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Underweight for his age?

Mandi Turner  

Mandi Turner is a clinical dietitian at Cardon Children's Medical Center.

Question: My son seems to be underweight for his age. Is there anything I could or should be doing? 

Answer:  You should speak with your son's doctor about your concern. Underweight or undernourished children can be at risk for associated physical and emotional problems, just as overweight children can.

An under-nourished child is more likely to become sick than a normal weight child. The child may feel weak or tired, and have trouble focusing and concentrating. He or she may have stunted growth or a delay in the onset of puberty.

If a child has no interest in eating, it could be a sign of anxiety, depression, a food allergy causing discomfort after meals, an excessive fear of being overweight, or even an eating disorder.

Being underweight or undernourished usually indicates a deficiency of calories, and the most obvious sign is loss of body fat. When not enough calories are consumed, the body breaks down its own tissues and uses them for calories. The loss of fat is often first noticeable in the face: the cheeks are hollow, and the eyes seem sunken.

For most children, treatment involves gradually increasing the number of calories consumed. Provide several small, frequent meals each day to ensure your child is getting enough calories to maintain adequate nutrition. Be sure to make food/mealtimes fun and enjoyable. Be creative when preparing foods. You and your child can invent new snack ideas.

Involve your child when preparing nutritious meals and snacks and teach the importance of healthy eating. Children's food preferences change over time, so offer a variety of foods and let them choose the foods they like. Registered dietitians can be a helpful source of information and assistance, particularly those who specialize in treating children.

 

Page Last Modified: 08/05/2013
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