4 min Read
Is it normal for tween appetites to be insatiable?
April 26, 2023
4 min Read
April 26, 2023
If your kid has developed next-level hunger, welcome to the tween feeding years. Read on for expert advice from an endocrinologist on what exactly is going on (and when the tween appetite ends!)
The tween appetite is something to behold: Your 11-year-old, for instance, eats four pancakes and two bowls of cereal for breakfast. Lunch—two sandwiches, a bag of chips, two glasses of milk, an apple and four chocolate chip cookies. For dinner, two heaping plates of spaghetti and and a huge bowl of ice cream. And at 9 p.m., your kid stares into the open fridge saying they’re hungry.
The answer, according to Dr. Shazhan Amed, a pediatric endocrinologist at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, is that it’s perfectly normal for some kids this age to develop astounding appetites. Girls often begin their pubertic growth spurt around age 10, and boys slightly later, sometime between 12 and 14. “During that growth spurt, the growth rate per year doubles,” she says. “That demand on the body requires additional energy that is derived from food. So it’s not unusual for kids to have a huge increase in appetite. It’s actually expected.” Luckily, says Dr. Amed, the body is designed in such a way that it generally regulates appetite according to physical need.
The metabolic needs of children depend on many things, including how active they are and their genetic profile—not just their gender. Skyrocketing tween appetites, and even into the teen years, is common among all kids, not just boys. Both males and females experience a surge of both estrogen and testosterone in the tween years (yes, everybody has both!) which can significantly enhance appetite.
If they’re hungry, says Dr. Amed, let them eat. Just make sure they’re eating the right foods most of the time. “Kids at this age are actually very vulnerable to forming unhealthy eating habits. If they’re choosing foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar, or drinking a lot of calories in pop and other sweetened drinks, that’s when we see obesity becoming an issue.” Parents need to role model healthy choices, says Dr. Amed, so their kids feel inspired to do the same, even when they’re on their own and making their own decisions.
Help your kids integrate these healthy eating behaviours into their ravenous tween appetite phase:
“If these things become part of their daily routine, they will take them right into adulthood,” says Dr. Amed. “We need to set our kids up for success – not just in terms of education, but success in health. We really are facing a huge problem in today’s society; if our kids don’t have success in terms of health, none of their other success will matter.”
When tweens are wildly hungry, they’re much more likely to reach for something nutritious if it’s right at their fingertips. Try these tips for filling them up right:
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, July 2012; updated April 2023