Children of any age can go for days without an appetite. How does this develop and how can it be prevented? This is the focus of this chapter. There can be numerous reasons why a child is not eating.

A cold, viral infection, fever or even a painful tooth can affect the child’s appetite. You cannot do a great deal about these. When the problem passes, the child’s appetite will return.

One possible reason for lack of appetite is when the child’s favourite food is not in the fridge and the child refuses to eat anything else. This is a common problem. Allowing the child to have a favourite food is how their actual feeling of hunger and the feeling of longing for a specific food get all mixed up in the child’s mind. The child will then eat his or her favourite food even when he or she is not hungry and has no need for more energy.

The child eats more food than necessary and consequently is not hungry when the time for the next meal comes around. If the child often overeats, the body will adapts quickly by mentally readjusting its minimal value for satiety. The body will try to digest everything. This way the stomach and the bowels enlarge and the body will need more energy for digestion. The child will become tired, and the lack of exercise will lead to obesity. These are major steps toward a life full of disease, obesity, and lack of exercise. It is important to remember that the child grows strong from receiving the right nutrients in the right quality,...

This is one of the other main causes for lack of appetite. Many people panic when they see a child who will not eat and they immediately start trying to force feed. Parents often use the following approaches to improperly force feed their children.

Distract the baby's attention with a colourful object then shove the food into the baby’s mouth. Poor thing! The baby has just experienced stress during a meal for the first time. Look into the child's eyes during feeding, smile, talk, caress their hands, create a happy environment and appetite will surely return!

"If you don't eat you won’t get your allowance!" No child would say no to this. Instead, they will eat fast and without chewing since there is money involved as a reward. Eventually, they will realise that they will still get their allowance and this trick will stop working. On top of quickly realising your strategy, they will often come to hate the food they were forced to eat whether it was healthy or not. Never threaten or blackmail your child. Talk to them as if they were adults and explain why regular healthy eating is necessary.

"If you eat this I will give you a piece of yummy chocolate." This is also a very harmful encouragement. As a result, the child will eat the food without chewing so that he or she will get the sweet dessert even sooner. The barely chewed food in the stomach now gets covered by chocolate. Unfortunately for the stomach, overproduction of acids can already start at such a young age. Do not tell your child that they are doing you a favour by eating! Mealtime should not be a race that ends in a trophy. Let it remain a natural process.

If the child snacks between meals, they will unquestionably not be hungry when time for the next meal arrives. Do not give snacks between meals! Instead, get them to brush their teeth because nobody likes to eat after brushing, and it protects their teeth. If they really want to chew on something, give them a piece of fruit or vegetable!

It is a mistake to believe that every fluid equally quenches thirst, only clean water can do that. If the child is thirsty and receives carbonated soft drinks, cocoa, tea or fruit juice in large quantities, the child will lose his or her appetite. Teach the child how to recognise when they are hungry and when they are thirsty. When they are thirsty, make sure that they drink water only.

We all need to eat breakfast. But, do not force kids to eat if they are not hungry. Forcing food early in the morning may cause stress and is not a good way to start the day. Do not force breakfast! Lead by example, sit at the table with the rest of the family and have breakfast happily and joyfully. It is likely that this will have a positive effect on the child and they may join in the family breakfast. Do not let them eat too much for dinner because when morning comes, they may still not feel hungry.