbs and fruit.

Same with lunch and dinner. Make sure half is veg, 1/4 protein, 1/4 carbs. So not just a sandwich which is mainly carbs.

Sugar2 Thu 05-May-16 13:41:46

Hi all.
Thanks for your replies. I do appreciate it. And I have been concerned I'm doing the wrong things. Maybe food is too constant and I need to vary snacks. But I'm also convinced it's not hunger.

Just to clarify yesterday's incident wasn't actually a party - it was more a play date at the park and all us mums brought something. I'd given her fruit to eat on the way to the park and said she can have some treats at the park after she's had a play. But she was the only kid the wouldn't play. She wouldn't leave the food area and she was the only one that had one of everything and asked for more- constantly! All the other mums were commenting on it and some found it funny. Everyone comments on it to be honest.

At parties she has loads more than that- ar tge beginning of a party I let her help herself and go what she wants - but eventually I have to intervene. I certainly don't think I'm too strict - she would be the one that eats the most at any party- by far.

The things that bother me are this sort of behaviour/
- if I get a snack when she's not eating she will be out of her seat and begging for some before I've even opened it. I can only eat when does now even if I'm not hungry
- I gave her peanut butter crackers today and asked her to give one to DS. When she thought I wasn't looking she scraped his peanut butter off and ate it before she gave it him.
- at the park today kids we don't know we're eating a snack and she went over to watch and see what it was. She loves watching seeing and eating food.
- she's asked to leave play dates and parks etc before as she's assumed she'll get lunch as soon as she gets home. And I know she's not hungry on these occasions as they've been when we've had lots of snacks at park.
-worst thing is social events/ not so much birthday parties but just round at friends houses - they'll put nibbles out for adults and the kids- crisps and dips etc And she will eat and eat and eat them all. Shoves them in her mouth so fast and won't leave to play. I encourage her to go play and have more later- she leaves for about 20 seconds and then is back. And this can go on for the whole time we are there which can be a few hours. Normally the food has to get taken away or put in another room as she doesn't stop. And normally it's not just me suggesting that- its other mums who can see her behaviour.

She's certainly not skinny. But I don't think she's overweight either. I think she's around 80th percentile. Height is just above is 50% percentile.

I realise I might sound like I'm making something out of nothing. But it's worse than it sounds - like I say friends have recently experienced it and were amazed at how full on and focused on food she is.

You should see her when we go out and I order her fish and chips! She doesn't look up!

MattDillonsPants Thu 05-May-16 13:49:15

Most of what you're saying is your concern over what other people think.

Eating treats with pleasure is normal for 4 year olds. If she is not overweight, then I think you need to leave her alone.

You still haven't said what she eats for her main meals. If you would give us an example of a typical day's meals then it would be clearer.

BarbarianMum Thu 05-May-16 16:34:35

OK well if she's on the 80th percentile for weight and the 50th for height (is that what you meant, or the other way round?) then she is quite a bit overweight.

Why do you think she is not hungry? What is she like if there is no food in sight, does she ask for some? Will she go off and play if nothing is on offer? Will she keep eating vegetables if you let her, or is it the sweet stuff and carbs she wants?

I agree that what you are describing sounds quite unusual. In your position I'd have a chat with my GP (in private) and ask them to look at her.

Sugar2 Thu 05-May-16 21:18:50

For meals she has porridge in the morning with honey, glass of milk, and toast with peanut butter
Lunch is sandwich- Ham and cheese or ham and peanut butter- she loves peanut butter,,few crisps or crackers, carrot sticks and yogurt. If kindy day then fruit also.
Dinner is either pasta, lasagna, smoked salmon and eggs,

She eats all her meals.

I'm pretty confident she's not hungry as this happens regardless of when she's eaten. We've been out before for dinner when's she's had nibbles etc before dinner, huge serving of fish and chips and she comes home and ask for more. There's no way she was hungry straight after a huge meal like that.

Part of me wonders if I should just leave her to go nuts and eat what she likes and see if she starts to find it boring. But I'm concerned this will confuse her and make things worse.

Sugar2 Thu 05-May-16 21:23:00

Oh- sorry if it sounded I care what other people think. That's not it at all. I don't care about that. I was trying to point out that it's not just me that or in my head. It's noticably an unusual behaviour. X

uhoh2016 Thu 05-May-16 21:39:47

Prada willie syndrome or something similar was my 1st thought. Go to your GP for advice on her behaviour towards food.

