How to Increase a Toddler’s Appetite

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How to Increase a Toddler's Appetite

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It can be very unnerving when your toddler experiences a decrease in appetite.

However, this is very common as they reach a certain age.

As they begin to grow, the outside world becomes far more fascinating, and the fresh plate of food sitting in front of them can seem less and less appealing.

It may take some trial and error, but by finding the cause of your toddler’s loss of appetite, changing their habits around food, varying their meals, and creating consistency around mealtimes, you can get your toddler back to their normal eating habits.

Finding the Cause of Appetite Loss

Notice if your toddler is in between growth spurts.

Toddlers do not grow as quickly as they did when they were babies.

When toddlers are not experiencing a surge in growth, they will require less food throughout the day, in turn, causing a decrease in appetite.

This is normal and nothing to be concerned about.

Appetite varies greatly with growth spurts; if your child is acting happy and healthy, then there is more-than-likely no reason to be concerned.

Continue to monitor your toddler’s habits to help you determine periods of time when they are experiencing growth spurts.

Recognize when your toddler is feeling ill

sick toddler

Most of the time your toddler’s lack of interest in food will be due to normal growth and development.

However, if your child is experiencing symptoms such as a rash, fever, or a sore throat, they may not be eating because they are unwell.

If your child’s symptoms do not improve within a few days or you are worried that they seem unwell, or undernourished consult your child’s primary care doctor.

Ensure your toddler is eating a well-balanced breakfast.

balanced diet for toddlers

It is important that your child is starting the day off right by receiving a healthy, nourishing breakfast.

For toddlers, a healthy breakfast not only boosts their metabolism and increases appetite, but also provides the nourishment they need to gear up for the day.

Provide a well-rounded breakfast that contains whole grain, protein, and a fruit or vegetable.

Feed your toddler every 2 hours to improve their digestive system.

If your child gets fussy over meals and is having 3 meals a day, try feeding them every 2 hours.

Your child may be hard to please during mealtimes because their digestive system isn’t active enough to make them feel hungry.

Allow snack-time to be its own meal by replacing sugary fillers with hardy substitutes.

Rather than reaching for the cookie jar, give your toddler a sandwich or a bowl of whole grain cereal.

Make water your toddler’s go-to drink throughout the day

baby drinkig milk

Water should not only be the first beverage your child has in the morning, but it should be their main drink throughout the day and 30 minutes before meals.

Allowing them to drink milk or sugary juices may cause them to feel full, decreasing their appetite around mealtimes.

If you do allow your toddler to drink juice, try to ensure that it is 100% fruit juice and limit them to a maximum of 6 fluid ounces (0.75 c) a day.

Do not allow milk to be its own meal.

Milk is often used as a snack and can act as a filler.

If your toddler is allowed too much milk, especially close to mealtimes, they may experience a decrease in appetite.

Decrease the amount of milk your toddler has when it gets closer to their time to eat.

Without that extra filler in their day, their appetite should return.

Try introducing other types of dairy such as yogurt and cottage cheese. These will allow your child to still get their needed dose of calcium, without causing them to get too full.

Vary your child’s daily menu.

It can be easy to fall into the same routine when you find foods your toddler loves to eat.

It is important to mix up the menu to ensure they are getting all of the key nutrients they need. Add new foods in slowly and know they may reject it on the first try.

Make sure to vary each meal with a mixture of new and familiar foods.

If they seem hesitant of new food at first, that is okay. They may change their mind the next day, or it could be something that just doesn’t taste good to them.

Opt for whole grain products such as slices of bread and pasta that will provide your toddler with lots of iron, folic acid, and B vitamins.

Use dairy products like milk and yogurt for servings of calcium, vitamin D, and proteins. Make sure also to provide your child with lots of fruits and vegetables, cut into kid-friendly sizes.

Make sure to include lean meats such as poultry and fish for a healthy serving of necessary proteins, fats, and vitamins.

Give yogurt a regular place in your toddler's diet.


Yogurt is full of calcium and healthy probiotics that your child’s body needs to help build their immune system.

The nutrients found in yogurt do wonders when helping boost a child’s appetite.

Vary the way you serve yogurt to your toddler.

Use yogurt as a healthy snack or a delicious dessert with pieces of fruit.

Avoid foods that have very strong smells.

Avoid foods that have very strong smells.

Children can be susceptible to heavy odors and tastes.

If you find yourself cooking with particularly smelly foods, try to forego any recipes that call for those ingredients for a while.

There is a good chance that your child has been reacting to these tastes and smells and will begin eating normally once they are eliminated.

Foods such as garlic, carry a strong odor and taste, which may be deterring your child from eating foods that contain it.

Increase your toddler’s zinc intake.

Zinc can naturally help build your child’s appetite.

Certain nuts, such as cashews and pumpkin seeds are great sources of zinc that your child will love.

Try to include these in your child’s meals and snacks to increase their daily intake of zinc.

If your child does not like foods that are high in zinc, ask your doctor about getting zinc supplements.

Make your own juice to improve your child’s digestive system.

Certain juices such as lemon and ginger can help detoxify your child’s digestive system.

They can also help by calming nausea and indigestion, which may be the reason your child is refusing to eat.

Juicing can help keep your toddler healthy by increasing their immune system and calming many possible stomach problems.

Stronger remedies, such as garlic juice may be unappealing to kids because of the harsh flavor.

For ginger, in particular, try mixing together 2 spoonfuls of ginger juice, 3 spoonfuls of lemon juice, and 2 spoonfuls of honey.

Have your child drink this mixture first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

Keep mealtimes fun and enjoyable.

Try to create an environment where mealtimes are a happy, social occasion with your family.

Allowing your toddler to see you and others enjoying meals can influence them to enjoy their food too.

Also, avoid negative conversations at the dinner table, as it can affect your child’s digestion.

Toddlers are incredibly social, and as much as they want to show their new independence, they want to feel included within their family.

Having a happy, family meal will also cause your child to associate that time, spot, and activity with positive thoughts.

To ensure you are creating a good environment for your toddler, avoid discussing any stressful topics during meals.

Keep the conversation to a lighter tone and talk about happier things to help increase your toddler’s appetite.

Have meals, especially dinner, at a consistent time

Making your meals fall in the same time frame daily will help your toddler adjust to a routine and know what to expect.

As unstructured as toddlers may seem at times, they thrive with regularity.

It is also important to ensure that younger children are not eating too late in the day.

For children under 10 years old, it is recommended that they have at least 3 hours between their last meal and their bedtime.

This will ensure that their meal is being digested properly, which will encourage a healthy appetite in the morning.

Remove any possible distractions during mealtimes.

As toddlers become interested in the world around them, they can become easily distracted.

Often this can result in little interest towards the meal in front of them.

Do not feed your toddler with the television playing loudly in the background.

This and other distractions such as books and toys can cause your toddler to quickly lose interest in their meal.

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