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From: Nutrition – Footsteps 52

A variety of ideas to help improve the nutrition of young children

by Ann Burgess.

The amount children eat depends on the food they are offered, their appetite and how their mothers or other carers feed them

If parents complain that their child ‘refuses to eat’, spend time discussing what they can do.

First, identify why the child is not eating. For example, is the child sick or unhappy? Is the child jealous of a new baby and trying to get more attention? Is the child tired when fed? Is the food too spicy or difficult to eat? Does the child have enough time to eat? Is the child given sweets, sodas or other snacks so they are not hungry at mealtimes?

Then decide how to deal with the problem. Often this means spending more time at meals gently encouraging the child to eat.

Below are some suggestions on how to do this. It is very important to supervise feeding from the time children start complementary foods until they are two to three years old, or if a child is ill.

Based on information from Child Health Dialogue Issue 9 1997, Complementary Feeding: family foods for breast-fed children (WHO 2000) and Nutrition for Developing Countries (Oxford University Press 1992). Ann Burgess is a nutrition consultant with many years experience in East Africa. E-mail:

Encouraging healthy children to eat

Encouraging sick children to eat

When children recover, they continue to need loving supervision to make sure they eat extra food and regain lost weight.

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