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While weight gain in children is a primary concern for most Indian mothers, it is important to remember that your aim should be to ensure a balanced diet which provides all the nutrition your child needs to grow. This will automatically help the child attain a healthy weight. Offer your child three healthy, balanced meals a day, and health-friendly snacks in between. A varied diet also ensures that they get enough nutrients, various vitamins, and all the minerals that are required for the overall development of their brain and physique.
How to Increase Weight in Children?
Some kids just do not seem to gain weight, and there could be multiple reasons behind it, such as the genetic constitution of parents. If both the mother and the father are lean, the baby may share similar physical attributes. Metabolism also plays an important part in a child’s weight gain pattern. If your child is otherwise active and healthy, the weight milestone will eventually catch up.
You may consider keeping a food diary for your kid and make a note of likes, dislikes, preferences and allergies, and prepare weekly menus to make food-time fun and fight-free for both mom and kid. Here are a few tips to help you boost weight gain in your child:
- Ensure that the child gets adequate exercise and physical activities so that his appetite is healthy
- Focus on providing a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious diet and don’t just concentrate on weight gain
- As the child grows, introduce them to sports such as swimming, cycling, etc. This will help the child work up an appetite and also develop their physique
Why Is It Important for Your Kid to Eat Healthy?
The initial years of life are important to build healthy eating habits in kids. When you introduce your child to healthy food habits at early stages, they are likely to stay with them for life. It will also ensure less food-time fights and fussy faces as they grow up. It will make your life easy when travelling or eating out. Whether they get addicted to junk food or fruits and salads is for you to decide at this stage. Besides healthy eating, you should also ensure that your kids are active and get enough play time and time under the sun. This helps build immunity and ensures fewer doctor visits.
Age Wise Breakdown of Weight Gain for Kids
The weight gain pattern differs from one baby to another, and there is no absolute way to compare. However, doctors use a weight chart created on the basis of the average weight for Indian babies. Your child should follow the pattern and be in a range similar to that indicated by the chart. It is advisable for parents to refer this chart as a general guideline only and remember that the paediatrician’s advice is the best for any special requirement of your child.
* IMAGE COURTESY – www.parentinginshort.com
1. Baby – 0 to 12 months
Your child will grow fast in the first few months of infancy. Every month, your baby will gain weight and increase in height. You will be shopping for clothes more often. Do ensure that your child gets enough sleep and is well fed, vaccinated as per schedule and taken for regular check-ups. It is recommended that the baby is exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months and eventually introduced to other liquid diets or semi solid foods along with breast milk. The baby should ideally double the birth weight by 4-6 month of age.
2. Toddler – 12 to 36 months
This is an active phase in your baby’s life, and lots of development happens during this age in terms of emotional and social growth. Your child will start exploring the world and will be exposed to other children in day care or when you take them for a stroll in the neighbourhood. Immunity and food habits that were built up in the first year will now be even more important. The weighing scales will show fluctuations based on various factors and emotional state of mind, anxiety of separation from parents, new environments, and changes in diet and food habits.
3. Preschoolers – 4 to 6 years
The development of the child at this age will last a lifetime. The hectic schedules and active lifestyle of pre-schoolers need an increased calorie intake and a variety of nutritional food. On an average, they will put on about 2 kilograms per year.
4. Children – 7 to 12 years
As they move from pre-schoolers to pre-teens age group, nutritional requirements of children increase, and weight gain will stabilise to 3 kilograms per year. At this age, they have the same food as other members of the family.
Best Foods for Weight Gain in Babies and Toddlers
While planning food for babies and toddlers, parents will need to keep the nutritional requirement of the child in mind. Children must consume a well-balanced diet that will provide substantial and healthy calories. Parents also need to make meal time interesting so that the children look forward to it and don’t become fussy eaters.
Some parents feed sugar-laden sweets to increase weight in babies; however, it is unhealthy and will eventually affect the health of your child. It is important to ensure that your child’s diet has healthy calories and is well balanced.
