7 Excuses Children Use to Avoid Eating

7 Excuses Children Use to Avoid Eating
María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

During the first few months of life, babies’ growth process varies in speed. During the first year, children can gain up to 13 pounds in weight and 4 inches in height. In the second and third years, their development changes and children may begin to make excuses to avoid eating.

As they grow more slowly, their nutritional demand is lower. As a result, children’s eating habits will be very different at each stage. This is an aspect that should be considered before you start worrying about your child’s lack of appetite.

Sometimes children are more interested in playing and having fun than eating, and this is perfectly normal.

“It is not good to offer food or drinks at any time of the day as long as they eat, or to replace main meals with supplements, drinks, meals or snacks of their liking. This is because a normal and physiological loss of appetite can turn into a disordered eating behavior that is induced by the family environment or by unhealthy advice.”

–Nutritionist Silvana Dadán–

The most common excuses to avoid eating

  1. “I’m not hungry.”
  2. “I don’t like this food.”
  3. “My stomach hurts.”
  4. “It doesn’t smell / look good.”
  5.  “It’s very cold / hot.”
  6. “I’ll save it for later.”
  7. “I’m already full.”

Why do children make excuses to avoid eating?

The following are some of the reasons why children may refuse to eat:

  • Stomach ache. If the child doesn’t have good digestion, his appetite will decrease markedly.
  • Dental problems. Pain in the gums, on the palate or in other areas can cause the child to avoid eating.
  • Asthma, cough or fever. Children with health problems will prefer to drink liquids rather than solid foods.
  • Emotional disturbance. Death, divorce, moving to a new house or switching schools can cause the desire to eat to be lost.
  • Pressure or stress. When children are forced to eat, they may refuse to do so and make excuses. School stress also causes a lack of appetite.
    7 Excuses Children Use to Avoid Eating
  • Lack of homemade foods. If a child gets used to certain meals, he may stop enjoying foods prepared at home.
  • Absence of physical activity. A sedentary lifestyle slows metabolism, and there is less pleasure in eating.
  • Eating snacks between meals. It isn’t bad to have a few bites between main meals. However, excess food alters nutritional routines.
  • Repetitive or very different menus. When there are too many options, it’s difficult for the child to know which one to choose. On the other hand, not enough options makes the child grow tired of always eating the same food.
  • The parents’ attitude. Children react negatively when they feel pressured. That’s why it’s important for your meal times to be calm and organized.

What can parents do?

  • Educate yourself and your children. Learn the basics of good nutrition and teach your children to have healthy habits.
  • Consistency is key. Establishing a consistent and well-planned daily eating regimen is necessary for children. To make the work easier, plan each meal your child will receive a week in advance.
  • Avoid the habit of “emotional eating.” Under no circumstances can food be used as a reward or punishment. Associating food with emotional well-being turns it into something negative.
    7 Excuses Children Use to Avoid Eating
  • Children should eat what adults eat. Avoid offering alternatives to healthy meals. Children should get used to eating healthy food as a family.
  • Gather the family at dinner time. Eating alone is boring and doesn’t allow for the conversation that occurs during a family dinner. Include all family members when eating.

As you can see, the fact that children make excuses to avoid eating isn’t always something to worry about. It can be due to many reasons, and several of them are related to the normal growth process.

Parents should simply aim to instill healthy and balanced practices in their children. Over time, they’ll incorporate them into their routines.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.