Eat up! Solving the appetite slump for toddlers

You might be surprised to find out that kids don’t wake up and crave junk food. It’s a learned habit caused by parents giving in.

You might be surprised to find out that kids don’t wake up and crave junk food. It’s a learned habit caused by parents giving in.

But when they hit something called an “appetite slump” in their toddler years, weight loss can be scary for parents, and supplementing with things like hot dogs or chicken nuggets is an easy way to get them to eat.

Ivanhoe has the details on how to fight the appetite slump while not creating bad eating habits.

Little Amir Similien is a typical toddler—doing all the things little ones do, including causing a fuss over food.

“The only thing he would take was Pediasure. That’s all he ate for about a year,” Amir’s mom, Tashara Similiem, said.

Between 1 to 5 years old, experts say the appetite slump hits.

“I would say most children go through some sort of picky phase,” said Roseanne Lesack, a psychologist at Nova Southeastern University.

What can you do to help? Don’t lean on junk foods. Once toddlers learn they can have nuggets over Brussel sprouts when they cry hard enough, they do so even after the slump is over, furthering their bad habit.

You should put your child in charge of the portions they eat. Allow small healthy snacks between meals, and don’t extend their mealtime. Forcing your child to finish their plate while the rest of the family leaves the table can cause them to have bad feelings associated with mealtimes.

One warning sign to be aware of …

“If you really can count on your two hands the 10 foods that your child will accept, that’s concerning,” Lesack said.

Parents should be aware that there is help. Most cities have pediatric feeding disorder clinics with professionals who can teach you and your children healthy eating habits.

Experts say the biggest mistake parents make is giving up on foods too early. Introduce new foods with small portion sizes—really small. Even a tablespoon of a new food can help the child to adjust to the new taste.