Low Appetite in Babies - Causes & Foods to Stimulate Appetite

How to Increase the Appetite of a Child

Medically Reviewed By
Gayatri Dawda (Nutritionist)
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Food, clothing, and shelter – that’s pretty much what babies need at a very basic level, along with good sleep and a loving environment. Despite that, you may be upset that your child is not eating properly. He may not be communicating his hunger as frequently as needed or not eating good enough portions at scheduled meal times. This could affect his weight gain and cause even more worry to you regarding his growth. So, if you’re wondering how to increase a baby’s appetite naturally, here are some things you could definitely try out.

Causes of Low Appetite in Children

Some of the common causes of low appetite in infants are,

1. Recovering From an Illness

If your baby usually eats well and has been showing poor eating habits off late, it could be due to the fact that he isn’t feeling well or is just recovering from some illness. When battling an illness, all the bodily processes take a hit, digestion included. This results in a loss of appetite. Even after the illness has disappeared, the medication and after-effects could cause the digestive process to take some more time to return to normal, as well as the food to start tasting better, too.

2. Zinc Deficiency

One of the major constituents that are necessary for the stomach to digest the food is hydrochloric acid. This also helps trigger the feeling of hunger. Zinc is primarily responsible for the production of this acid. So, if your child has a low appetite, there might be a possibility of him suffering from zinc deficiency. This can be easily set back in balance by tweaking the diet. The inclusion of chicken, cashew nuts, wheat bran, pumpkin seeds, and other items that are rich in zinc can help bring the levels back to normal.

3. Improper Digestion

Energy is required to process and digest the food in our stomach. This energy is termed agni (fire) in Ayurveda. This energy undergoes a hit when the stomach suffers from indigestion, gases, flatulence or so. Illnesses, too, can result in an improper digestion environment leading to lowered appetites.

4. Slow Down of Growth

Not every low appetite is a sign of a problem. If your child is an infant, his appetite and feeding might be consistent or on a rise in the initial months. But right after 4-5 months, the growth slows down a bit and the energy required to do so reduces as well. This, inevitably, results in reduction of appetite, which is absolutely fine.

5. Too Much of the Same Thing

All diet needs to be in moderation and of the right type. If your child has been consuming a lot of food items made of whole grains, these could keep him full for a long time. Whole grains contain fibre and require quite some time to be digested fully. At the same time, if your baby is dependent on cow’s milk or even the feeding formula more than required, this could adversely affect appetite, leading him to not feel hungry at all.

Baby refusing food

How to Increase Your Child’s Appetite

Here are some ways you could improve your little one’s appetite.

1. Give Him a Nice and Filling Breakfast

The name itself signifies breaking the fast that your body has been on while it was asleep. Therefore, the demand for energy is highest at the start of the day. Having a nutritious and substantial breakfast primes the body into peak metabolic state and kick-starts the day.

2. Change the Meal Structure

We, as adults, might be used to the three-meal structure that gets us through the day without problems. With children, however, since their growth is at a peak and that uses up quite a lot of energy, their digestive system needs a strong boost. This can be attained by replacing the three-meal structure, and instead, giving them portioned meals every couple of hours or so. This can keep them energised and help them eat the right amount, too.

3. A Snack Can Be a Meal As Well

The general notion of snacks is random items such as biscuits, chips, and salted mixtures. Instead of snacking on non-nutritious items to kill the hunger, replace them with small sandwiches or nutritional cookies. These take care of the hunger pangs and provide the required nutrition, too.

4. Milk is NOT a Meal

‘A glass of milk is the best breakfast,’ is actually a myth. It may have good nutrition but simply having milk for breakfast or a meal isn’t enough. Excessive milk consumption reduces the appetite for the following meal, being counterproductive all around. Milk should be kept in moderation and other dairy products can be used as an alternative as well.

Baby drinking milk

5. Physical Exertion is a Necessity

Nothing can replace a good evening of outside play or a nice exercise session in the morning. Spending energy creates the need for energy in the body, which stimulates the digestive system and makes your stomach ask for more food. You will always notice that children who are heavily engaged in sports and other physical activities rarely have poor eating habits.