Here are the best foods for weight gain in babies and toddlers that you should include in their diet:
1. BREAST MILK
It is recommended that the baby is exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months after birth. This is the nutritious, easily digested, perfectly balanced and healthy super food that builds immunity for life. It also fosters the bond between mother and child. If your baby is active, looks healthy, is free of allergies, passes 4-6 stools a day and wets 6-8 diapers, it indicates he is getting enough breast milk. You can be assured that the baby’s growth is healthy.
After 6 months of age, you can introduce liquids and semi solid food to babies’ diet along with breast milk. Here is what you can include in a healthy diet for toddlers:
This super-fruit is rich in potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and carbohydrates. It is also loaded with calories and is the perfect source of weight gain in babies.
Mash bananas or serve them in a smoothie or shake. Steamed Kerala bananas can be mashed and fed to babies for great results. It can be a part of your baby bag while travelling and makes a convenient snack.
3. SWEET POTATOES
Sweet potatoes are easy to boil and mash. They are tasty, nutritious, easy to digest, and healthy. They are also rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese – the best vitamins for kids to gain weight.
Sweet potatoes are also loaded with dietary fibre. You can make tasty purees and soups from this vegetable.
Pulses are full of nutrients. They are rich in proteins, magnesium, calcium, iron, fibre and potassium. After 6 months, you can introduce dals in the form of soup or daal paani, which is one of the most popular weight gain drinks for children.
You can also feed well-mashed khichadi. Moong daal is easily digested and is a good option for babies. Cook pulses with rice and/or vegetables for a nutritious and fibre rich meal.
Around 7-9 months is the appropriate time to introduce your baby to some more new flavours and textures. Start feeding semi-solids, chunky and mashed food. You can start giving home-made porridge or cereals available as a ready mix in the market. For homemade cereals, you can wash daals, millets, pulses, rice and sun-dry them, mildly roast the same and grind it in the mixer. Prepare multiple powders and store in labelled bottles for quick meal options if you are preparing food for underweight child. Use as and when required.
Also known as finger millet or ‘Nachani‘, this super food is perfect for weight gain and development of the baby. It is rich in dietary fibre, calcium, iron, proteins, and various other vitamins and minerals.
It is easily digested as well and can be introduced to babies in the form of idli, dosa, porridge, malt or cereals and to toddlers in cakes, cookies and pudding.
Ghee or clarified butter has high nutritional value. Introduce it around the 8th month of your baby’s life. A few drops of ghee can be added to porridge or sprinkled on top of mashed khichadi or daal soup.
Home-made ghee from milk or malai/cream is the best option for you if you are worried about adulteration. It is a great food to increase healthy weight in babies. Remember to be moderate in the usage of ghee as consuming it in excess can upset the baby’s tummy.
When your child reaches the age of 8-10 months, you can start including the following foods in their diet to promote weight gain:
It is now appropriate to add dairy products like yoghurt to your child’s diet. Yoghurt provides fat and nutritious calories for healthy weight gain in the baby.
Yoghurt also improves digestion, increases immunity and helps with gastric troubles. It can be made interesting by making yoghurt smoothies or shakes for kids to gain weight, adding chunks of fruits to it.
Packed milk, butter, cheese, etc., should be introduced after 12 months of age or after taking the paediatrician’s opinion. Butter and cheese make food interesting for toddlers and add to the fat content required for healthy weight gain. Add a dollop of butter or a slice of cheese to make food interesting for kids.
Cow’s milk should be introduced to kids after 1 year of age. Ensure to include at least 2 glasses of milk a day in your kid’s diet till they reach their teens. Milk can be made interesting by adding dry fruits or health mixes available in various flavours in the market. Overeating or undereating of dairy products must be taken in to account, as too much or too less can cause trouble. In case your child has lactose intolerance, or suffers from gastric problems after consuming dairy products, please consult the paediatrician.
