Good nutrition is key to a healthy and happy child, so intuition might tell parents that a highly structured diet or limited snacking must be enforced from the beginning. These techniques, however, don’t reflect the food needs of children coming from institutionalized environments. For most children living in orphanages, meal time is very structured. Usually, only one helping of food is offered. Most children eat every last morsel, but they may never walk away from the table full. In addition, orphanages offer little variety, so children are not exposed to many new tastes, smells or textures.
Because of this highly structured interaction with food, adopted children often do not understand the concept of plenty or of satiation. Often this manifests itself in gobbling food, eating large quantities, snacking, and even sneaking food. These children’s entire life experiences have told them that food is scarce and that it is only available at certain times. In the family environment, they must learn about a variety of new foods, and their brains must learn to interpret the messages their stomachs send when they are full.
Never fear; your child’s “overeating” is her way of learning about food and about abundance. For the adopted child, most food issues are related to control and learned behaviors. Offer a variety of healthy foods, teach her about good nutrition, model healthy attitudes toward food, and let your child’s body learn to respond to the messages it sends her when she’s full.
For more information on healthy eating for adopted children, read:
Adoption Nutrition, SPOON Foundation
Beyond Growth Charts, Adoptive Families
Love Me, Feed Me, Adoptive Families
Realistic Expectations: Food Issues, LWB Community
Solutions for Picky Eaters, Adoptive Families
1094 Waiting Children
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