When Your Child Will Not Eat

What to Do: Questions to Ask and Actions To Take

When Your Child Will Not Eat

Yummy Mummy Lakshika J. from Toronto, ON asks:

  Hello, I have a 22 month-old, who does not eat. She will go days with just nibbling on food, and once in a blue moon she will have a good meal. She is under weight for her age, I am lost on what to do. Please help.

Nutritionist, Theresa Albert answers:

   Hi Lakshika, let’s start with what NOT to do! Panic. Do not panic!

First ask yourself these questions:


  Is she genetically pre-disposed to be tiny? Some kids don’t eat much because they really don’t need much to fulfill their genetic destiny. An external assessment of how much she should be eating can be way off. 22 month olds don’t generally need a ton of calories.

  How much is she drinking? Milk/Formula packs a whole bunch of calories into a condensed and easy to consume liquid form. If she is drinking any more than 3 sippy cups a day, it may be crowding out other forms of nourishment. At this stage she should be well on her way to getting her nourishment in solid form. If she is drinking any liquid other than water, stop immediately. Even 100% juice can be so filling that the food doesn’t seem worth the effort.

  Is your doctor worried? If you truly have a problem on your hands, your doctor should be involved and guiding you. If she is underweight or undernourished, you want to know. If she hasn’t stepped in, stop worrying.

Here are some things TO do:


  Track all food silently and subtly to figure out how much she is truly getting. You may be surprised.

  Be sure that all foods that do make it past her lips are working for her. Do not fall into the “at least it’s something” trap. Remove all treats, snacks and nibbles that are not fruit or vegetable.

  Bump up meals by stirring truly nutrient dense foods into what you are already making. Here’s a list of a few I like. Kids deserve to be allowed to listen to their own hunger signals. External pressure to eat more over-rides the very same “stop” signal that they will need to confront a world of “eat bad food” messages. Mom gets to decide what goes on the table, kid gets to decide how much.

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Theresa Albert, a yummymummyclub alum is a foodie who happens to be a nutritionist and not the other way around. She loves to explore food and the culture of food and all of the human love/hate rituals that surround it. Her new book Ace Your Health: 52 Ways to Stack Your Deck (McClelland & Stewart) is a fun, practical guide to making tasty, changes for improved health using morsels of information and delicious, healthy recipes. Her television show "Just One Bite" aired on the Food Network for over two years in a daily time slot and still appears on BBC kids, it introduced her energetic style to millions. She is also the author of Cook Once a Week, Eat Well Every Day.

Definitely not a finger wagger, as a registered nutritionist, Theresa Albert, DHN, RNCP, has a passion for simple, honest solutions to today's lifestyle choices. In addition to her private practice at the Toronto Clinic, she has provided content and comment for every major Canadian broadcaster and is forever pushing the bologna out of lunchboxes and out of the news media. As an avid social media user, blogger/writer and as a parent, she understands the struggles of balancing priorities in real life. In print newspapers and magazines, you will often see her quoted when an issue needs common sense clarification. 

She prepares a free weekly newsletter to make you laugh, eat well and be inspired. It can be found at myfriendinfood.com.