There are boys and girls who eat well and others, however, do not seem to enjoy the moment of the meal. When this happens, mothers and fathers worry a lot. What to do if the child does not want to eat?
“Doctor, my son does not eat” is one of the phrases often repeated by parents and one of the most frequent reasons for consultation in Primary Care.
It happens to 25-35% of children but, as Venancio Martínez, who served as secretary of the Nutrition Committee of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP), clarifies, it very seldom has consequences on development (between 1-2% of the cases), since “what the parents understand as lack of appetite is almost always a normal decrease in energy needs or a way of achieving some benefit on the part of the child”.
So if the child is eating less, but gaining adequate weight, is active, happy, and shows no signs of illness, parents shouldn’t worry.
Do you have to insist to finish the plate? How to get him to eat vegetables? These and other questions are raised daily by many families.
“He who eats more does not always eat better and parents must be taught that health depends more on the variety of the diet than on the size of the servings, ” insists Venancio Martínez., Who clarifies that given lack of appetite it is not advisable to give nutritional supplements, since these “are necessary only in exceptional cases, almost always related to prolonged illnesses and after evaluation by the pediatrician or nutritionist.”
SHAPING TASTE: HOW TO GO ABOUT INTRODUCING COMPLEMENTARY FEEDING?
During the first year of life, a baby increases its height by 50% and its weight by 300%, but for this it must be well fed.
“The child can be exclusively breastfed for the first six months,” explains Alfredo Baluster. From that age on, complementary feeding begins.
The transition from liquids to solids constitutes an important change in diet and the child may take days or weeks to accept it, but it should not be delayed since, in the opinion of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, “its late introduction can make subsequent administration difficult solid food “.
From two to six years of age, food taste is formed. The flavors that the child tastes during the first year are better accepted. The child develops his preferences, conditioned for the most part by family customs: he eats what he sees the elders eat.
At three years of age, the child can eat everything (he has reached maturity of the digestive functions, knows how to use cutlery) but, on the other hand, he becomes capricious with meals and is likely to refuse to try new foods.
“The first three years of life are fundamental in terms of the consequences of poor nutrition, which can affect the entire life of the person. The second year is especially important because in it the flavors are diversified, the child develops chewing, their meals are socialized and tantrums appear and the tendency to oppose everything (‘the age of no’), which if not solved correctly can affect the subsequent way of eating and, therefore, eating habits “, warns Martínez Suárez.
The eating habits that are acquired at this time will be difficult to modify later. On the other hand, there is a slowdown in growth, so it is normal that the nutritional needs and, therefore, the appetite also decrease.
TIPS FOR MAKING CHILDREN ENJOY EATING
To promote good habits, parents can use these tactics:
- Letting your child help in preparing dishes and shopping will make it easier for him to try new foods, including vegetables.
- Eating as a family(not letting the child eat alone) and creating a pleasant environment will make them accept a greater variety of foods.
- Do not try to distract him with television or playing with him: it is not effective in the long run.
- Do not overfill the dishes. “Especially if it is a child who eats little, it is better to serve him a small portion on a small plate and, then, if he wants more, repeat. Thus, the child is motivated by seeing that he is able to finish the plate”, he says Alfredo Baluster.
- Do not reward or punish him to get him to eat. This may lead you to think that your parents’ affection depends on what you eat.
- Do not force the child to finish the plate. First you have to assess whether the ration is adequate. On the other hand, it is better to teach him to take into account the feeling of fullness.
- Do not prolong the meal for more than 30 minutes. If you do not want a meal, you have to try to find out why: if you have eaten something and are not hungry or if you do not like it and why. In those cases, you do not have to prepare a different dish but go to dessert without giving it too much importance.
- Don’t skip breakfast. If you skip breakfast you will feel tired and have a hard time concentrating. It should include cereals (bread, cookies), dairy (yogurt, milk or cheese) and fruit (a piece or a natural juice).
- If you are sick and do not want to eat one day, you do not have to force it. It is also not the time to introduce new foods, as you will associate them with the disease.
- Presenting dishes in an attractive way(by drawing pictures or combining colors) can get a child to eat a food that he or she would otherwise reject.