Diseases & Conditions


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Eating Problems


Some eating problems can be behavorial in nature.

Undereating: A decrease in appetite, caused by a slowing growth rate, is common in children around 1 year of age. However, an eating problem may develop if a parent or caregiver tries to coerce the child to eat or shows too much concern about the child's appetite or eating habits. When parents coax and threaten, children with eating problems may refuse to eat the food in their mouths. Some children may respond to parental attempts at force-feeding by vomiting.

Decreasing the tension and negative emotions surrounding mealtimes may be helpful. Emotional scenes can be avoided by putting food in front of the child and removing it in 20 to 30 minutes without comment. The child should be allowed to eat whatever he chooses from offered food at mealtimes and scheduled snacks in the morning and afternoon. Food and fluids other than water should be restricted at all other times. Young children should be offered 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks each day. Mealtimes should be scheduled at a time when other family members are eating; distractions, such as television, should be avoided. Sitting at a table is encouraged. Using these techniques balances the child's appetite, amount of food eaten, and nutritional needs.

Overeating: Overeating is another problem. Overeating can lead to childhood obesity (see Problems in Adolescents: Obesity ). Once fat cells form, they do not go away. Thus, obese children are more likely than children of normal weight to be obese as adults. Because childhood obesity can lead to adult obesity, it should be prevented or treated (see Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome: Obesity ).

Last full review/revision February 2003

Source: The Merck Manual Home Edition