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!

foods for toddlers to gain weight.

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.

TIP: Read more about growth curves and growth chart percentiles.

avocado puree in white bowl

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.

  1. Avocado
  2. Avocado Oil
  3. Almond Butter
  4. Banana
  5. Beans
  6. Butter
  7. Beef
  8. Cashews
  9. Chicken, Dark Meat
  10. Coconut
  11. Cheese, full fat
  12. Cream Cheese, full fat
  13. Dried Fruit
  14. Eggs
  15. Hemp seeds
  16. Flax Oil
  17. Milk, full fat whole milk
  18. Olive Oil
  19. Peanut Butter
  20. Peas
  21. Salmon
  22. Sweet Potato
  23. Sour Cream, full fat
  24. Yogurt, full fat
  25. Walnuts

TIP: Read more about healthy fats for kids.

chocolate avocado pudding in pink cup

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:

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.

Favorite Protein Shakes for Kids (with Veggies!)
Serve up a simple, yet nutritious protein smoothie with three flavor options to choose from.
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veggie protein shakes for kids in cups
Kids Weight Gain Shake
Blend up a weight gain smoothie with accessible, nutritious ingredients for a fraction of the cost of store-bought—and with Ia flavor that's designed to please the kids!
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Chocolate weight gain smoothies in two glasses with straws and toy cars on the side
Best Chocolate Smoothie (with Veggies!)
Be sure to blend this super smooth for the best texture. Use any or none of the optional ingredients. See the Notes for how to make this with regular milk.
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healthy-chocolate-smoothie-with-straw
Easy Egg Yolk Puree (with BLW option)
This is an easy method to introduce eggs to baby, whether they’re starting solids on purees or with the baby led weaning approach. Adjust the number of eggs up or down as you like.
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egg-puree-and-toast-on-plate-for-baby
How to Make Eggs in the Microwave
You can season the cooked egg with a little salt, butter or cheese if you’d like, but it’s very good as is. See the Note about the heat setting when cooking in a microwave.
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microwave-eggs-on-blue-kids-plate
Easy Bacon and Egg Muffins
I like adding the thyme in these for extra flavor, but it's optional! Be sure to grease your muffin tin well with nonstick spray to help prevent these from sticking to the pan. A nonstick mini muffin pan works best here.
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bacon-and-egg-muffins-in-bowl
Chocolate Protein Muffins (With Veggies!)
These simple blender muffins pack a serious nutrition punch and are dairy-free, with a nut-free option. I prefer the flavor of these once they are fully cooled and chilled in the fridge.
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healthy chocolate muffins cooling on wire rack
Healthy Pumpkin Mini Muffins
Use a gluten-free flour blend or whole wheat depending on what works best for your family. This recipe has very little flour—that is not a mistake. They bake up wonderfully, so have faith! Adapted from Against All Grain. 
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healthy pumpkin muffins on bear plate
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Energy Balls
These no-bake bites taste like a cross between oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookie dough. I use natural creamy peanut butter (like the kind from Smuckers) and it works really well. (Recipe updated slightly in June 2021 to ensure the best texture.)
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peanut-butter-oatmeal-energy-balls
Favorite No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies
Made with just a handful of pantry staples, these No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies are both delicious and seriously satisfying. Make them to share with the kids!
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no-bake-peanut-butter-cookies-on-parchment-paper
So Easy Peanut Butter Puree
This fluffy peanut butter puree should have the consistency of yogurt and be easy for a baby to move around in their mouths. Remember to offer just a little at a time.
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peanut butter puree in small bowl with baby spoon
Easy Avocado Pasta
Any pasta shape works in this recipe, so choose your family’s favorite! Omit the garlic if you think the flavor might be too strong for your people. My kids prefer this without the garlic. I like it with it for myself!
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avocado-pasta-in-bowls-on-towel
Easy Sausage Meatballs
This will make at least two dinners worth of meatballs, depending on how many people are in your family. I like to freeze half of the batch to use in a future meal.
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sausage-meatballs-in-tomato-sauce
Easy Instant Pot Butter Chicken
Forget takeout—deliver this popular Indian dish to your table instead. Shredded chicken thighs are coated in a rich, buttery sauce with hints of tomatoes, ginger, and garam masala—a messy but very flavorful finger food. Adapted from The Multi-Cooker Baby Food Cookbook.
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instant-pot-butter-chicken
One-Pot Broccoli Mac and Cheese
The method on this recipe is streamlined to cut down on dish washing. Add the optional spices for more flavor if you like! Double it to make more.
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servings-of-broccoli-mac-and-cheese-for-family
Quick and Easy Chocolate Avocado Pudding
This is best on the day you make it, though you can store it in the fridge for 24 hours in an airtight container. If any liquid separates out, simply stir it up.
Get the recipe
chocolate avocado pudding in pink cup

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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.

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Comments

  1. Hi Amy,

    Will you be able to put a diet together to lose weight for me as a mother and a diet for my toddler to gain weight?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Thanks,
    Naz

    1. Hi- I don’t have content that fits that as I don’t promote weight loss. I hope you can find some recipes to share with your family though.

  2. Thank you for talking about such problems. Now, on the contrary, most people consider only a lot of weight or its rapid gain as a problem. Although the preponderance in any direction is not normal for every organism. But nobody takes the problem of underweight seriously. It is customary for us to consider overweight people as sick, and people with a thin waist as healthy. Although it may be radically the opposite. Therefore, it is so important to understand and notice if a child has weight problems in any of these directions.

  3. Thank you for this. My 2 year olds’ 30 month check up is soon and I have been stressing out because he gains and loses weight right before a well check. And I hold my breathe everytime he gets weighed. If he hits a percentile I’m relieved. If he doesn’t boy does it make me feel bad.

    My husband laughs that i’m stressing about this. It’s like a big test for me whenever it’s time to visit the pediatrician.

    1. I’m exactly like you. Good to know I’m not the only one who gets anxious about baby’s weight check.