One of the most common complaints heard in child’s clinics is “My child does not eat properly”. Often we have seen that the complaint is either far from the truth or a self created one, rather than the one that actually needs medical intervention or treatment. There are certain facts and suggestions regarding appetite of your child -


1.       Appetite of a child depends on age, race, community, season and individual himself. For example: one year old child has much more appetite than three or four year old, North Indian children generally have a better appetite than the South Indian children of the same age group.

2.       It is very surprising to know that two children of the same age, same weight & height can have different appetite, one eating twice than the others.

3.       Apart from diseases, during which the appetite can be low, there are normal periods during which child naturally looses appetite. This can extend to weeks together which is quite normal. Attempting to feed them forcefully during these periods will cause aversion for food, which can be very harmful to the overall growth and development of the child.

4.       The most common myth is regarding the usage of tonics and appetizers.  They are prescribed only to children with some deficiencies of vitamins and other nutrients, or to children suffering from certain diseases, that too for small periods. Tonics and appetizers are not routinely useful and should not be given for longer periods.

5.       Some children remain thin and lean despite of all efforts as the growth and weight of a child depends more on his genetic constitution. If the child is otherwise healthy, gaining weight and active one can be assured that his appetite is normal.

6.       Mothers should always watch the weight rather than appetite. If weight for age is normal than appetite is also normal.

7.       Mothers should prepare different varieties of food and those liked by the child.

8.       Do not feed frequently; instead give a gap of at least 3 to 4 hours between two meals, i.e. stick to four to five meals a day and nothing in between.

9.       Avoid chocolates, candies, cold drinks and junk foods as these will lead to loss of appetite.

10.   Try to give some quantity from each of the 6 basic food groups i.e. milk/ milk products, cereals, pulses, green leafy vegetables, fruits and non-vegetarian if you are non-vegetarian.

11.   Whenever you suspect a reduced appetite, do prepare a complete diet chart of the child, so as to what all the child eats, at what time and the quantity of food taken. Thereafter consult the doctor, this will help the paediatrician to evaluate the child more objectively.

12.   The best thing you can do is offer your toddler a variety of foods with different tastes, textures, and colors. Your job is to decide what foods are offered and when and where they are eaten. Let your child decide which of the foods offered he or she will eat, and how much to eat.

13.   Day-to-day and meal-to-meal appetite changes are normal. It is important that you don't make your child clean his or her plate.

14.   Erratic feeding in toddlers is the norm, they eat what they need. It’s essential to offer a varied diet, and don’t let them just eat crisps.

15.   If you suspect your child has a feeding problem, get an objective assessment. Don’t just ask your mum or a friend their opinion but take him to your doctor.

16.   Your child will be weighed and, after a few weeks, weighed again. If your child sticks to the same growth line, there’s probably no cause for concern. If a problem is suspected, you should contact your pediatrician.

There is scientific evidence that children can regulate their food intake reasonably well according to their energy needs. Any attempt to feed them forcibly will lead to deleterious consequences. Therefore, mothers are advised to provide the child with variety of healthy foods in order to improve their appetite and health, and are also requested not to over insist for food the child.


Dr. Ravi Malik

M.B.B.S., M.D. (Paed)

Sr. Child Specialist

Convener Medical Education, IMA-National

Asstt Secretery General, IMA-National

Doctor Vista Healthcare Resource

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