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How Hungry Am I?

Young people will learn that their bodies were designed to give them signals when they are hungry and when they are full.

Ages

3-8 Years Old

Duration

20 Minutes

What You Need

  • An age-appropriate snack that can be shared in handfuls, such as chopped fresh fruits or vegetables or whole-grain crackers or pretzels.
  • Kids Hunger Tracker worksheet

Resources

Healthy Families Newsletter

English (pdf)

Spanish (pdf)

To find out how this lesson fits Physical Education and Health Education standards click here.

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people think about the ways their bodies give them signals telling them when they need to eat. They will use a worksheet to track their hunger before and after a snack and learn that tracking your hunger can keep you from overeating.

Introduction

Ask the youth, what does a baby do when it is hungry? Usually he or she cries or whimpers. A dog might do the same thing…bark or whine to let us know it’s time to eat.

Inform the youth that our bodies let us know in much the same way when we are starting to feel hungry. How? Maybe our stomach growls, we get a headache, we become cranky or irritable, or feel tired or weak. It takes about 10-15 minutes once we have started eating for our bodies to notice the change. The feeling of fullness is the result of your brain reacting to chemicals and hormones that are released when you eat. Your brain can take up to 20 minutes to register these chemicals before you are signaled you are getting full. Therefore, it’s important to eat slowly enough to give ourselves time to adjust. Our bodies send signals that we’ve had enough, like our belly actually feeling a bit more filled up. If we eat too much too fast we can’t notice those cues until it is too late and we feel extremely full and uncomfortable.

Here’s a simple way to gauge before, during and after eating what state we’re in:

😐 = Pretty hungry, my stomach feels empty

🙂 = Just right! Not too hungry or too full; satisfied

🙁 = Too full, I ate too much

This language of hunger is different from the cravings we feel when we smell our favorite food or see something delicious looking in a magazine. That’s our thoughts telling us, “Wow…I sure would like to taste that,” no matter whether our body is hungry or not.

Being hungry is different from craving and we can teach ourselves to better listen to our bodies to know the difference.

Activity

  1. Ask the young people to make a fist. Tell them that their stomachs are about the same size as their fist.
  2. Ask the following questions to further explore the topic of hunger:
    • How would your stomach feel if you put too much food in – two or three times the size of your fist? (Sore, bloated, sticking out)
    • How would your stomach feel if you didn’t put enough food in or if you missed having a meal or a snack? (Pain, rumbling)
    • Would it feel this way if you saw a piece of cake on the counter that you thought looked really delicious? Or if you smelled your favorite meal cooking? (You might feel these things for a short while when you are having a craving, but if you take a few minutes to pay attention they will go away. A craving won’t make you feel hunger that lasts.)
    • What if you put just the right amount of food in your stomach— about the same amount as your fist? How would it feel? (Content, not stuffed, good, nice, satisfied)
  3. Let’s enjoy a snack in an amount that is a little bit smaller than our fists, or the size of our stomachs, but let’s first think about how hungry we actually are so that we don’t eat too much and get those uncomfortable feelings.
  4. Pass out the Kids Hunger Tracker worksheet. Ask the youth to fill in the first line, writing down today’s date and then drawing the appropriate face in the “Before the Meal” column.
  5. Then pass out the snack. Encourage young people to eat slowly and chew the food well. Have them notice the flavor and taste and how their bodies feel. Encourage them to stop when they feel satisfied regardless of whether the food is gone.
  6. After the snack, have them complete the final column on the worksheet.

Conclusion

Encourage young people to use the worksheet over the next several days to track their hunger and see what they notice. The more they practice this mindful approach, the more attuned they will become to their bodies’ food needs.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

‘Tis the season to take note of your hunger cues

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing the ways that young people know they are hungry and when they have eaten enough.

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