There should be no reason to be concerned as long as she eats well. Many children are naturally skinny. As your child grows older, she will most likely fill it out. Most children have a pretty consistent development pattern that is influenced in part by genetics; if you were a beanpole as a child, your child is likely to be as well.
When a child doesn’t appear to be growing normally, however, you should be concerned. Consult your child’s pediatrician if she has lost weight or grown in height without gaining weight.
Is there anything I can do to persuade my toddler to consume more calories?
Parents cannot, and should not, compel their children to eat. Your job is to provide a variety of nutritional foods while also making mealtimes fun. Your child may not appear to be eating much, but over the course of a day or a week, he or she is probably eating more than you believe.
Remember that children’s stomachs are small, and some can only eat a few bits at a time. As a result, children require more frequent feeding than adults. In reality, eating six times a day is entirely typical for a child. Use snack time to sneak in some healthful meals rather than simply empty calories. Fruit (both dry and fresh), cheese, whole-wheat crackers, yogurt, peanut butter, whole-grain bread and muffins, smoothies, carrot sticks, and other healthy but delectable treats are all available. It’s also a good idea to have snacks in rooms other than the kitchen, such as on a coffee table in the living room with celery sticks or fruit.
Make foods as appealing as possible if your child is a picky eater. Cut sandwich bread into interesting shapes with a cookie cutter for small children, or dab spreads like jam, peanut butter, mustard, and ketchup in the shape of faces.
Find ways to involve your child in food buying, growing, or preparation to increase her interest in healthy eating. Plant herbs in a pot or on the windowsill, or make a vegetable garden together. Even children who despise green beans may be persuaded to try some that they have grown themselves. Take your child to the shop and let her choose (healthy) foods that she enjoys. Request that she come up with supper ideas (within reason — chocolate cake isn’t the main dish) and assist you in the kitchen. Nothing beats spending time in the kitchen surrounded by enticing fragrances to get your toddler enthused about food.
Most importantly, don’t get into food fights. Keep in mind that you’re attempting to establish lifelong good eating habits. Keep your cupboard stocked with whatever healthy foods your child enjoys, and introduce new foods on a regular basis. Never make her eat something she doesn’t want to eat: it’ll just make things worse.
Should I make an effort to encourage my child to consume more fat?
No. You might want to sneak in a few extra healthy calories, but you don’t want your child to gain weight by eating fatty meals. Add a teaspoon or two of powdered milk to macaroni and cheese, shakes, smoothies, mashed potatoes, pudding, and other milk-based dishes for added protein and calcium.
(A word of caution to parents of newborns: Fat is an important nutrient for brain development in the first two years of life, thus infants should never be put on a fat-restricted diet, and 1-year-old children should get 30 to 40% of their calories from fat.) Breast milk, like infant formula, is heavy in fat. In the first two years of life, low-fat or skim milk should never be substituted.)
Is anorexia something I should be concerned about?
It’s a long shot, but it’s feasible. Some children, particularly pre-adolescent and teenage girls, eat very little on purpose in order to lose weight. This yearning for a model-slim body might become an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa is a weight-loss disorder characterized by a concern with thinness and diets. Bulimia, or the binge-and-purge condition, affects certain teenage girls. Eating disorders can affect girls as early as eight years old, but they usually don’t show up until puberty.
What are some of the telltale indicators that someone has an eating disorder?
If your child has anorexia, you may notice that she exercises obsessively, has lost an excessive amount of weight (less than 85% of what is normal for her height and age), has an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, has a distorted sense of her appearance, refuses to maintain a normal weight, has developed strange food rituals, and uses laxatives. Fainting spells, hair loss, constipation, cold hands and feet, melancholy and anxiety, fine body hair growth on arms and legs, heart tremors, brittle skin, and shortness of breath are some of the other symptoms.
If your child is bulimic, on the other hand, she may frequently binge eat and then force herself to throw up, despite the fact that she may be of normal weight. If an extraordinary amount of food disappears from your home on a regular basis, your child frequently enters the bathroom after meals, and the bathroom frequently smells like vomit, she could be suffering from bulimia. Fatigue, melancholy, and anxiety are also signs of bulimia, as are unexplained tooth decay, a sore throat, self-loathing after eating, bloated cheeks and damaged veins beneath the eyes, and a concern with food and weight. Consult a doctor right away if you feel your child has an eating disorder.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is a federal agency that studies children’s health and development.
The Complete Food & Nutrition Guide by Roberta Larson Duyuff, MS, RD, CFCS, is published by the American Dietetic Association. Chronimed Publishing is a publishing house based in the United Kingdom.
Good Food That’s Good for You: Nutrition at Every Age, American Medical Association
HealthyChildren.org is a website run by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Nutrition.
Diagnosis of Eating Disorders in Primary Care, by SD Pritts et al. A Family Physician in the United States.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is a group of doctors that specialize in children’s health Children’s and Adolescents’ Dietary Recommendations
The National Institute of Mental Health is a federal agency that studies mental illness. Mental Disorders in America by the Numbers