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Lack of appetite in children: "My child won't eat, what now?"

On this World Food Day, we're going to talk about a subject that is a top complaint in pediatricians' offices: a child's lack of appetite. It's so common that it has appeared in a multitude of books by nutrition professionals who spare no expense when it comes to getting around the issue.

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

There are some more common reasons for a child's lack of appetite, such as certain stages of growth and sporadic illnesses such as colds and gastroenteritis.

Prodiet spoke to nutritionist Elisa de Espíndola about the subject and she explained that after fifteen or twenty days, there are some signs that could mean something more serious: "The child's total lack of interest in food, the lack of interest in seeing the adult eating, the lack of interest even in seeing the food they like and the total exclusion of a food group. We always need to be aware of these axes, these warning signs."

The nutritionist explains that there are many causes that can lead to this, and the motivations are usually individual. For example, food allergies, unstimulating environments and, most commonly, adaptation to certain textures. In this case, one way to improve the quality of food is to map out which textures are most pleasing to the palate and look for similar options.

There are other aspects of childhood that can affect the way children eat. One of these, which is also very common, is the so-called "Picky Eaters" or selective eating. This is when the child excludes a group of foods or chooses just one group to eat at every meal. The biggest concern in these cases is the nutritional deficiencies that this behavior can cause.

Keeping the environment playful can be the solution in many cases. "Food is part of a child's development. When we teach a child to read and write, everything is beautiful, everything is fun. But when they eat, no, when they eat, they sit in their chair, scrape their plate and leave." This thinking goes against all the other healthy stimuli of childhood. "Bringing colorful plates, bringing stickers to the table, making the atmosphere lighter makes a big difference." says the nutritionist.

Another motivation could be the child's phase of questioning authority, better known as the "no" phase. According to Espíndola, "The child learns the power of no", which affects the way parents or educators react. During this same period, children find it difficult to understand timetables, which is why it's very important to create a meal routine, so that they can learn what they can and can't do at each moment of the day.

Espíndola also explained some of the myths about good nutrition for children, such as: "Leave them without food, when they feel hungry they'll eat it" or "successful nutrition is eating everything, scraping the plate". It's up to the child to decide how much to eat; the parents' decision lies in what they will eat and at what time. In some cases, when there is extreme selective feeding, nutritionists can also suggest supplementation to make up for deficiencies.

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 a 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 accompanied by a health professional, can be essential for developing a stronger childhood.

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

Concern about the way children eat is a constant in the lives of parents, educators and the adults who make up this circle of care. Some phases can be more challenging than others, so you can always count on a professional nutritionist to deal with and demystify these situations.

 

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