This powerhouse of protein should be introduced to kids only after they complete 12 months. Eggs are rich in saturated fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals; you can serve them as an omelette, scrambled, boiled, egg-rice or French toast.
Care should be taken to check for allergies and procure good quality, disease-free farm eggs to avoid health issues. Families who prefer non-vegetarian food can introduce meat or fish after consultation with the paediatrician.
9. DRY FRUITS AND SEEDS
Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, apricots, cashews, raisins and seeds like sesame, pumpkin, flax, etc. provide the best vitamins for kids to gain weight. They can be added to food in many interesting ways. Powder them and add to milk or sprinkle on top of cereals, or simply give them a handful of nuts and seeds to eat.
Peanut butter or almond milk are tasty options to add health and weight. You can make energy bars or add them to flour while making rotis or parathas. Dates syrup added to milk will make it an iron rich food option for kids. It is often used as a weight gain drink.
They are a rich source of vitamin B6, E, C, K, folate copper, dietary fibre, pantothenic acid, and also have a high percentage of fat. Served as dips or spreads, avocados are an irresistible addition to any meal. They can be added to a milk shake too!
This is a rich source of easily digestible protein. Easily available and affordable, it helps the child build muscle mass and thus gain healthy weight.
Chicken is a versatile meal option and can be served in any form – from a fresh salad to a rich Indian curry, or a delectable kebab.
12. TROPICAL FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Rich in natural sugars, essential vitamins, and immunity-building minerals, tropical fruits and vegetables are a must in every child’s diet chart. These include papaya, mangoes and pineapples.
Toss steamed vegetables in some butter or put together a colourful fruit salad for your child to tuck into at snack-time.
Diet Chart for Children to Gain Weight
Diet charts can be in the form of weekly menus or meal plans that cover all the required nourishment to be included in a kid’s diet. They can be put up with interesting food pictures on refrigerators. You can ensure that both parent and child participate in making the menu exciting and meal-time fun. Every week, you can introduce a new food and expand the food options for your child.
The diet-chart changes with every age group. Ensure that you include portions of fruits, vegetables, dairy, starch, and proteins to make it a well-balanced meal.
* IMAGE COURTESY – www.beinghappymom.com
How to Get Kids to Eat Healthy
Your kids will follow in your footsteps. Therefore, for your kids to follow healthy eating habits, you will need to lead by example. For example, if you survive on packaged junk food, you cannot restrict your child from doing the same.
Healthy Eating Tips
- Make meal times interesting and pleasant by introducing colourful plates, cutlery, music, baby parties, etc. You can occasionally take the child outdoors to the park for a picnic meal.
- Do not rush feeding time. Have patience and, if required, have other family members take out time to feed kids. It will foster healthy relations between them and take off some stress from you to do other things.
- Sometimes, kids refuse to eat; don’t force feed them or get angry. Patience is the key; you will have to try introducing the food on some other day or in some other way.
- Keep track of allergies the kid might develop. It could be nuts, gluten, fish, or lactose intolerance. Seek immediate medical assistance and do not try to resolve it through self-medications.
- Have set mealtimes so that the child’s body cycle is set accordingly. Do not feed between meal times.
- Over eating as well as under eating should be avoided.
- Provide home-made meals for babies; while travelling, stick to healthy options like fruits rather than junk or unhygienic food.
- As the children grow, include them in decisions to choose meal options and help you with cooking. They will be more accepting to food if they have chosen it themselves and helped in preparing it.
- Introduce new foods at weekly intervals along with their favourite foods. Appreciate them when they try something new.
Do remember that maintaining healthy eating habits in children is more important than reaching a target weight. If your kids consume a healthy and wholesome diet, they will eventually reach a healthy weight. Guard against over eating or under eating as this can hurt your child’s health. If you are concerned about your child’s weight gain despite trying the above tips and foods, consult the doctor. He will be able to evaluate the situation and prescribe weight gain supplements for children if required.