Toddlers often are picky eaters and possess unpredictable eating behaviors. From age 1 to 4, toddlers are developing food preferences that may influence their appetite. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies also can contribute to a poor appetite. This can concern parents, who often provide vitamin supplements to their children to help stimulate their appetite. According to the “Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine,” children with poor appetites are more likely to receive a vitamin supplementation from their parents than children with healthy appetites. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals may help stimulate your toddler’s appetite.
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Vitamin B-12, also known as cobalamin, aids the body in converting food into energy, metabolizing fats and proteins and maintaining the health of your liver, hair, eyes and skin. Deficiencies of Vitamin B-12 are particularly prevalent among children who were breastfed. During late infancy and toddler stage, this deficiency becomes apparent when a toddler exhibits developmental delays, central nervous system impairment, refusal of food, feeding difficulties and regurgitation. According to the “Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease,” an increase in appetite is observed when a child with vitamin B-12 deficiency is supplemented with vitamin B-12. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin B-12 is .9 micrograms for children ages 1 to 3 and 1.2 micrograms for children 4 to 8, as reported by the University of Maryland Medical Center. Good sources of vitamin B-12 include eggs, dairy products, beef, fish and pork.
A primary symptom of zinc deficiency is a loss of appetite. Deficiency of this mineral among toddlers can result in stunted growth, lack of taste or smell, skin problems and inadequate healing of wounds. If the deficiency progresses into adolescence, sexual maturation may be inhibited. Zinc deficiency is linked to a rare hereditary disorder, acrodermatitis enteropathica, appearing during the weaning stage or even earlier among children who were not breastfed. Zinc functions in balancing the body’s pH levels, digesting protein and carbohydrates and contributing to the structure of your body's cellular membranes. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the daily recommended allowance for children ages 1 to 3 is 3 milligrams, while children 4 to 8 should consume 5 milligrams. Good sources of zinc include black-eyed peas, Swiss cheese, poultry, lima beans, green beans, red meat and whole grains.
Vitamin D aids in the absorption of zinc, as well as other vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and vitamin A. When the body does not absorb enough zinc, iron and magnesium, deficiencies may arise, causing feelings of fatigue and loss of appetite. A lack of vitamin D may prevent the body from absorbing these minerals. Vitamin D deficiency may result among toddlers who are lactose intolerant. Fortified milk is a primary dietary source for vitamin D. If your child is lactose intolerant, obtaining direct sunlight, taking a vitamin D supplement and eating fish, eggs or orange juice are other ways to obtain vitamin D. Additionally, vitamin D helps regulate kidney functioning and builds strong bones. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, a minimum of 600 international units per day of Vitamin D is recommended for toddlers.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, picky eating is typical for children in their toddler years. Children may show preference for a limited number of foods for a few days to a few weeks. Consumption of a big breakfast may be followed by a disinterest in food for the rest of the day. Offer healthy food choices rich in vitamins and minerals throughout the day. Toddlers will vary in their food choices and preferences and waiver in their appetite from day to day. Over time, your toddler’s eating habits likely will become more predictable.
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Picky Eaters
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B-12
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Zinc
- Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease: Cobalamin Status in Children
- Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine: Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Use by Children and Adolescents in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey: Relationship with Nutrition, Food Security, Physical Activity, and Health Care Access
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D
- Vitamin D Council: Zinc