A lot of parents come to me complaining that their kids do not feel hungry and can stay without food for days. Have you experienced that? My answer to those parents is, do you consider chocolates, chips and ice-creams as food?
One of the questions I ask parents is if they consider snacks like chocolates, chips and ice-creams, mandazi as food. While they may look small in size, these bites have enough calories to sustain children throughout the day. If a child has munched on a chocolate or some chips before a main meal, there are chances that she will throw tantrums at the dining table and refuse to eat. Try feeding the child with healthier snacks, water instead of juices and reduce snacking before mealtime.
If that is not the case, then there could be several other reasons for your child’s poor eating habits
Emotional stress – Children are very sensitive. Disagreements at home or a tense environment in school is enough to cause a child emotional stress. Children may throw tantrums simply to gain attention and refuse to cooperate during mealtime. Try spending more quality time with your kids.
Refrain from using TV shows and mobile phones as substitutes for your attention.
Show them love by showing interest in what they are doing and take time to understand how they do, make time to be a listening parent. You’ll be surprised to see how well your child responds to your undivided loving attention.
Acidity – If your child has extremely long gaps between meals, or skips breakfast, he or she will be prone to developing acidity.
Acidity lowers a child’s metabolism and reduces his/her appetite, the child won’t feel hungry. A good way to treat acidity is to feed the child small frequent meals. Avoid high-fat foods and peppermint, and lower the child’s intake of citrus fruits.
You can also squeeze some lemon into a glass of water for the child to drink. Water with lemon has an alkaline effect in the stomach, which will reduce the acid reaction in the child’s stomach. If your child is overweight or obese, talk to your medical doctor about healthy ways to lose weight.
Mineral deficiencies – Zinc deficiency – Children with low levels of Zinc have diminished taste, a condition known as hypogeusia. They will intentionally avoid foods because everything they eat tastes blunt.
Zinc deficiency is common after diarrhoea. Feed your child with zinc rich foods like fish, poultry eggs and beans to improve their zinc.
Magnesium deficiency – Loss of appetite is also associated with Magnesium deficiency. A child who is low on magnesium will feel lethargic, may be constipated and have cramps. Fruits like loquats, nuts like cashews and camel meat are excellent sources of magnesium.
Lack of enzymes – Our stomach contains enzymes that break down the food we eat to glucose. However, due to several reasons like medications and injury, there could be the loss of enzymes. Having ginger juice before meals will help in such a case.
Gut health – The gut microflora in children is very delicate. Sometimes the microflora in a child’s guy can reduce in quantity, for example when he/she is under antibiotic medication. Reduced microflora decreases the efficiency of the gut to digest and absorb nutrients, and may lead to a loss of appetite.
Giving the child food rich in probiotics may increase their appetite by stimulating the enzymes that enhance digestion and absorption. Fermented foods like (some) yoghurts are good for the child. Not all yoghurts have probiotics, please read the packaging of the yoghurt to identify probiotic yoghurt.
You can also increase the child’s consumption of bananas, oats and whole wheat, which are prebiotic foods. Prebiotics provide soluble fibre that is used by the gut microflora to grow.
Lack of physical activity – How active is your child? Today’s typical modern lifestyle involves spending hours in front of the television followed by playing games on smartphones. If this is your child, their energy expenditure is very low.
As the body tends to use foods to replenish energy, an inactive child can have a low appetite. Encourage your child to be physically active by providing active toys like balls, turning off the TV and scheduling time for physical play and sport.
Every child is different. Get to the root cause of the symptom they are showing to get the best result. If your child persistently refuses to eat, have him/her evaluated immediately by a medical doctor to rule out physiological problems.