6. Cooler Environments Ought to Prevail

The environmental conditions change the appetites of adults as well as children. Generally, the need to eat takes a toll around summers. Compared to that, everyone seems to gorge readily on multiple food items during winter. The surrounding temperature is responsible for our body using up the energy to keep us warm. By maintaining a comparatively cooler surrounding, the metabolic processes will be at a normal pace and lead to the right times to be hungry.

7. Zinc is the Ally We All Need

The presence of zinc is essential to carrying out the very process of digestion itself. Once the hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach are normal, the digestion processes realign themselves. Apart from consuming zinc food items as mentioned earlier, you can get your paediatrician’s approval in using zinc-based supplements as well.

8. The Secret Weapon of Favourite Food 

At times, everything is fine and it’s primarily the mood of your child that’s not right. He might be tired of eating food that tastes the same or just be upset with something else. By making something you know he will love no matter what, you can get him started on eating sufficiently.

Foods That Can Help to Increase Appetite in Children

The following foods can help enhance appetite in kids.

1. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice

Lemon has tons of properties. One is the ability to cleanse the palate and the other is to bring back appetite rather quickly. You can make some lemon water or lemon juice for your child, and give him a glass of it. Soon, his digestive system will start getting activated and he’ll want food.

2. Plum


Plums are known to boost appetite. The nutrients present in them, combined with the peculiar taste, make them a hit with children and are beneficial to give your child to boost his appetite.

3. Curd and Pudina

Mint leaves

This is mostly recommended if your child likes milk, but too much consumption leads to killing the appetite. Take a few pudina leaves, blend them, and add to the curd with some salt. This helps amp up the appetite and can be given even to kids above one year old.

4. Pumpkin Seeds 

Pumpkin seeds

Yes, these seeds are used to cut down cravings, so it might seem strange to include them here. However, the reason for them affecting the digestive process is the presence of zinc in them. A few pumpkin seeds are all that it takes to improve the appetite.

5. Carrot Juice

Carrot juice

The benefits of carrot are countless and its tendency to increase the appetite is yet another jewel in its crown. Quite an age-old technique since generations, having a small bowl of carrot juice around 30 minutes before a meal has been known to pretty much restore the hunger needed to have the meal.

6. Ajwain Flowers


Also known as thyme, this is a pretty good herb to restore appetite in kids. When included in rice or dals, it not only brings out the flavour in it but further makes they want to have more.

7. Rasam


Popularly had in the south, it is also known to be one of the first solids that a baby has. This soup helps streamline the process of digestion and boost appetite.

8. Oregano


Save those packets you get with your pizza. While adding more flavour, it makes foods appetising as well.

9. Musthaarishtham

A popular tonic among the older generation for both adults and kids, it is quite potent in being able to restore lost appetite in everyone.

10. Ginger

This multi-purpose multi-valued ingredient can be had with some buttermilk to restore the digestive energy, as mentioned in the Ayurveda.

11. Turmeric


Treating everything from infections to indigestion, mixing turmeric with some ghee and giving it to your child before meals can steadily bring back the appetite he had.

12. Chyawanprash


Any popular one from the market can be used regularly to make your kids start having good eating habits again.

13. Daalchini


Also known as cinnamon, the presence of hydroxychalcone in its constitution makes it a powerful ingredient to boost appetite by adding it to various food items.

14. Tulsi


Another remedy that has trickled down generations, having tulsi water or simply the leaves of the basil plant can assist in resetting the hunger of your child.

15. Ashtachoornam

An octa-herbal ayurvedic powder that is quite popular, this can be mixed with rice or ghee and given to young kids to increase their appetite.

16. Hing

Not only does hing get rid of gases and flatulence, but it indirectly affects appetite and reduces the feeling of fullness in the stomach.


Loss of appetite is not a new thing in children. Restoring appetite takes only a few techniques. Instilling good eating habits from an early age goes a long way in keeping kids healthy. Use these tips and tricks to increase your child’s appetite if he isn’t eating enough.

Also Read: Best Baby Foods

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