Children’s lack of appetite: My child doesn’t eat, now what?

Let’s talk about a subject that is a champion of complaints in pediatric practices: the lack of appetite in children. It is so common that it has appeared in many books written by nutrition professionals who spare no creativity when solving the problem. 

After all, it’s not an easy task, and some parents even lose sleep trying to find a solution. But you when the lack of appetite could mean something more serious? 

There are more common reasons for children’s lack of appetites, such as some stages of growth and sporadic illnesses such as colds and gastroenteritis. 

Prodiet spoke with nutritionist Elisa de Espíndola about the matter. She explained that after fifteen or twenty days, some signs can mean something more serious: 

“The child’s total lack of interest in food, the lack of interest in seeing the adult eating, the disinterest even in seeing that food she likes, and total exclusion from a food group. We must always be aware of these axes, these warning signs.”

The nutritionist explains that many causes can lead to this, and the motivations are usually individual. For example, food allergies, discouraging environments, and the most common adaptation to certain textures. In this case, one way to improve the quality of the food is to map which textures are more pleasant to the taste and look for similar options. 

There are other aspects of childhood stages that can affect the way a child eats. One of them, also very common, is the so-called “Picky Eaters,” or selective feeding. This is when the child excludes a food group or chooses only one food group to eat at every meal. The biggest concern in these cases is the nutritional deficiencies that this behavior can cause. 

Keeping a playful environment can be the solution in many cases. “Food is something that is part of a child’s development. When we teach the child to read and write, everything is beautiful, everything is fun. But no, when she eats, she sits on the chair, scrapes her plate, and leaves”. This thought goes against all the other healthy stimuli of childhood. “Bringing colored plates, bringing stickers for the moment at the table, making the atmosphere lighter makes a lot of difference.” Comments the nutritionist. 

Another motivation may be the child’s authority questioning phase, better known as the “no” phase. According to Espíndola, “The child learns the power of no,” which affects how parents or educators react. During this same period, the child has difficulty understanding schedules, so it is essential to create a meal routine to learn what he can and cannot at every moment of the day. 

Espíndola also explained some myths of good infant feeding, such as: “Leave it without eating, when it feels hungry it will eat” or “Success in eating is eating everything, scraping the plate.” The child decides how much to eat; the parent’s decision is what they will eat and at what time. In some cases, when there is extreme selective feeding, nutritionists can also suggest supplementation, making up for the needs.

Enteral feeding via tube, on the other hand, is indicated in more complex cases, such as health problems, and needs to be proposed in a team with the nutritionist and pediatrician. On this subject, Espíndola explains that “the determination for children is to eat less than 60% of the total energy value, associated with other pathological complaints.” 

Food supplementation, starting at the right age and with follow-up by a health professional, can be essential for developing a stronger childhood.

When supplementation is necessary, the Trophic Infant is ideal for children at nutritional risk or malnourished, hospitalized, or in-home care, who need prolonged enteral nutrition and exclusively target their dietary needs, with everything the little one needs to grow up healthy and happy.

The concern about how children feed themselves is a constant in parents, educators, and adults who make up this circle of care. Some phases can be more challenging than others, so always count on the nutritionist to work around and demystify these situations. 


TROPHIC INFANTH: for children with nutritional risk or who are malnourished, hospitalized or in home care, who require prolonged enteral feeding.


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