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Kids` Health/5 yr old difficulty getting her to eat


Hi Len,
My daughter has always had a small appetite.  She didn't even show any interest in food until well over 2 yrs old!  She lived on breast milk and was fine.   Finally she ate her first full meal at 4 1/2.  She is not picky, she eats a variety of vegetables and meats.  All kinds of different foods.  Although is is healthy and at a very good weight  she only eats when she is really, really hungry.
Here is an example of what goes on pretty much daily.
Wake up at 7am.  Wouldn't eat the 3 different things I offered her and no milk.
By 12 noon she was whining and a mess.  I kept telling her she needs to eat.  So, apparently at one point she was hungry enough - she ate a really good lunch, enough to last her hours.  (But still no milk, just water). Also, it takes her well over an hour to eat.
2 pm she was a wreck because seriously if she doesn't have her milk, she will not be able to function.  After she finally had milk she was a complete angel, apologizing and smiling.  So great - after 2 hrs of clinginess and meltdowns b/c of no milk.
5:30 pm  time for dinner, she had 5 bites of broccoli, one bite of chicken and 2 bites of pasta and a big glass of milk.   BUT by the time i get her into bed, she will be a mess because she is so hungry.  I keep the dinner out in front of her the whole evening encouraging her to take a bite. I cave in and just give her a little milk at bed.
I have never forced her to eat because she has always been kind of on the negative side of putting something in her mouth.  I encourage, gently - I do not want to make her rebellious.  But over the past week I have gotten to the point of fed up with her not eating enough food for her  body to last more than a couple hours.  YES I give her healthy snacks, fruit, nuts, etc.  IF I DO GIVE HER any kind of a snack, you can forget the meal coming up!

I am writing you because today I realized we are not functioning.  I cant take her out unless I bring the snack foods. She fills up on, dried fruit, nuts, dry cereal, etc she usually wont eat real fruit, lunch meat or cheese when she is not super hungry, but I bring it with me.  Last week I ended up filling her up on snacky foods and chocolate milk just to get her to go to school.  She ended up getting really sick.  I knew it was coming because her diet didn't consist of any meals.   I kept her home from school today, even though she is well, since she didn't eat until 12. Preschool starts at 1130 and she literally puts her head on the table while doing crafts, continually complains that she's tired and tries to lay down on the floor (when I help out I can see this).

I have worked and worked with her.  I bring her out to be active everyday to run and play.  We are never sitting at home watching TV.   I am a super good cook.  I cook professionally and get so many compliments.  People tell me I am the best cook they know.  AND I cater to Kate's tastes, believe me.  I dont think she is anemic because her favorite food is meat and I make sure she has some kind of vitamin C with that.  Do you have any advice??

Hi Karen, nice to meet you, sounds like you are a great, concerned Mother.  This is a tough question to answer via an e-mail message alone.  It seems like you are doing everything correctly, even giving her healthy choices of meals and snacks - so she is empowered into making a decision of what she wants.  

But, for this type of question, it would be truly unprofessional of me to give an educated guess of what the 'root' of the problem may be.  You did not mention if you brought your child to the pediatrician on this manner (or even a dietician / nutritionist) - and what their feedback may have been.  I do think this is your best route, as they can communicate with her as well as evaluate her.  

Karen, I did find an interesting article, maybe it can help somewhat.  It may not explain specifically what Kate is doing, but you may find it helpful.

My main advice, talk to your pediatrician.  They will put you on the right path.  

Please followup with me and let me know how it goes.

Much respect,


Kids` Health

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Len Saunders


I can answer your questions about children's health, fitness, wellness, and obesity - so be specific with your questions. Many times I get question that a doctor or physiologist is better suited to answer. I specialize more in the line of exercise and nutrition for children. I also deal with the same topics pertaining to adult healthy lifestyle. Please note: Questions should not be related to sickness, as a doctor would be the first choice. I deal mostly with healthy lifestyle, so please, no medical questions!


Len Saunders is an award winning author, motivational speaker in the fight against childhood obesity, and nationally recognized for his innovative health & fitness events. Most recently, you may have seen Len on such media giants as CNN, Good Morning America, CNBC, The Today Show, ESPN, Nickelodeon, MSNBC, and the Fox Channel. He has served as a consultant to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition as well as a spokesperson for the American Heart Association on the topic of childhood obesity. He has written or consulted with various media outlets, including Sports Illustrated For Kids magazine. Len has received praise for his leadership in the fight against childhood obesity from professional athletes, celebrities, and President's of the United States, as well as being invited to the White House on numerous occasions. Len's approach to children's health, fitness, and wellness is quite simple, but extremely effective. Len is best known for creating Project ACES, an event in which millions of school children worldwide exercise simultaneously in May each year.

Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Muscle and Fitness, along with other publications.

Master's Degree, Exercise Physiology, Monclair State University Bachelor's Degree, Physical Education, The University Of Bridgeport

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I have won awards at the state and national level.

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