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Weight: Helping Your Child Gain Weight


What should I do if my child is not gaining weight?

If your child seems to be gaining weight too slowly, you should take your child to your healthcare provider for a check-up. There are many reasons why your child may be underweight:

  • not eating enough food
  • a health problem that may cause your child to gain weight slowly or not at all
  • stress
  • too much exercise
  • lack of interest in eating due to anxiety, depression, a food allergy that causes an upset stomach, or an eating disorder
  • a sudden growth spurt.

Your provider can help you figure out why your child is having trouble gaining weight.

When children are underweight, they may need to temporarily take in more fats and calories than normally recommended in a healthy diet. Your provider can also advise you about the right amount and type of physical activity for your child.

How can I add calories to my child's diet?

If your provider has recommended a high-calorie diet, here are some ways to add extra calories.

For Babies

You can add calories to formula or breast milk. Ask your provider for instructions on how to make a high-calorie milk that is safe for your baby.

For Children

For children old enough to eat solid foods try some of the following:

  • Add powders such as Carnation Instant Breakfast to milk to increase the calorie content. Cow's milk can be given to a child after age 1.
  • Add cheese, meats, or sour cream to eggs.
  • Add peanut butter to starchy foods and vegetables. Peanuts themselves, however, are a choking hazard and should be avoided until 4 years of age.
  • Mix cheese, avocados, ground beef, or sour cream to refried beans and eat it with chips, crackers, or tortillas.
  • Make a tuna sandwich with mayonnaise.
  • Add avocado slices to sandwiches, salads, or chips.
  • Serve pasta with meat, meatballs, or cream sauces.
  • Add cheese or butter to vegetables. Squash, for example, can be prepared with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
  • Feed your child more potatoes. French fries, tater tots, mashed potatoes with butter and sour cream will provide many calories.
  • Make bread or biscuits with butter, honey, cheese, or cream cheese.
  • Serve dessert. Many desserts have lots of calories. Ice cream with all the fixings is a great way to end a meal. Or give your child an ice cream milkshake. Shakes can be made with yogurt and fruit for additional nutrition and calories.

When your child is on a special diet, always monitor your child's weight closely with your child's healthcare provider.


Written by Robert Brayden, MD. Professor of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-01-30
Last reviewed: 2010-06-02

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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