Sugar2 Thu 05-May-16 22:00:38

I wouldn't say prada Willi but I'm no doctor! But intellectually she's very bright. She's been ahead of all milestones and is one of the top in her kindy class. She's pretty smart! And I wouldn't say stunted in growth. To look at Shea not overweight. Her face is a little tubby. In the mornings I look at her and think she's skinny but by nighttime she has a little rounded pot belly!
Tbh it's not what she looks like hay I'm concerned about though. It's what going on in her head that concerns me and what this could lead to in the future. And if I'm making things worse and how I should handle it.

feelinginthedark Fri 06-May-16 01:04:56

I totally feel for you - everything you say reminds me of how our DD1 was at 18 months till 2.5 or so. It was mortifying, especially at playgroups etc like you say. She was always a 'bonny' baby but then spent 9 months or so in full time nursery and got noticeably chubby. I think they were feeding them raisins and digestive biscuits etc to keep them quiet. And not getting enough exercise. She's been at home with me now for a year since I had DD2 and has slimmed down (she's still very tall) but is starting full time nursery again over the summer and I'm really worried about her food intake there. She's still extremely into food, but I am rigorous about the 50% veggies at meals rule, and try to ensure that snacks are protein based eg baby bel cheese, carrot and celery sticks and peanut butter, whole milk yogurt etc. Also I get her out and about at every opportunity and when we're at home we do dance parties and things to keep her active. It sounds like I'm obsessed but I'm just concerned about her well being to be honet. I'm dreading her going to school and being able to buy her own snacks!

feelinginthedark Fri 06-May-16 01:08:53

And she definitely doesn't have Prader-willi or another syndrome as some posters have suggested (they will literally eat the paint off walls of not given access to food and have a whole spectrum of other things going on). Some kids are just more foodie than others, and we have a responsibility as their parents to manage their diet and exercise I think.

eatsleephockeyrepeat Fri 06-May-16 09:31:47

If this were an adult I'd be wondering about thyroid function, and if she were slimmer I'd consider diabetes. Equally could a deficiency in a particular vitamin or nutrient cause seemingly endless hunger? I don't know. I guess only a doctor can rule something like that out so it's worth a visit.

Although as is with always the case with kids, it could equally be a (quite dramatic!) quirk of her childhood, and you say you're pretty sure she's not hungry. Tbh I'm with you in wondering what would happen if you just let her loose to see what happened! It's wildly different but I know in my younger days I used to "watch what I ate" and was constantly hungry. One day I decided to just go for it and see what happened, and once I'd satisfied the initial hunger/desire to have what was previously "forbidden", to this day I'm no different size at all!

Giving her control in the form of a snack box etc. is a great idea. Does she help you shop for, grow or prepare food? Perhaps that could satiate a bit of her obsession curiosity with it without having to consume it...

eatsleephockeyrepeat Fri 06-May-16 09:38:53

Two more things to consider, worms??

Or, assuming this is more a question of obsession than hunger, you say she's very bright so this could be a case of a bright child's obsession expressed in a less than ideal fashion. I do think it might be worth finding other ways for her to engage "around" the concept of food that with it directly; like recipe books, understanding where it comes from, how it grows, farm visits etc. What do you think?

sleepwhenidie Fri 06-May-16 09:45:55

Op, out of curiosity, what are you like in your own eating habits and approach to food?

mouldycheesefan Fri 06-May-16 09:51:33

Rule put medical conditions that cause over eating or obsessive hunger. Speak to GP.

drspouse Fri 06-May-16 09:55:00

Worms doesn't cause hunger. They make you lose your appetite and lose weight.
I have a four year old like this and he'll try and take food off other people's plates, is at the 75th centile for weight and 25th for height.
It is very very wearing. We saw a paediatrician (he has other problems, NOT P-W, wish people would stop mentioning that, it's not somethIng that is missed for four years). She was stumped and couldn't think of anything to recommend.
At parties and out and about he is not quite as bad as your DD, but it's the obsession with other people's food at home that gets wearing.
We have found that filling up a Tupperware with chopped up veggies helps a bit, but he does get fed up of them and demand proper snacks!
He can do some activities without constantly asking but it's really wearing to be asked every five minutes when snack is. He has little idea of time (though sometimes we use a 30 min hour glass).
I feel your pain but I'm afraid I have few answers.
It's all very well for posters to tell us about their skinny children with hollow legs. My child is not that shape.

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