Most children have periods when they eat very little, only eat a few dishes or do not want to eat at all. There are some advice and tips that you can use to make children more interested in food.
All children are different and have different appetites. How much food children eat varies from day to day and meal to meal. Healthy children usually eat the amount they themselves feel they need.
If the child eats less or just wants to eat a certain dish, you may find it difficult and stressful and sometimes it makes you as a parent or close relative worried. It is good to know that most often the child in itself gets reasonably versatile nutrition if you look at it over a longer period and do not look at individual meals. Over time, even children usually start eating more varied and larger amounts.
If a child refuses to eat a certain food at a meal, there is no danger, usually eating from the other parts of that meal. For example, if the child does not want to eat the meatballs, it may at least be good with the pasta and the grated carrots served to. At another meal, they might rather eat of the fish and peas than of the potatoes.
Sometimes children may not want to eat at all. It is often not a danger if the child does not eat food for a few days as long as it drinks enough or that the smallest children receive enough breast milk or breast milk replacement, also called breast milk replacement.
Some children need more time than others before they start eating at meals. Some eat slowly, some eat fast. Some children are very easily disturbed by things that are nearby and need extra peace of mind.
As long as the child is well-nourished and satisfied and follows his weight curve and length curve, there is no need to worry. You should not compare with other children, since children are different and also need different food.
Children feel themselves when they are saturated
Children need to learn how to determine when they are saturated. You should therefore not threaten or force them to eat. Offer varied food, but let the child decide how much it wants to eat from what is served. It is important that the child gets to know his or her own hunger and satiety feelings.
Some children lose their appetite just by seeing a lot of food. Therefore, it is good not to serve too large portions. Instead, start with a smaller portion and then a smaller portion if the child wants more. It is good if the child feels that it has managed to eat up. It can also be good for the parent.
Being able to prepare food yourself often makes the child more interested in eating. The smaller children can be helped by, for example, holding the spoon. By taking the food themselves, they also learn over time how much is needed to be measured.
Food at regular times
It is good to find a regular eating rhythm with regular meals. If the child gets food at about the same times each day, it is easier for the child to know what to expect. Fixed times also give a more even blood sugar level, which reduces the risk of mood swings and that the child gets tired due to being hungry.
Eating at regular times also makes the appetite better as the child gets used to eating at certain times. How to prepare meals can be different from family to family. The important thing is that the food is served at regular times. The child needs breakfast, lunch and dinner and one to three snacks. The snacks need to be just big, so that the child is hungry just for the next main meal.
Eating between meals can spoil your appetite when it’s time for food. Even drinks such as milk and juices provide saturation. Therefore, only give water between meals if the child is thirsty. Meals should not be too dense but at reasonable intervals to allow the child to become hungry.
It should also not go too far between meals. Then the child can get tired, irritated and even feel a little ill. Two to three hours between meals are usually good for children. If the child becomes too hungry before the meal, you can give something small to stimulate appetite, a small apple or a sip of milk usually suffices.
Since the child is about seven months, most children do not have to eat at night. Eating the baby at night can cause poor appetite during the day. It can be difficult to get the child to stop eating at night, it can be protests if the child is used to waking up and getting something to eat. Usually it only takes one or a couple of nights for the child to learn to get comfort in another way if it wakes up at night.
Common to be hesitant about new flavors
It is good to encourage the child to dare to try new flavors, but one should never force or threaten. It is common, even for adults, to be hesitant about things that you do not recognize or have tasted before.
Therefore, it is common for children not to eat or taste foods and foods that they have not eaten before. There is nothing to worry about but usual and usually go over. At the age of 2-6 years, it is very common for children to be skeptical of new tastes. You may need to try many times before eating.
You can also take a break and try again. If you let the child taste a new food, a new dish or a new consistency several times, the child begins to recognize it over time and can start to like it. But all children are different and the taste varies. Some children want tasty food, while others want milder flavors. The temperature and texture of the food can also affect.
More flavors may be needed the older the child becomes. The first two years are children who are most open to new tastes, textures and foods and it can therefore be good to try to teach them to enjoy as much as possible. When the child is less than two years old, it may take a few occasions for the child to like the new, as the child gets older they may need more and more test cases.
A child who has previously eaten most can suddenly refuse to eat certain things that he has eaten before, at two or three years of age. At that age, the child discovers that it has its own will and some children show it at meals.
If the child only wants to eat a single or a few dishes, you may need to start with it to eventually switch to other flavors and dishes. If the child refuses to eat vegetables, it may get fiber and vitamins from fruit instead. If the baby does not eat rice, it may eat bulgur. If the child does not want to eat coarse bread, it can instead get fiber from porridge or fiber-rich light bread. But do not cook special dishes and do not serve new dishes at the same meal if the child does not want to eat. It can easily become a bad habit that becomes difficult for the whole family.
If the child refuses to eat a certain food or does not feel good about it, you can talk to BVC about this. Sometimes it may be because the child is allergic or hypersensitive to that food.
