What reasons are there when a child does not want to eat?

The intake of a child should be governed by their appetite and we should not force them to eat above this because we will surely make them eat above their needs.

To begin with, let us make it clear that “the child who does not want to eat” said like that, in general and in our area and voluntarily, does not exist. Children, if they have food and hunger, they eat, they eat more or they eat less, they eat one thing or another, but they eat. At a certain point they may not be hungry and not eat, but there comes a time when they are hungry and looking for food. Thus, more than children who do not eat, or children who eat poorly or eat well, what we can talk about is children who tend to eat in a way or an amount that we do not like and worry about.

It is the eternal struggle and concern of many parents, the amount of food their children eat, and not only that, the variety of foods they eat and the speed with which they eat them. And we are going to curl the curl more, how they eat them, if with the cutlery, their hands, if they get stained, if not, if they throw or fall things on the ground, etc.

When they eat “little”

Many parents are concerned about the quantity of food that your child consumes, but we must remember that the intake must be adjusted to the hunger that the child has, without forcing to eat above this.

The amounts a child consumes are very relative, since their appetite can vary from day to day depending on their growth stage, their fatigue, their health and even their mood. There are children with a tendency to eat larger amounts than others and that should not be a problem, by nature children tend to self-regulate and we must try to respect their will in the amount of intake provided that this does not cause a health problem.

In children who tend to have a low intake , it is important to always offer interesting foods at a nutritional level, avoiding snacks, juices, sweets, etc. (which on the other hand should be avoided in all cases, not only in children who eat less), which can be satiating without providing a nutritional benefit. The current nutritional recommendations regarding intake in childhood only quantify the amounts of meat, fish … (the protein ration) in order not to exceed it.

When they eat “slow”

Children’s eating rates are generally slow, and this can be aggravated if they are also sleepy. We must avoid that meals take a long time, often a meal is eternal because the child does not want more. In these cases, it is preferable to finish and take the next meal first. If necessary, more intakes can be made per day. Extending meals beyond what is necessary is usually counterproductive, as we make meals become unpleasant, both for them and for us, and that is precisely what we should avoid.

Children tend to eat early when they are hungry. As they progress in the intake, they satisfy their appetite and lose interest in the food in front of them (except that it is very attractive and they eat it more for visual or gustatory appetite than for hunger). If not, they eat more slowly or stop eating unless we remind them to. This attitude usually shows that, lack of hunger. In that case it is better to let it run and in the next intake they will eat. Of course, in the next meal we will offer the healthy foods that we determine, of course, not whatever they want, with the excuse of “so at least eat something.”

What do we mean when they eat badly?

We usually hear this expression when parents explain to us that their child rejects certain types of food and normally, in contrast, shows a predilection for other types of products.

If the problem is that you do not eat a certain type of food, as is often the case with vegetables and fruits, we should offer:

  • Different varieties within the group that you don’t like at first. It is easy to find a child who does not like chard, or broccoli, or cabbage, but … are you sure he does not like carrots, tomatoes, peppers, radishes, zucchini, squash, green beans, the mushrooms…?
  • Different ways of cooking and presenting food from that group. Cooked artichokes with potatoes may not be your child’s favorite dish, but… what about stuffed aubergines? What about pumpkin puree? Let’s give it imagination!
  • Different foods accompanying the type of food that gives us problems. Perhaps a tomato on its own or in the middle of a salad does not attract the attention of a child, but… what if we sauté it with pasta? Or if we make a sauce to accompany the meat?
  • Diversity of dressings giving the final touch to the preparation we have prepared. Some endives can be bitter, even for an adult, but what happens if they are offered with a yogurt sauce, or with blue cheese? What if we accompany some carrot sticks with hummus?

Food neophobia

Food neophobia consists of rejecting food that we do not know, that we have never tried . It is the natural distrust we sometimes experience for new things, and food is no exception. Rejection of the unknown protects us against dangers, toxic or spoiled food, etc. There are children who are more reluctant to try new foods and children who are more confident, but in any case it is not at all strange that they do not want to eat foods they are unfamiliar with, especially if they are not very attractive and have a bitter taste.

Experts say that you can try offering the food, without forcing, up to 20 times, although each time it is rejected, so that in the end, they will ever try it.

If they really don’t meet your needs …

This happens on very few occasions, because as we have already mentioned, one thing is the perception that we have about the amount that our children eat or stop eating and the other that they stop meeting their needs. Actually, it is possible that with that “little” that they eat they are already well nourished and therefore we should not worry more or give more laps to the subject.
However, in some, few, very few occasions, children have an appetite below their needs and some deficiency may arise. To ensure a sufficient intake if our child has a poor appetite and has deficiencies, we must seek expert nutritional advice that will make us take into account different recommendations aimed at opening the appetite, combat early satiety, take advantage of the moments when they are hungry, take advantage of variety of foods and personal preferences and also if necessary we will try to enrich the dishes so that they are more nutritious and energetic.

What you should know…

  • The intake of a child should be governed by their appetite and we should not force them to eat above this because we will surely make them eat above their needs.
  • Food neophobia is a completely normal phenomenon that consists of rejecting foods that we do not know and has the function of protecting us against possible dangers.
  • Children need time: to eat, to accept new foods, let’s try to give that time as much as possible and make eating a pleasant moment.

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