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Why your child refuses to eat anything and how to help them
When your child refuses to eat anything, it can be frustrating and even scary. You may feel like you are doing something wrong or that your child is not getting the nutrition they need. However, there are a few reasons why your child may be refusing to eat and there are ways to help them.
Read Time: 7 min
3 Reasons kids refuse to eat
1. They are picky eaters
Some children are just naturally picky eaters. They may not like the taste or texture of certain foods or they may only want to eat certain foods. This is often called selective eating and it is perfectly normal.
If your child is a picky eater, try giving them a variety of foods to choose from and let them pick what they want to eat. You can also try adding a favorite sauce or seasoning to make the food more appealing.
Kids have over 30,000 taste buds that regenerate every two weeks, so it’s also worth continuing to try the foods. Maybe you don’t have to name the foods, because then they can put a label on the food and associate it with not liking it. There are also a whole lot of ways to “incorporate” food into other foods.
2. They are going through a growth spurt
During a growth spurt, children may not feel like eating as much because their bodies are busy growing. This is normal and usually nothing to worry about. Just make sure your child is getting enough fluids and offer them small meals throughout the day.
3. They are stressed or anxious
Sometimes, children refuse to eat because they are feeling stressed or anxious. This can be due to a big change in their life, such as starting school or moving to a new house. If you think this may be the reason why your child is refusing to eat, talk to them about what is stressing them out and see if there are ways to help them feel better.
Selective eating vs child’s refusal to eat
It is important to distinguish between selective eating and a child’s refusal to eat. Selective eating is when a child is picky about what they eat and may only want to eat certain foods. This is normal and usually nothing to worry about. A child’s refusal to eat, on the other hand, is when a child refuses to eat anything at all.
This can be due to a power struggle. Rarely are they refusing to eat anything, but almost every family goes through a phase of them eating just a small handful of very specific foods. By feeding into (pun intended) their power struggle, they come to realize that it’s important to you and this starts to give them more ideas.
The best and hardest thing to do is to not force them. Pushing creates greater resistance. Reduce the stress around eating, and most of the time their quirks will begin to relax around eating.
What to do when your child refuses to eat anything
If your child is refusing to eat anything, the first step is to try and figure out what is going on with them.
If you have a picky eater, you’re not alone. Many parents struggle with getting their kids to try new foods. It can be tough to get kids to try new foods, especially if they’re used to eating the same things all the time.
Let’s work on making mealtime less of a battle! There are ways to encourage your picky eater to try new foods and develop a more adventurous palate.
Here are 6 tips on how to encourage your picky eaters to try new foods:
1. Set a good example. Children are more likely to try new foods if they see their parents eating them. So, be a good role model and offer a variety of food choices, also eat a variety of foods yourself. You can also try to cook food in different ways.
There are so many cookbooks, Pinterest, Cooking channels and of course the internet as an endless source of inspiration for interesting approaches to preparing food. If you’re always trying new foods yourself, your child will be more likely to do the same. Eat together as a family as often as possible and make mealtimes a fun, relaxing experience.
2. Talk about food. Discuss where food comes from, how it’s grown, and how it benefits our bodies. The more information your child has about food, the more likely they are to be curious about trying new things.
3. Serve smaller portions. Start with a small amount of the food you want them to try and let them ask for more if they’re still hungry. This way, they won’t feel overwhelmed or pressured to eat something they don’t like.
4. Let them help in the kitchen. Children are more likely to eat something if they’ve had a hand in preparing it. Involve them in meal planning and cooking and let them choose some of the ingredients for upcoming meals. Let them help you wash vegetables, stir the pot, or set the table. This will give them a sense of ownership over the meal and make them more likely to try something new.
5. Be patient. It can take up to 15 tries for a child to acquire a taste for a new food, so don’t give up if they don’t love it the first time around! Keep offering new foods periodically and eventually they’ll find something they like. Remember what I said at the beginning of the article about their taste buds?
6. Serve new foods alongside familiar favorites. When introducing a new food, it can be helpful to serve it alongside a dish that your child already likes. This will help them feel more comfortable trying something new. You can also provide a few different options to choose from. This will give them a sense of control and make them more likely to try something new.
One of the things that worked well in our family was to also provide sauces to use as dips. Our son put ranch dressing on just about everything for almost a year.
If your child is refusing to eat anything, it is important to talk to their doctor. They will be able to rule out any medical conditions that may be causing the problem, like strep throat or anything else and can give you advice on how to help your child. They may also refer you to a therapist or dietitian who can help your child with their eating habits.
When your child refuses to eat anything, it is frustrating and scary. With a little patience and some creativity, you’ll help your child develop a healthy relationship with food – and who knows? They might even surprise you by becoming an adventurous eater themselves!
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