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The ability to regulate energy intake through hunger and satiety and to adapt the amount consumed to physiological needs (self-regulation) is innate and most pronounced in babies and toddlers. With increasing age, many external factors also control food intake [1]. Paying attention to the toddler's signals and reacting appropriately to them can strengthen self-regulation and prevent the development of obesity [2, 3]. Applying pressure to eat something can interfere with this ability [3, 4, 5].

Hunger and satiety show up in different ways. Signals that the child wants to eat are often expressed through gestures or verbally [6, 7]. A rumbling stomach, deterioration in mood or concentration, pale or fatigue indicate hunger. A fed child shows an active willingness to eat when, for example, he is eating. B. opens the mouth before the spoon touches the lips or heads towards the spoon. If the child eats more slowly, if it turns its head or body away, if it loses its interest in food, if it plays with the food and if it appears relaxed, this can indicate satiety [6, 7]. If a child does not want to eat (anymore) or if he refuses to eat (after trying), the parents respect this, react calmly and clearly end the meal (e.g. by putting away the plate). Parents do not punish the child or threaten them with punishment, e.g. B. by banning preferred meals or excluding them from eating together.

Learning to eat independently in early childhood also means differentiating between hunger and satiety as regulatory mechanisms for food intake from emotional states [8]. Eating has a calming, relaxing effect. If parents regularly use food to comfort or reward their child, this can contribute to unhealthy eating behavior in the child or to obesity [2].

A child can easily feel overwhelmed by serving large amounts of food. Therefore, a small portion is first placed on the plate and, if necessary, given in a little if the child wants it. Many parents worry that their child is not eating enough. However, the amount of food consumed varies greatly from person to person, as evaluations in the DONALD study show [9]. If the child is healthy, active, and happy, parents can assume that they are eating sufficient amounts. If you are concerned about your body weight, you should contact a pediatrician. The body weight is recorded as part of the preventive medical check-ups and assessed using percentile curves (e.g. in the children's medical examination booklet).