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 your child with all the nutrition that she needs, to grow and stay healthy. This will automatically help the child attain a healthy weight. Offer your child three healthy, balanced meals a day, and healthy snacks in between. A varied diet also ensures that she gets enough nutrients, various vitamins, and all the minerals that are required for the overall development of her brain and physique.
Video: 8 Healthy Weight Gain Foods For Babies and Toddlers
How to Increase Weight in Children
Some kids just do not seem to gain weight, and there could be multiple reasons behind this. One reason is the genetic constitution of the underweight child’s 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, she will eventually meet the weight milestone for her age.
You can consider keeping a food diary for your child and make a note of likes, dislikes, preferences and allergies, and prepare weekly menus to make mealtimes fun and tantrum-free. Here are a few tips you can try to boost weight gain in your child:
- Ensure that the child gets adequate exercise and indulges in physical activities so that her 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 her to sports such as swimming, cycling, etc. Active participation in sports will help her work up an appetite and also help develop her 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 an early age, they are likely to stay with her for life. It will also ensure less fights and fussy faces during mealtimes as she grows up. It will make your life easy when you’re travelling or eating out. Whether she should form a liking towards junk food or fruits and salads is for you to decide at this stage – of course we know what you would rather have your child choose! Besides healthy eating, you should also ensure that your kids are active and get enough time to play, especially out in the sun. This helps build immunity and ensures fewer doctor visits.
Age Wise Breakdown of Weight Gain for Kids
* IMAGE COURTESY – www.parentinginshort.com
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. Ideally, your child should follow the pattern and her weight should be in a range similar to that indicated by the chart. It is advisable for parents to refer to this chart as a general guideline only, and to remember that the paediatrician’s advice is the best for any special requirement of your child.
1. Baby – 0 to 12 months
Your child will grow up 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 quite often. Do ensure that your child gets enough sleep and is well fed, vaccinated as per schedule and is taken for regular check-ups. It is recommended that the baby is exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months of her life, and eventually introduced to other liquids or semi-solid foods while still being fed breast milk. The baby should ideally double her birth weight by 4-6 months 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 daycare or when you take her 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 qualities, habits, and other developmental aspects that the child picks up at this age will last for a lifetime. The hectic schedules and active lifestyles of your preschooler will call for an increased calorie intake and a variety of nutritional food. On an average, she will put on about 2 kilograms per year.
4. Children – 7 to 12 years
As she moves from being a preschooler into the age group of preteens, the nutritional requirements of your child will increase, and her weight gain will stabilise. She’ll basically gain about 3 kilograms per year during this phase. At this age, she will have the same food as other members of the family.
Best Foods for Weight Gain in Babies and Toddlers
While planning meals for babies and toddlers, parents will need to keep the nutritional requirements of the child in mind. Children must consume a well-balanced diet that will provide substantial and healthy calories. Parents also need to make mealtimes interesting so that their child looks forward to it and doesn’t become a fussy eater.
Some parents feed sugar-laden sweets to increase weight in babies; however, it is unhealthy and will eventually do your child more harm than good. There are plenty of healthy options that you can turn to, to increase your child’s weight. Here are the best foods for weight gain in babies and toddlers that you should include in their diet:
1. Breast Milk
Let’s start off with the most obvious suggestion there is – feed your child breast milk! It is recommended that a baby is exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months after birth. This is the most nutritious, easily digestible, perfectly balanced, and healthiest superfood that can build your child’s 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 that she is getting enough breast milk. After 6 months of age, you can introduce liquids and semi-solid foods to your baby’s diet along with breast milk.
This fruit is rich in potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and carbohydrates. It is also loaded with calories, making it a great food for your baby to eat to gain weight. 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 for 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 nutrients to help kids 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 of age, 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 digestible 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 your baby homemade porridge or cereals available as a ready mix in the market. For homemade cereals, you can wash daal, millets, pulses, and rice and sun-dry them. Afterwards, mildly roast the same and grind these in the mixer. Prepare multiple powders and store in labelled bottles for quick meal options. Use as and when required.
Also known as finger millet or ‘nachani‘, this superfood is perfect to boost weight gain and the development of the baby. It is rich in dietary fibre, calcium, iron, proteins, and various other vitamins and minerals.
