If you have an underweight toddler who’s fallen off their growth curve, these healthy foods for toddlers to gain weight may help. They’re high in calories, nutrient-dense, and often make the rest of their meal taste a whole lot more delicious!
How to Know if a Child Needs to Gain Weight
It’s important to know whether your child is, in fact, in need of dietary modifications to increase their weight before you start trying to add calories and/or fat to their diet, so let’s start there.
Is your child meeting milestones, gaining some weight (even if not a lot), and seeming generally happy and content? Are they following their own growth curve? If the answers to those are yes, you very likely can relax about their size and continue to allow them to follow their own hunger cues.
Just because a child is in a lower percentile for growth doesn’t mean they need to be made bigger. And just because a child is larger, doesn’t mean they need to be made smaller.
Kids, like adults, can be healthy at every size.
If, on the other hand, you have a child who’s fallen off of their own growth curve for a length of time (sometimes kids fall off at one checkup and are then fine at the next, so I’d urge you not to rush into this), is going through a medical issue where they have a more limited diet, or you’re looking for nutritious ways to add more sustenance to their food—to help them stay fuller longer—these foods should help.
Food for Toddlers to Gain Weight
Here are some of the best high-calorie and high-fat foods that are great sources of nutrition too.
- Avocado Oil
- Almond Butter
- Chicken, Dark Meat
- Cheese, full fat
- Cream Cheese, full fat
- Dried Fruit
- Hemp seeds
- Flax Oil
- Milk, full fat whole milk
- Olive Oil
- Peanut Butter
- Sweet Potato
- Sour Cream, full fat
- Yogurt, full fat
TIP: Read more about healthy fats for kids.
How to Add Calories to Foods without Force Feeding
The thing about feeding kids is that we can’t force them to eat. (Okay, you theoretically could, but that’s not a way to raise a kiddo who trusts food or you to feed them!) So here’s how I would suggest you approach this: Aim to add these foods into regular rotation as they are, and also add some of them to foods your child already eats.
And try to avoid forcing your child to eat, but instead provide relaxed and frequent opportunities for them to eat some food—even if that means you have snacks or meals more frequently than you have been.
Here are some examples of meals and snacks with higher calories:
- Smoothie with 2 tablespoons nut butter or ¼ cup avocado or plain whole milk Greek yogurt
- Smoothie with flaxseed oil
- Smoothie with 2 tablespoons added hemp seeds
- Toast topped with nut butter and banana
- Toast topped with coconut butter and banana
- Toast topped with butter and avocado
- Eggs cooked in butter
- Whole milk yogurt with almond butter or cashew butter stirred in
- Mashed Roasted Sweet Potato blended with full fat coconut milk
- Pasta tossed with Pesto, peas, and cheese
- Pasta as Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- Bean and Cheese Quesadilla with sour cream and/or guacamole for dipping
- Spinach Quesadillas with cheese and cream cheese in the mix, plus sour cream and/or guacamole for dipping
- Chocolate Protein Muffins with a cup of whole milk
- Salmon cooked in olive oil with potatoes and sour cream
- Avocado Chocolate Pudding
- Stir heavy cream, mashed banana and maple syrup into oatmeal
- Ground beef cooked in olive oil or butter
- Chicken thighs in Butter Chicken
- Peanut Butter Energy Bites
TIP: You can do all of this without needing to buy special toddler formulas or protein powders, so save yourself the money!
High-Calorie and High-Fat Recipes to Try
These recipes pack in a load of nutrients in each bite or sip and are great options to try if you’re needing to maximize the bites that your kiddo is taking.
You May Also Like
This post is not meant as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult with your pediatrician and a trained pediatric feeding therapist for individualized help.
This post was first published February 2020.