Here are the top foods to help your baby or toddler gain weight. All of these are high calorie whole foods that can be easily added to your child's food to make it more filling and delicious.
Does your child need to gain weight?
First, it's important to determine if your child is indeed underweight and in need of intervention.
There are so many factors that influence how your child grows, such as genetics (that's a HUGE one), nutrition, environment, and activity.
So when you find yourself comparing your child with how other babies are growing, please remind yourself that every child is unique. Healthy babies come in all shapes and sizes.
If your child is in the 10th percentile, this doesn't mean they're doing better or worse than your friend's child who is in the 70th percentile.
You can rest assured that your child is getting adequate nutrition and growing properly if they're maintaining a usual and predictable pattern of growth on the curve.
On the other hand, if you start to see flattening of the curve or dips, or your child seems to always be hungry, these high-calorie, high-fat foods will help them with healthy weight gain.
Best Solid Foods for Babies to Gain Weight (6 months and up)
- Breast milk and/or Infant Formula
- Butter *
- Chicken thighs or drumsticks
- Eggs *
- Full-fat Dairy products * (whole milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Peanut Butter *
- Nuts *
- Nut or Seed Butter * (e.g. almond, cashew, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed)
- Oils (avocado, olive oil, sesame oil *)
- Potatoes (both white and sweet potato)
- Whole grains, like Quinoa
- Salmon *
- Sardines *
- Seeds (hemp, chia, sesame, pumpkin, or flax seeds *)
Note: Foods with * by them are one of the top allergens. When first introducing, be sure to serve a tiny amount.
Weight Gain Foods for one year old and beyond
Continue serving all of the foods listed above. However, you may find that it's becoming more challenging to feed your toddler who seems to be showing less interest in eating and displaying picky eating tendencies.
Be sure to read my top foods for 1 year old post to better understand and help navigate through this tricky feeding phase.
My top tips for feeding your underweight child is:
- Make every effort to include high-calorie, high-fat foods as much as possible
- You might be tempted to offer high calorie foods, like ice cream, soft drinks, juice, pizza, milkshakes, etc. And while it might add a few pounds to your child, those foods will not provide the nutrients they need for healthy growth.
- Instead, focus on serving nutritious meals with essential nutrients. You want to add extra calories not empty calories.
- Feed them every 2-3 hours.
- If your child doesn't eat much during mealtimes, you may consider providing up to 3 snacks, including a bedtime snack for additional calories.
- Consider snacks as mini-meals so your child gets up to 6 eating opportunities to consume adequate calories and nutrition.
- Don't pressure them to eat - it will only backfire and can actually shut down their appetite.
Here are some specific tips on how to help your underweight child.
Nutrition Supplement for Weight Gain
Many families turn to these as they are a convenient way to boost calories and nutrients to support weight gain. My personal recommendation is to focus on food first.
However, if your child is really struggling, then talk to a dietitian or health care provider to find the type that is most appropriate for your child.
Tips for Adding High Calorie Foods
Babies and toddlers have small tummies so it's important to try to make every bite count with healthy fats and important nutrients.
But this doesn't mean you have to spend all of your hours and energy in the kitchen.
Here are some super easy ways to help your baby gain weight.
- Yogurt with
- hemp seeds and banana
- mashed avocado and chia seeds
- peanut butter and cooked quinoa
- flaked salmon or sardines
- Toast with
- mashed beans and tahini
- almond butter, banana, and unsweetened coconut flakes
- mashed avocado and hemp seeds
- Oatmeal or lentils with
- mashed avocado and beans
- eggs and sweet potatoes
- Mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes
- with butter and cheese
- with minced chicken or beef and yogurt
- added as a quesadilla filling with cheese
- Smoothies with avocado, peanut/nut butter, seeds, milk, or yogurt
- Cook vegetables in extra oil, butter, tahini, etc. You can also
servethem with high-calorie dips like nut butters, yogurt, guacamole, bean dips, etc.
High Calorie Baby Food Recipes (and for toddlers)
In addition to the simple ideas above, here are some actual recipes that can help your child gain weight while learning to enjoy a wide variety of flavors and textures.
Do you want to minimize picky eating and set a solid foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits?
Check out this 3 month mastering self-feeding program! It’s the closest thing to me being in your kitchen