1. They push the food around on their plates and don't finish what you give them. Telling kids to "finish everything on your plate" does little to help them learn to read their body's fullness cues. If their eating is slowing down or stopped, give them a few minutes to let their stomach feel full, and don't pressure them to eat every last bite.
2. They're not very hungry for the next meal or snack-which they normally would have eaten. A lot of parents who think they have picky eaters just have kids who snack too much. While we ate an average of one daily snack in the '70s, today's kids eat three. And it's not just the quantity, it's the quality.
A study from the University of North Carolina found that high-sugar and high-fat processed snacks (like cookies, chips, and crackers) account for 28 percent of 2- to 6-year-olds' diets and 35 percent of 7- to 12-year-olds'.
3. The amount on their plates is close to the amount you have on yours. Kids don't need adult-sized portions. A good serving size is about the size of the palm of your hand, and that applies to kids too. For snacks, a good, easy-to-remember gauge of a serving is what you can grab with your hand.
4. The first thing you do when your kids are upset, stressed, fatigued, or cranky is hand over a snack. What they may really need is just a hug, some quiet time, or something to drink instead (thirst is often confused for hunger-ditto tiredness). They might also just be bored. Try address the underlying problem before handing over a snack pack, with distraction or just a little one-on-one time.
5. Their clothes are becoming tight in the chest, waist, or rear, even though the length is still fine. "A lot of parents don't notice if their child gains a few pounds-it's the whole 'love is blind' thing. But they will pick up on pants or shirts that suddenly look snug," notes American Dietetic Association spokesperson Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D. If your child's weight is increasing while his height stays the same, it's a sign he's consuming more than he needs to.