Use a hunger scale to help you and your kids learn when to put down that fork!
By: Jodie Shield, RD
Hunger Games. Kids and adults play them all the time. You know what I mean – nibbling when you’re bored or pigging out at a party. Your appetite seems to be out of control. Before you know it, your jeans are too tight! To become healthy eaters, we all need to listen to our bodies. Some researchers call this mindful eating; I call it appetitie awareness. What it really entails is tuning in to your appetite and eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. Sounds so simple, but as many of you know: easier said then done.
In my book, Healthy Eating, Healthy Wieght for Kids and Teens, I recommend using a 10-point hunger scale to teach your kids how to eat in the hunger zone. As parents and role models, we need to do this, too. Here’s a hunger scale that I like to use with families. Before and after eating, parents ask your son or daughter to choose the number that matches how he or she feels. You should do it, too. The goal is for everyone to get into the “zones’ between 3 and 6.
1- Empty: You feel light-headed and weak from not eating all day.
2- Starving: You feel cranky and can’t concentrate.
3 – Hungry: Your tummy is rumbling with hunger pangs.
4 – Slightly hungry: You’re just starting to feel hungry.
5 – Neutral: You’re not hungry or full.
6 – Perfectly comfortable: You feel satisfied.
7 – Full: You feel slightly uncomfotable.
8 – Uncomfortably full: You feel bloated.
9- Stuffed: Your clos are too tight and you can’t move.
10- Overstuffed: You are about to puke.
Danger – Zones 1 and 2: Be careful not to overeat. Better yet – stay out of this zone!
Go Ahead and Eat – Zones 3 and 4: You’re physically hungry. Time to eat!
Stop Eating – Zones 5 and 6: You’re satisfied. Put down the fork and walk away from the table.
Red Alert – Zones 7 through 10: Since you are totally full, chance are you’re emotionally hungry – bored, lonely, anxious, sad, happy etc.
Using a hunger scale is a great way to help everyone in your family reach a healthy weight. As you are reading this, what’s your hunger zone?