Toddler appetite

My youngest is just not interested in food.  We knew it from a young age, when food was first introduced.  She really wasn't as interested in food at 6 months, as her older sister was.  She could have, and did, happily breastfeed to get most of her nutrition.  This, added to the small genetics she gets from her parents, likely landed us at the pediatrician due to her small stature.  She was growing on the very small end of the curve, so I was never worried.  But it calls us as parents to be pro-active and imaginative with her food intake.


She has done best with two changes, which I am happy to share with parents that may have the same challenges for you to research further.  Our youngest doesn't seem to DISlike food as some kids do, just not interested in eating it.

1. Food sensitivity reduction

We have our share of food sensitivities in our family, dairy, wheat and eggs being the biggest ones for our family and many of my patient's families.  Reducing her gluten intake did make a noticeable improvement in the amount of food she was able to eat.  Her appetite and bowel habits were better than they had been since her nursing days.

This is likely due to less irriation in her digestive tract.  We all know how little appetite we have after the stomach flu or after eating foods we know we don't do well on.  Our bodies are letting us know what it likes and dislikes for optimal function.  The challenge with a young toddler is their inability to communicate that discomfort and we are alerted by other cues, such as bowel habits, restless sleep, hyperactivity, and perhaps in our case, food refusal.

2. Zinc supplementation

While studying how to help cancer patients with increasing their appetite during chemo, I was reminded of the use of zinc in these cases.  I find so many patients are zinc deficient, and at the time of writing, it is cold-and-flu season.  Zinc would be a great next step to try with our daughter, hoping to improve her immunity and appetite at the same time.  I found a tasty zinc lozenge that she likes, and cut it into small pieces appropriate for a toddler.  We are two weeks into zinc, and again, noticeable improvements in food intake have started to be observed in the past few days.

Please note that zinc supplementation should be monitored by a health professional and can be overused, pushing copper out of the body.  There are specific dosage ranges that we use, based on your child's weight.  If your toddler is a picky eater, upset by textures and more, an occupational therapist would be a great addition to the team.


Other areas to research and ask your naturopathic doctor about: probiotics, sensory disorders and the need for minerals, hydrotherapy, and drainage.