Sometimes there are other causes
There is rarely any physical reason why the child does not want to eat but the appetite is usually worse if the child is ill. Infections, such as colds, are one of the most common reasons why children sometimes do not want to eat or eat less than before. Other causes can be, for example, blisters or ulcers in the mouth that make it painful to eat or new teeth that hurt the mouth. Sometimes constipation can make the child not want to eat. If the child is hypersensitive to any food that does not feel good, it may cause the child not to eat.
If the child experiences or has experienced the meals as unpleasant, for example if it has felt compelled to eat, it may cause it not to want to eat. Sometimes children may not eat because of changes in their lives or concerns in the family. Children can show their insecurity by refusing to eat; for example, it is not uncommon for children who have siblings to start eating less, or want to be fed again.
The meal is time to socialize
It is good if the child can associate food and eating time with something positive, something to look forward to. This increases the possibility that the child eats and that there will be no trouble in connection with the meal. For example, too much nagging in connection with food can make it unpleasant atmosphere and therefore the child eats less.
Things that usually make the meals enjoyable are, for example, that the food is served in an appetizing way, that you eat together and that it is calm, ie that the TV is not on and that no one talks on the phone and that no one chirps, snuggles and forces one to eat.
But it is not always easy to get calm and enjoyable meals where everyone eats with good appetite, so it is in most families with children sometimes. You have to do as best you can and think that the next meal will be better. Sometimes the meals may need to be adapted to the situation and be a little extra flexible for the child to eat, for example if the child is sick or extra tired.
Adjust the meal expectations based on the child’s age. Small children cannot cope with long meals, 15 minutes can be good for small children. Gradually, one can increase the length of meals.
The important thing is to spend time around the food. It can also be nice to, for example, have some cozy time on the sofa and eat something everyone likes, such as fruit nicely laid out on a dish.
Children do as others do
Everyone who eats with the baby affects it. Many children eat better in preschool, at daycare or at school when it sees other children eating. Children also often eat better when they see adults eating. Seeing others eat can also make children dare to try new foods and dishes. If the child understands that a parent does not like the food, it may be difficult to get the child to eat.
It is good to let the child participate in cooking and table setting, as long as it is safe for the child. If it is nice in the kitchen and where you eat increases the chance of the child eating well. If you have been with and prepared the food, it also usually tastes better.
Shop and cook together
You can let the child participate in the kitchen and be involved based on their age and conditions. The smallest child may just sit and watch with a ladle in his hand, the slightly older child will play with pots and kitchen utensils and the even older child may be more involved in the cooking itself.
Another tip for increasing your child’s interest in food may be to shop together sometimes when you have plenty of time. If the child is involved in picking vegetables, for example, it can make it more curious to eat it.
Food should not be comfort, reward or punishment
You should not use food as comfort, bribe, reward or punishment as there is a risk that the child will have wrong thoughts about food and meals. For example, attracting something good or fun after the food does not make the child enjoy the food better.
It is natural to eat and it is not a performance. The child needs to develop his or her own initiative to want to eat, so you should not grumble about it or laugh with it. One should show appreciation and attention whether it has eaten “good” or “bad”. The child should not be treated differently if it does not eat the way you want, for example you should not get angry or stop talking to the child.
If you punish the child for not eating well, for example saying that it must not play afterwards, there is the risk that it will have negative thoughts about food. Children do not get better food cravings and the risk is that they will end up in a power struggle if the food is difficult to solve.
Saying “If you eat the food you get ice cream for dessert” or “If you don’t eat up you get no dessert”, neither the food tastes better nor the meal more enjoyable. The risk is that the child finds it even more disgusting and ice cream even tastier. Instead, you can continue to serve the dish if the rest of the family likes it. Just as it is, the child may want to try and think it is good.
Sometimes you may need to seek care and support
If the child both eats and drinks poorly and you see that it is not well or becomes lethargic, contact a health care center. You can also contact health care center for advice if the child is not sick or if there does not appear to be any other explanation for the child eating poorly, and you are worried.
Sometimes you can meet a doctor, psychologist or dietician. For example, you may need to check if the child is allergic or hypersensitive to any food or if there is something else that makes the child not want to eat. You may also need advice and support regarding the food situation, for example, if you feel that you have been in conflict about the food or that you feel worried and worried about the child not eating for long periods of time.
It can be easier if it looks nice and a little fun.
- Eat yourself and show that you think it is good. Children do as adults do.
- Eat with the child, it should not have to sit and eat.
- Serve the food in the way the child likes best. Many children want each food individually on the plate, while some want the food mixed together. Some children want tasty food, while others want milder flavors. For some, the right temperature is important.
- Encourage the child to eat by himself. Allow younger children to examine the food by feeling, smelling, smelling, tasting and touching the food. Serve pick-friendly food, such as pasta, peas, meatballs, sausage pieces, pieces of potato, meat, bread, avocado, cucumber and broccoli.
- Show attention whether the child eats “good” or “bad”. Do not get angry with the child if it does not eat and do not praise the child if it eats.
- Do not comment on food left on the plate.
- End the meal for the child after about a quarter if the child is uninterested in eating and sitting at the dining area, so that the child does not think of the meals as something unpleasant.
- Serve and serve the food nicely. One can, for example, think that colorful food can be more attractive.
- If the child has a little trouble getting started eating, you can help it by feeding it a few chews.