Loss of appetite is one of the usual reasons why mealtimes in a household with children can quickly turn into short periods of strife. Even if your child repeatedly says he doesn’t feel like eating, parents need to try to get him to eat even just one bite so that he won’t go hungry, and so that the dish you prepared won’t go to waste.

Nutrition advisors say that all kids go through periods of poor appetite like these, and that these phases often disappear on their own. But your child is still in such a phase, here are some tips that will help you spark their interest and eagerness to eat:

1.    Give your little one something to munch on every three to four hours.

Avoid giving your child something heavy to munch on every hour or so. To be sure your child will have an appetite for the next meal, give him just a light snack, such as a raw apple or a cup of yogurt with some berries. This would be fine to give every three to four hours, especially if you will be having a late dinner. Your child won’t go hungry, but he won’t feel too full either and will still have an appetite for the next meal.

2.    Include peanuts in your child’s daily diet.

Peanuts are known for their appetite-boosting and protein-building properties. If your child does not have any nut allergy, place bowls of peanuts on the kitchen or dining room tables and other easy-to-reach areas where he can get them. You can also make your own natural peanut butter, which most children love as a sandwich spread or dip.

3.    Stock up on yogurt.

 Yogurt is loaded with calcium and probiotics which can boost your child’s immunity and appetite. Give this as a snack or dessert to your child. You can also serve it as a dip to go with fresh carrot or apple slices or homemade sweet potato fries.

4.    Increase your little one’s zinc intake.

Zinc aids in building an appetite and plays an important role in cellular growth and metabolism. Cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds and wheat bran are examples of foods naturally rich in zinc; try incorporating them into your child’s meals or snacks.

You can also ask your child’s pediatrician if you can give your child a zinc supplement.

5.    Give your youngster water to drink in between meals.

Avoid giving your child sodas, boxed fruit juices and other sweetened beverages in between meals. Their sugar content will make your little one feel full and subdue his appetite. Give him only water to drink. You can offer a small amount of these beverages after eating if he continues to ask for them.

6.    Encourage your child to play or be more physically active.

Playing sports or exercising will improve one’s appetite; this is also true for kids. If your child doesn’t feel hungry during mealtimes, increase his playtime or get him to finish a light chore before serving his next meal. You can be sure he won’t leave the table without eating something.

7.    Add appetite-building spices and ingredients in your dishes.

Certain spices, herbs and foods can boost one’s appetite naturally. These include:

  • Oregano
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander
  • Fennel seeds and leaves
  • Pomegranate
  • Tamarind

Incorporate these ingredients into your child’s meals whenever possible. However, make sure you don’t put too much that it will affect the taste of certain dishes.

8.    Avoid serving foods with strong odors and flavors.

Many kids dislike foods with extreme odors or overpowering tastes. If you notice your child avoiding such foods, stop serving them altogether.

Check your kitchen if there is a lingering strong smell as well. Your child might also easily lose his appetite if he smells something he doesn’t like in the room while eating.

9.    Check the temperature in the kitchen or dining area.

According to experts, if it’s too hot or suffocating in the kitchen or dining room, a person’s appetite goes down. This may be a factor in your child’s poor appetite.

You can fix this by placing your child’s chair near an open window where he can catch some of the fresh air coming in. You can also lower the temperature in the kitchen or dining room, at least during mealtimes.

10.                  Encourage your child to take small bites when eating.

You can boost your child’s appetite gradually by offering small bites of food first. Small bites of food can build metabolism; this, in turn, can improve one’s appetite. Eventually, you will find your child’s longing for food increasing and he will soon start eating more as well.

11.                  Serve a variety of dishes at mealtimes.

Most kids will simply refuse to eat if they don’t like what’s on the table. Of course, you can’t always cook what your child wants to eat; you will limit his nutrient intake and condition his taste buds to like only similar tasting dishes.

The best remedy for this issue is to serve a new dish along with one of your child’s favorites at lunch or dinner. Allow him to choose which food to eat. Encourage him to try even just a few bites of the new dish, but don’t force him to do so. At the very least, you’ll be able to get your child to eat something. This is also a good way to get him started on exploring new foods

12.                  Make the dishes fun and appealing.

Like grown-ups, kids eat with their eyes first. You can boost your child’s appetite and get him to eat more by serving dishes that he finds visually appealing.

Kids are naturally drawn to colors, so start by serving dishes with vegetables and fruits in different colors. You can also use cookie cutters to cut fresh fruits and veggies and small sandwiches into fun and familiar shapes. Your child will find it hard to say no to these dishes.

13.                  Avoid discussing stressful topics at the table.

Certain topics, such as financial difficulties or your child’s poor performance at school, can quickly dampen his appetite. As such, avoid talking about these topics and focus on happy or positive subjects. Your child will find it easier to eat something or even finish his plate if the mood is light and happy in the kitchen or dining room. 

14.                  Be a good role model.

Your child is more likely to start eating more if he sees that you have healthy eating habits yourself. Avoid skipping meals, and fill your plate with food that you can eat and finish. Encourage your child to do the same and, eventually, he may develop the same eating habits that you have.

15.                  Consult your child’s pediatrician.

Lastly, growth spurts, anemia, thyroid conditions, and even the common cold can affect your child’s appetite. If your child’s appetite doesn’t seem to improve after several weeks, it is best to bring him to his pediatrician for diagnosis and appropriate treatment or intervention.