Are you worried about how you child is growing? Have you been told they need to gain weight? Keep reading for some expert tips on how to help your child gain weight.
When it comes to kids, it can be such a hard thing to tell if they’re getting all the food that they need. It’s impossible to just go based off of how much they eat, as some kids need very little to maintain their growth, and others need a lot. The best way to tell if your child is growing well is to follow their growth curve.
What is a growth curve?
A growth curve is a plot that has been compiled of the average child’s weight or height at a certain age. Your doctor will take your child’s measurements, and then plot them on this chart to see if they are growing as expected.
Where your child falls on this chart is not the important part. Some kids will always be on the smaller side, and can grow perfectly well while being at the 5% mark. Other kids will track at the 95th percentile of the curve. Neither of these are better or worse than the other, they simply tell you where your child is in relation to other kids their age.
The key to using the growth chart is that we want your child to maintain around the same percentile rank, within reason, as they grow. So if your child goes from 50th percentile for weight to 5th percentile, that’s when we might worry. The same can be said for going from the 50th to the 95th percentile, or anywhere in between. When we see dips and spikes instead of a gradual curve, that’s cause for concern.
This is all to say that monitoring your child’s weight gain is more than just a number on the scale. After kids hit one, their growth slows down drastically. If you were to continue to expect them to gain weight quickly, then you might think that they were having issues instead of merely following a normal growth pattern.
If you are concerned about how much weight your child is or isn’t gaining, make sure you talk to your doctor! They will be able to talk with you about their personal growth, and whether they need to increase their intake to help stabilize their growth or not.
Foods for helping your child gain weight
Below I’m going to share some tips to add extra calories to your child’s diet. If you doctor is not worried about your child’s weight, please do not attempt to do these merely to increase your child’s weight overall. Some kids are just meant to be tiny!
Is Pediasure good for weight gain?
Many doctors are very quick to recommend giving Pediasure if your child needs to gain some weight. It is a drink that has a lot of calories in it, sure, but for the average kid simply changing how you offer food is enough to change the tides! Pediasure has a time and a place as a medical drink, but more often than not it is simply not necessary for kids. And encouraging kids simply to drink their calories can backfire down the road. For those kids that need more calories with their food, learning to drink Pediasure instead of eating adequate food can lead to not wanting food as they grow. They become dependent on Pediasure, and aren’t able to meet their needs otherwise.
What can you do to help a child gain weight?
Focus on getting your child as much bang for their buck as you can when it comes to food. For every bite that they take, you want as many calories as you can get in it. You can do that by altering some of the foods you pick, and also by using oils and other high calorie additions to meals.
Try things like smoothies with multiple high calorie ingredients from the list below. I used to make smoothies with milk, banana, yogurt, and peanut butter in them for my patients who were having a hard time keeping up their weight. Any combination will work, and you can add many of these foods into the smoothies to increase the calories.
You also want to set, and stick to, a mealtime schedule. (<— read more on that here) While it may seem counterintuitive, letting your child graze throughout the day actually results in less food eaten. You want them to get a little hungry in between food so that they have a better appetite when they do eat.
A list of the best foods for kids to gain weight
High calorie fruits and vegetables- many fruits and vegetables are low calorie. They're full of nutrients, but just not as many calories. Focus on these fruits and veggies below primarily.
- Sweet potatoes
- Dried Fruits, including dates
Nuts, Seeds, Protein
- Nut butter (including sunflower)
- Ground nuts of any kind
- Bean dip
Dairy- include these in the diet, but aim to avoid serving them at every meal and snack
- Whole milk
- Whole milk yogurt
- Cheese, any kind
- Cream cheese
- Sour cream
Fats and Sweeteners- use these to add as additions to other foods
- Oils like coconut, olive, canola, avocado
- Maple syrup or honey (over 1 only)
- Canned coconut milk
Please remember this is not medical advice, and you should always work closely with your pediatrician and a pediatric dietitian who can help you specifically with your unique situation.