Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Appetite Loss and Finicky Eating in Children

Children pass through cycles in their eating habits. Sometimes they eat more and sometimes they eat less. They generally won't eat if they are not hungry, overly tired or sick. They may prefer to eat small snacks rather than three full meals a day. They may also have preferences about how the foods are prepared and served, such as preferring raw to steamed carrots. There are many vitamins and minerals that toddlers and young children need. You can find information and suggestions about feeding toddlers on

Possible reasons for loss of appetite

When a child loses their appetite they:

    may be developing a cold or other illness. In these cases trusting the child's intuitive resistance to eating may be the wisest course of action. Keep a close eye on them, check them for rashes, a fever, ask them about any pains they may have. Offer plenty of fluids such as broths, juices and water and provide simple easily digested foods. Once the symptoms of an illness have developed these may be treated using appropriate herbal remedies. When the illness has passed the child's appetite will return.
    may have eaten sweet foods, large snacks, or beverages such as milk, juices or soda. These will all dampen the appetite. If your child needs snacks then provide them well in advance of meals so their appetite has a chance to return before the meal has started. Provide light snacks such as vegetable sticks.
    may be experiencing emotional stress. If you suspect stress then try to understand and help your child resolve the problems. Children are sensitive to problems or disharmony in the home and in school. Seek supportive counselling if necessary.
    may have an iron deficiency or intestinal parasites. Both of these can lead to a chronically poor appetite.

When to seek professional care

If your child has a prolonged lack of appetite accompanied by weight loss seek professional assistance. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are problems that shouldn't be overlooked in older children and adolescents.

Herbal recommendations

Aromatic herbs that stimulate the appetite include:

    cardamom and
    caraway seed.

Make a tea by poring boiling water over any of these seeds, cover and allow to stand for 10 minutes. You may need to sweeten this with 1/2 teaspoon of honey as desired. Serve the tea one hour before meals if possible. You should notice an improvement within one week of using the herbs regularly.

Dandelion root and agrimony are both stomach and digestive herbs that stimulate the appetite. You can give your child 10 to 15 drops of both of the tinctures two or three times daily to promote a healthy appetite.

Appetite stimulants

1. Here is a herbal aperitif that can be used for children.

    1/2 ounce dandelion root tincture
    1/2 ounce agrimony tincture
    1/2 ounce anise seed tincture
    1/2 ounce ginger root tincture
    1/2 ounce vegetable glycerine

Combine all the ingredients in a dark jar and store away form sunlight and heat. Shake well before using.

Take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon prior to meals.

2. The following root blend beverage also helps to stimulate the appetite.

    1/4 ounce dandelion root
    1/4 sassafras
    1/4 ounce sarsaparilla
    1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger root
    2 cups boiling water

Combine all ingredients and allow to seep in the boiling water for 20 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey of desired.

Add the mixture to 1 quart of carbonated water and serve.


Occasional loss of appetite in itself is quite common and generally nothing to worry about. There is no need to rush children off to consult a doctor as soon as they appear to be off their food. If the loss of appetite lasts for more than a few days or if there are any symptoms of illness at all, a closer examination is needed. The interventions suggested above related to the presentation, timing and types of foods offered, relief of emotional stress and the herbal appetite stimulants are all well within the scope of parental responsibility. However, if you have cause to worry about your child's health beyond brief loss of appetite, you should consult a health care professional.

Children who eat poorly may need to have a liquid vitamin and mineral supplement. See my recommended supplement.


    Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.
    Romm, A. 2000, Naturally Healthy Babies and Children. Storey Books.
    Shaw, N. 2002, Herbalism. Element.
    Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.

Dr Jenny Tylee is an experienced health professional who is passionate about health and wellbeing. She believes that health is not just absence of disease and seeks to actively promote vitality and wellness through empowering others. She encourages people to improve their health by quit smoking, cleansing their body, taking essential, non contaminated vitamin and mineral supplements (from and many other methods, including herbal remedies. She also owns Healthy Living blog.

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