When Kellen started taking medication for his ADHD, we watched his appetite slowly fade away. It started with not wanting snacks as much, then progressed to the point where we had to practically force him to the table. I don’t believe in making the dinner table a battle field and have never forced my children to do anything more than taste the meals put in front of them, but as he ate less and less and rarely gained anything, we let our anxiety take over and began fighting with him to eat. It didn’t work, and the only way he maintained his weight was through big breakfasts (before his meds kicked in) and ensure drinks at night. We saw the doctor monthly and she reassured me that he was okay and as long as he wasn’t losing we didn’t need to worry, but I still did. After a full year of medication and an eight year old who was only one pound heavier than he was a year before, I decided it was time to take him off of his medication.
It was a hard decision, because he had excelled on this medication in every other way. He became an attentive student who came home happy about his successes instead of ashamed of his behaviour. He formed relationships and was finding his way, but at what cost? He was almost lethargic from not getting the nutrition he needs and I couldn’t ignore it. My doctor agreed that maybe it was time to try something else and she prescribed a new medication that she said wouldn’t have the same side effects with appetite. Over the last two months I have watched him gain his appetite back and we celebrated when he gained 3 lbs in one month! Then last week we saw the dietician, and she helped us make a diet plan to help him gain weight…some that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own because I have always believed we need to reduce sugar and teach kids not to add fat and sugar to everything they eat, and she said we need to add calories no matter where they come from. Here is what she told us to do:
- Buy juice, even if it is the sugar filled fruit drink that I have always snubbed my nose at, and have him drink that or milk instead of water (his drink of choice)
- Serve only whole milk
- Add sauce, butter, gravy, ketchup or whipped cream to all of his food so that even if he just takes a bite or two, he is still getting the most out of those bites
- Make soups with whipped cream instead of milk (that made me want to gag)
- Put butter and cheese sauces on vegetables
- Make lots of red meat
- Feed him lots of brick cheese through the day
- Make the most of the early morning and late night because his meds haven’t kicked in and feed him as much as possible during those times
- Breakfast has always been a meal he eats well, but she wants him to try to add a sandwich to his breakfast (he currently has two bowls of cereal in the mornings)
- Offer him a sandwich and some cheese at bedtime, and follow it with Ensure. If he won’t eat, he just needs to have the Ensure.
So if you have a child who is taking a medication that leaves him with no appetite, talk to your doctor and see a dietician, but you could also try some of the steps laid out for us.