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"I'm not that hungry"

"Will you PLEASE eat?"  This sentence I utter several times each day to my 9-year old.  She often responds, "I'm not hungry."  I find this virtually impossible.  She has a full schedule with sports practices 2hrs a day, 4 days a week.  She is an active, playful child, always running, scootering, or rollerblading around the neithborhood with her free time.  She picks at her meals, taking mere bites of food.  She is adventurous enough, loves to try new things, eats healthy servings of fresh fruit and veggies.  She likes proteins like cheese, salami and nuts, and she doesn't have a sweet tooth like her older sister (who can eat a dozen cookies in a sitting if the opportunity arose).  I fear she is not eating enough!

Could it be a situation like "Picky Eater! Food Rut!" wherein I need to come up with new snazzy food options?  

Other picky eater posts:

Ideas to encourage more volume for my active child?


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Simple, as long as her needs are being met, don't sweat the small stuff. You have plenty of stuff to worry about. She might well be a very picky eater (I have one), but since she is willing to try new stuff (again, mine is), just let it go. It's a battle you don't need to have

Could you make her a meal in a shake? I would worry about an active child that eats little... it seems like she wouldn't take in enough to grow properly.

I figure offer it... and if she's not hungry and doesn't eat but is healthy, then there's no problem..

Well it's like when they're picky eaters as babies....they're not going to starve to death. When they get hungry, they'll eat. Why press the issue? Why make an issue out of it? I unless you're concerned about bulimia or can see her ribs, what's the big deal. No offense but jeez.

I completely understand your concern. Not sure I have real advice, just wanted to add a supportive tone, here. Girls and food issues are a delicate walk. Just as teaching kids not to overeat or consume too much junk is part of the job -- some of us have kids who don't seem to eat enough to be getting the right nutrition or to build the best possible eating habits for life. It's not about "they won't starve" -- it's about doing what we can to help them build healthy bodies, and to recognize when they need to fuel up. With a child who doesn't eat much, every calorie counts -- there isn't a lot of room for empty calories. My story: I also have an active daughter who seems to exist on air. (And you can, in fact, see her ribs.) She's always been petite -- not even on the growth charts, since birth. Occasionally, she's been "busy" enough or gone long enough without eating that she's become hypoglycemic. What gives me some comfort is that overall, she seems to have energy and is generally vibrant, just extremely thin. I struggle with standing back and letting her regulate her own food intake, trusting she's listening to her body, when at age 7 she weighs 36 pounds -- but her physician says she fine since her low weight and small frame are consistent, not sudden. I would love to see her with some meat on her bones, but the food struggles and tension aren't healthy, either. I try hard to remove the pressure to eat -- it really doesn't work. It's fantastic your child will eat healthfully, when she does! Teach her the signs of low blood sugar (getting shaky, feeling cold, etc.), talk to her about what proteins, carbs, etc. do to fuel her body and keep her strong, and experiment with letting her graze all day vs. limiting snacks, to see which approach gets the best stuff into her growing body. You could also try letting her plan and cook a meal each week -- they seem to like eating their own creations, and at the very least it gives them another type of positive relationship with food. Good luck!

Amy, thanks for your comments. It is a tough one. I do see her ribs. She does eat, but I fear that it isn't enough to sustain her high level of activity. She sometimes complains she is dizzy or has a headache in the middle of practice. If she eats strawberries all day, I don't think it'll get her through her 2hr practice.

I like the suggestions of: planning a meal each week and doing some smoothies (maybe add protein?).

I had an experience once where I wasn't hungry (or so I thought) and fainted when I walked home from a gym workout. I just want her to understand more how the food impacts her performance, the way she feels, how much energy she has. We do make sure the snacks around are high protein, substantive ones. When she does get the hankering to actually eat, she can grab a handful of nuts, a cheese stick, granola.

I think doing some nutrition education in a casual way is probably helpful--our bodies need different nutrients to be healthy; we have to fuel out bodies so we have energy to run and play. I also think it's helpful to have set meal and snack times with few distractions. And I try to keep on hand healthy, nutrient-dense things that my kids enjoy eating. And I'm not above presenting them with a calorie-packed treat when they're too tired to make eating appealing on it's own. That said . . .

I think you're better off to offer food and let her decide whether or not she eats it. Yes, she'll have less energy, and that's something you can talk about in a calm, non-accusatory way (I saw you didn't feel good during practice, maybe a banana beforehand next time will help you have more energy). But in the long run, I think it's better to not make food something you are pushing and she is resisting. She's nine--old enough to start to make cause and effect connections, especially if you can be gentle in presenting those connections.

If you're really worried she's underweight in an unhealthy way and/or has an eating disorder, if you even think she might have an eating disorder, then I hope you will go talk to her pediatrician or find a therapist for help. I'm a big supporter of getting professional help before a situation gets desperate.

Do you know if she eats more during the day, when she's at school and not with you? I know my daughter will often eat two bites of dinner, and that's it. But I also know (because her preschool teachers tell me) that she eats second and third helpings of what they fix for lunch.

In my daughter's case, I think she doesn't happen to like the kind of food I fix for our family. We tend toward an extremely low starch diet, due to some health issues my son has. My daughter is a complete carb eater, and will just eat bread, if given the chance.

I also think it's because she has more energy to eat at lunch, and is really tired by dinner time. If your daughter is really active all day, she might be almost too tired to sit down and eat a big meal at dinner.

It's hard. One thing I do (referencing the strawberries story above) is require protein before fruit/carbs. Want strawberries? Great, eat this turkey first.

Oh, and coconut oil is a great calorie-booster to add to smoothies, if your daughter likes the taste of coconut. It's high in calories and is vitamin-dense. And it tastes yummy! I like it with frozen mango chunks, avocado, and pineapple. Made this way, it almost tastes like ice cream!

I have been struggling with this a bit for my son in that he has a very limited selection of foods he will eat and is getting more and more active in sports as he gets older. I know he cannot fuel himself well on what he eats. I also have a little one who is significantly underweight and has been all his life. However, he fell off his growth curve and we figured out it was due to a medical issue that was affecting his appetite. Once we treated it and have been focusing on foods to help him gain again, it has improved. So, lots of support from over here!

We offer a very healthy array of food and it killed me to offer some of the foods the doc wanted for my little one to gain weight. Fat and calories. We switched to whole milk, I started adding extra butter to things, and I pushed things like nutella, PB, nuts, etc. I started having ice cream around a little more often as well as some whipped cream in the fridge that we can use on some things. I try to keep it as healthy as possible and focus on the fats and calories that don't include lots of sugar (ice cream aside!). It has helped to put a little weight on him, so maybe you could try offering some of those kinds of things for her. I would wonder also if she is getting messages from other girls her age that are affecting her body image and it is more complex than just not being hungry.

It would also help if you model the behavior out loud for her. Something like, I'm going for a run later so I'm going to eat this extra carb or protein filled food for energy, etc. Or, I didn't eat much protein at lunch, so I'm digging in to this bean dinner! Sometimes that works better than confrontation.

If you're worried about nutritional balance overall, you can always ask your pediatrician what 'eating enough' really means for your girl's age and body type. What we see as necessary might be very different from what her body actually requires. And then you can see if it's worth worrying about (among all the other things you probably have to worry about!).

Nine years old is not too young to start worrying about body image stress. One of my daughter's best friend started working on anorexia around then declaring to her parents she had decided to be"vegan" which was code at school for anorexic. She skipped breakfast, threw away her lunch and nibbled at dinner. By seventh grade was so thin she was put in an inpatient treatment facility. Girls are under huge stress to be thin.

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