Here are my four best tips for handling illness-related appetite changes with a sick picky eater and guidance for how to get back on track with eating once sick kids are better.
Anyone else been living at the pediatrician’s office lately?
Our family’s been passing around old illnesses and acquiring new ones for the past twelve or so weeks and judging from my DMs, session cancellations and client questions, you’re in the same boat.
Sick kids = major disruption. And not just for you; it throws everything off for your kids, their eating (especially) included.
Having sick kiddos is SO stressful. Factor in picky eating and it’s next-level worrisome because sickness can have a significant impact on a kid’s appetite, food preferences and comfort eating.
Since “sick season” isn’t leaving any time soon and inevitably arrives with its havoc every winter, I wanted to share a few tips and reality checks to help you navigate winter illnesses with your picky eater.
Struggling to get your picky eater to take medicine? Here are my 6 best tips sourced from parents of picky eaters.
Four Life Saving Hacks for Sick Picky Eaters
Sitting by while your sick picky eater’s already small appetite dwindles even lower than usual just isn’t an option. These tips can help you manage illness-related appetite changes and help you get ahead of lingering effects on your child’s appetite.
- Know that appetite change with sickness is NORMAL
Lower appetite, lack of interest in eating and wacky eating preferences are par for the course during illness. It’s stressful, I know, but most often it’s just a phase.
There’s a possible upside to a drop in appetite: a BOOST in appetite once your child’s feeling better. A post-illness appetite upswing is a great time to introduce new and lesser preferred foods.
In the meantime, while they’re sick, I recommend taking a break on new food introductions. Follow your child’s lead with what and how much they want to eat and be okay with bending the rules. Be open to them passing on favorites and while it’s not a great time to actively focus on new foods, you can offer new things that might be appealing while they’re sick, like hydrating soups and fruit or comforting rice.
- Focus on hydration
Don’t sweat it if your child’s not eating as usual. If you can focus on only one thing it’s hydration. Sickness is one of the few times I fully get behind serving sugar-sweetened beverages like juice. I also love popsicles for sick kids who don’t feel like drinking or need an extra special something.
- Bend the rules
I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you this, but just in case you need a reminder, when your kid is sick, some of your rules will probably go out the window. And it’s okay! Nothing is ruined forever. Because you work hard at optimizing your child’s eating every single day, appetite changes that come with sickness can feel like a propulsion back into the habits you’ve been trying to leave in the dust. It’s temporary. So if your kid only wants their favorite crackers on the couch while they’re watching Daniel Tiger under a blanket, I support that. Even if you have to hand feed them. You’ll get back to normal once they’re better.
- Be patient with their bounce back
While most kids bounce back to their regular selves after being sick, some kids can take time to return to their true baseline (and some illnesses take longer to recover from).
I give you the green light to get back to your usual mealtime routines, schedules, and menus ASAP once your child’s better, but try not to freak out if their appetite and intake take time to catch up. You can take it slow and ease back into regular foods and patterns, spending more time on “easier” and comfort foods. If you notice weight loss and/or other significant changes, don’t hesitate to reach out to their pediatrician.
Sending health and robust appetites your way this sick season.