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Dealing With a Picky Eater? Try These Tips to Get Your Kid to Eat Well

Foods & tips to increase your child’s appetite from a nutrition expert.

Published
Parenting
4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>How do you ensure your kid gets the nutrition they need when they have a poor appetite?</p></div>
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Does your child have a very limited appetite or and is always making excuses to skip his/her meals? Are you always worried about how you can make your child eat nutritious food in adequate quantities?

And you wanted to know the reasons for loss of appetite. If these questions have been bothering you, you will find all your answers here.

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What Is Appetite & Why Do Some Kids Have a Poor Appetite?

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Kids tend to be picky eaters for many reasons.</p></div>

Kids tend to be picky eaters for many reasons.

(Photo: iStock)

Appetite is the natural urge, wish or desire to satisfy some craving, mostly for food items or drink. Loss of appetite is a common problem in kids and there are many reasons for loss of appetite in kids.

Usually, kids are picky eaters and they only prefer to eat selective food items. But kids with less or poor appetite don’t feel hungry or don’t want to eat food at all.

Whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner, the kid doesn’t want to eat or barely eats anything.

This behaviour of selective eating not only affects a child’s health but is very upsetting for the parents too.

Reasons for Loss of Appetite

  • Sensitivity to textures

    In some cases, kids might be sensitive to the texture of food or have trouble chewing food making it painful for him/her to eat. This might result in reducing the appetite.

  • Snacking the whole day

    One of the most common reasons for loss of appetite might be that the child has access to snacks throughout the day and that is why at meal times, he/she does not feel hungry.

  • Allergies or Digestive issues

    Acid reflux, food allergies and digestive problems might sometimes cause the children to not feel hungry. When you are not feeling well, your brain doesn’t send hunger signals, this is the body’s way of protecting itself.

  • Not able to sense

    The stomach sends the signal to the brain when it wants food. Sometimes children might not sense this hunger and that’s why they don’t feel hungry. This sense is considered as 8th sense by the therapists and is called interoception.

Interoception controls all our automatic responses like when we want to eat, when we are full, when we have to use the washroom etc.

If a child is not able to sense these signals, it means somewhere that communication within the body is not happening properly.

5 Tips to Increase Appetite

  • Stick to a schedule

Make a schedule for all meal and snack times and feed your kid only at that time. Meals should be spaced at a gap of two and a half to three hours to stimulate their appetite.

For example, if your child eats breakfast between 8-8:30 am, then the next meal should be at 10:30-11:00 am.

This is how you should space the meals throughout the day to increase child appetite.

  • Physical activity

Engaging in some kind of physical activity like running, jumping, swimming can help to increase child’s appetite.

Sedentary activities like sitting, watching TV or screen don’t burn much calories and will not make your child as hungry.

  • Mindfulness

Sometimes kids don’t realise whether they are hungry or not. Keep asking them questions like is their tummy full or empty or half full?

Tell them that since they have not eaten for a while, the tummy might be empty and hence they need to eat something.

Mindful eating helps the child to pay attention to his/her hunger and also to stop eating when he/she feels full, thereby preventing overeating.

  • Don’t skip breakfast

Encourage your kids to eat a healthy breakfast as eating breakfast sets the tone for the day, kick-starts their metabolism and is believed to increase child’s appetite.

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  • Check iron levels

It has been found that low iron levels might reduce appetite. Get your child’s iron levels checked to rule out this possibility.

Studies suggest that at least one in eight toddlers tend to become anaemic before the age of 2 years.

Kids less than the age of 9 years need about 7 to 10 milligrams of iron a day and those above the age of 9 years need about 8 milligrams of iron daily.

In case your child’s iron levels are low, include iron rich foods in his/her diet to increase child appetite.

Foods That Can Increase Child Appetite

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Increase your kids' appetite</p></div>

Increase your kids' appetite

(Photo: iStock)

Iron in foods or iron rich foods like spinach, eggs and lentils should be included in your child’s diet to increase a child’s appetite. Always pair iron rich foods with vitamin C to increase its absorption and use by the body.

Zinc is a very important mineral and is required for many physiological functions such as boosting immunity, regulating the functions of antioxidants and growth and development.

A mild deficiency of zinc can cause loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhoea and increases vulnerability to infections. Add zinc rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, nuts, spinach, beans and mushrooms in your child’s diet to increase child’s appetite.

Peanuts are one of the best foods that increase appetite in children. It holds protein building and appetite boosting properties.

Ensure you give peanuts to your child either in the form of peanut butter or by simply frying them to make it a crispy snack.

Roasted peanuts are a good option when your child demands a crispy snack.

Water to be taken 30 minutes before meals. Give your child a glass of water first thing in the morning. In fact, they should drink water even before they drink milk.

Also, make them have water at least 30 minutes before the meals rather than having meals as drinking water with meals might reduce their appetite.

Water tends to activate the digestive juices and enzymes which helps to increase a child’s appetite and also boosts their digestion.

(The author, Vandita Tewari Kapoor is Certified in Nutrition Science & Co-Founder at IYURVED.)

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