How to increase a child's appetite

Updated February 21, 2017

Parents are often concerned about a growing child's appetite, as children can be finicky eaters. A child may have lost his appetite for many reasons. Parents can use different tricks to encourage their child to eat. Certain foods can also be introduced into a child's diet that will naturally increase her appetite.

Realise that a short-term loss of appetite in a child is not uncommon. Stress or a change in routine can decrease a child's appetite, as can sickness. Some children even use food as a control factor and will make eating an issue with a parent, though they are not actually losing their appetite. Many doctors also note that a child's appetite will slow when they are not going through a growth spurt.

Use certain tricks to encourage a child to eat. While these do not increase appetite, they can often work with a finicky eater. The first tip is not to make meal time a struggle with children. As mentioned previously, some children use food as a control technique. Children will often be more apt to eat if foods are presented in different patterns or colours. Sandwiches can be cut out with cookie cutters to make them more interesting. Some parents even put broccoli on top of potatoes and tell the child they are trees on the top of a mountain. Another option is to start out with smaller portions. If a child eats the small portion, offer more.

Limit liquids. How much liquid children consume depends on their age. However, most children should not consume more than 177ml of liquid at a time. Drinking too much milk can decrease appetite due to the fact that milk contains a lot of calories. It is best to serve milk with meals instead of as a snack. Also, try to serve meal liquids after the child has eaten so she will not fill up on liquids first.

Limit snacks. Many times, parents will try to force their child to eat and are not aware how many snacks he has eaten during the day. Experts suggest limiting the child's snacks to two a day and to space them in between meals rather than just before mealtime. Of course, snacks should be nutritional, such as fruit or cheese, rather than chips and cookies.

Serve foods that actually increase a child's appetite, such as complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables. Also, sprinkling parsley on foods increases appetite. Ginger has also been shown to increase hunger.

Add foods rich in niacin and thiamine, which research shows can increase appetite. Some foods rich in niacin are breakfast cereals, peanuts and wheat bran. Foods rich in thiamine include cantaloupe, eggs and long grain rice.

Things You'll Need

  • Cookie cutter
  • Complex carbohydrate foods
  • Niacin-rich foods
  • Thiamine-rich foods
  • Parsley
  • Ginger
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