Circular 1037-11
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By Kathryn Tarulli, Dr. Diane Bales and Dr. Charlotte Wallinga — Department of Human Development and Family Science

Stop Eating When Your Full: Promote healthy eating habits by encouraging your family to stop eating when they are full.

Almost 17% of children in the United States are considered obese. Childhood obesity often leads to other health concerns throughout the child's life, so it is important to teach your family healthy eating habits.

How do you know when you are full and finished with your meal? Many people decide when they are full based on external cues rather than listening to their own bodies. People readily assume that a meal is over when their plate is clean or when everyone else is finished eating.

It takes about 20 minutes to feel full once you have started eating. By eating slower, we can help our bodies know when to stop eating. In order to stay healthy, it is important to listen to these internal cues and stop eating once your body feels full. Encourage your children to stop eating when full, and do not insist that they clean their plates.

*CDC. (2012). Overweight and Obesity. Retrieved from

*Miller, C. (2011). How long does it take your brain to register that the stomach is full? Retrieved from

Family Fun Activity: Empty or Full

Use this easy activity to help your child learn.

What You Need:

  • Bowl
  • Water

What To Do:

  • Use this activity to help your child understand what it means to be "full" or "empty"
  • Encourage your child to fill and empty the bowl with the water
  • Talk with your child about what it means to be empty and full. For Example:
    • "When the bowl is empty, there is no water in it"
    • "When the bowl is full, no more water can fit in it"
  • Talk with your child about what might happen if you try to add more water when the bowl is full.

*CAUTION: Supervise your child at all times when playing with water!

This is publication 11 out of 24 in the Eat Healthy, Be Active: Keeping Children Healthy at Home and School series. For more information visit

Status and Revision History
Published on May 13, 2014
Published with Full Review on Mar 28, 2017

Diane W Bales Assoc Professor & Human Dev Spec, Family & Consumer Sciences
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