My son is 18kg and just turned 8 years old. He is on the 3rd percentile and has always been the smallest in his class. He eats like a bird and what makes it worse is that his molars are coming out and bites his cheek at times and complains that his mouth hurts, and refuses to eat full stop!! We try not to make a fuss and let him eat as much as he wants of dinner (he eats what we eat (rice, veg, soup, pasta, bread) no special meals for him) but barely eats a 5th of his bowl/plate and is especially adverse to the texture of meat. He is hyperactive and will burn any calorie that comes near him, I don’t know where he gets his energy from if he hardly eats anything. Perhaps if he slowed down, he’d be a bit heavier, but he is skinny AND short, my mother in law never lets up on letting me know how neglectful of a mother I am, frustrated is not the word );
I understand this situation is hard to handle and very stressful! But there are options we have to help your son, and help you with your mother in law.
When your son bites the sides of his cheeks – this could be a good time to sneak in some extra calories and calcium. Offer him a full-fat Greek yogurt cup that has been frozen! It tastes just like ice cream, but has the added benefit of high protein, high calcium, and good fat content. Plus, it will help soothe his mouth from the bites. Popsicles are another good option to soothe his mouth – just be sure not to give more than one per day.
During dinner prep, how involved is your son during the preparation of the food? Kids like feeling like they’re opinion matters and they’ve made a difference somewhere in their life – so why not involve him in the meal planning. We understand there could be many ideas flying around in his head – so offer him three choices for the protein and let him choose the vegetable side. When he feels like he was an important member of the “dinner decision crew” he’ll be much more open to eating the food given to him.
During meal plating, does your son plate his own meal or does the parent do it for him? Just like we talked about before – letting him plate his own meal will give him a higher sense of independence and will encourage him to eat more of the foods on his plate. For the first few times, it’s important that you walk down the line with him and let him know what an appropriate amount of food is. A protein is the size of your palm, same thickness (~2-3oz), carbohydrates are the size of your fist, and vegetables are also the size of your fist. By letting him plate his own meals, he is going to learn great healthy-eating skills that he will take into his teen and adult years.
I hope that these practices will help you out!
Malia Cable, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist – Essential Nutrition
School Nutrition Dietitian – Greeley Evans School District