It is easily digestible and can be introduced to babies in the form of idli, dosa, porridge, malt, or cereals. Toddlers can have the same in the form of their favourite cakes, cookies, and puddings (made healthier, of course!).
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.
Homemade ghee from milk or malai (cream) is the best option for you if you are worried about adulteration. It is a great food to help your baby gain weight in a healthy way. Remember to use ghee in moderation as consuming it in excess can upset the baby’s tummy.
It will be appropriate to add dairy products like yoghurt to your child’s diet after the age of one. Yoghurt provides fat and nutritious calories for healthy weight gain in the baby. It also improves digestion, increases immunity, and helps with gastric troubles. It can be made interesting by making yoghurt smoothies or shakes, with added chunks of fruits in 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 enhance the taste of a dish served to your child.
Cow’s milk should be introduced to your baby only after she turns one. Ensure that you include at least 2 glasses of milk a day in your kid’s diet till she reaches her teens. Milk can be made interesting by adding dry fruits or health mixes available in various flavours in the market. Overeating or eating less of dairy products must be taken into account, as too much or too less can cause trouble for your child. 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 your baby only after she turns one. Eggs are rich in saturated fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals; you can make several tasty dishes with them, omelettes, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, egg-rice, or French toast being a few options.
Care should be taken to check for allergies and to procure good quality, disease-free farm eggs to avoid health issues. Families who prefer non-vegetarian food can introduce meat or fish to the child’s diet after consultation with the paediatrician.
9. Dry Fruits and Seeds
Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, apricots, cashews, raisins and seeds like sesame, pumpkin, flax, etc., provide kids with adequate nutrients to gain weight. They can be added to food in many interesting ways. Powder them and add to your child’s milk or sprinkle the powder on top of cereals. You can also simply give them a handful of nuts and seeds to eat.
Peanut butter or almond milk are other tasty and healthy options your child will love. Almond milk especially is ideal for kids who cannot drink cow’s milk due to a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance. 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, and pantothenic acid, and also have a high percentage of fat. Served as dips or spreads, avocados are an irresistible addition to any meal. You can even make a delicious and nutritious milkshake with avocados!
Chicken is a rich source of easily digestible protein. Easily available and affordable, it helps your child build muscle mass and thus, gain healthy weight. Chicken is a versatile meal option and can be served in any form, be it in curries, as kebabs, or in salads too.
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
* IMAGE COURTESY – www.beinghappymom.com
Diet charts can be in the form of weekly menus or meal plans that cover all the required nutrients to be included in a kid’s diet. They can be put up with interesting pictures of food on your refrigerator. You can ensure that both you and your child (if she’s old enough) participate in making the menu exciting and mealtime fun. Every week, you can introduce a new food and expand the food options available to 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.
How to Get Kids to Eat Healthy
Your kid will follow in your footsteps. Therefore, for your child 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. Here are a couple of things you can try to make your child develop a taste for healthy foods.
Healthy Eating Tips
- Make mealtimes interesting and pleasant by introducing colourful plates, cutlery, music, etc. You can occasionally take your 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 the time to feed your child. Not only will this help foster healthy relations between them and the child, but it will also take some of the stress off of you, so that you can do other things as well.
- Sometimes, kids refuse to eat. Don’t force-feed your child or get angry. Patience is 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 to nuts, gluten, fish, or she could develop lactose intolerance. Seek immediate medical assistance and do not try to resolve it through self-medication.
- Have set mealtimes so that the child’s body cycle is set accordingly. Do not feed her in between mealtimes.
- If at all your little one is really hungry but it isn’t time for a meal yet, tide her over with healthy snacks, like raisins or fruits.
- Overeating as well as eating too less should be discouraged.
- Keep your child well-hydrated. A lot of times, it could be thirst that makes your child think that she’s hungry. Provide her with a glass of water if she complains of hunger at odd times or in between meals.
- Provide your baby with homemade meals. While travelling, stick to healthy options like fruits rather than junk or unhygienic food.
- As your child grows, include her in decisions to choose meal options and let her help you with cooking. She will be more accepting of the food served to her if she had a hand in choosing or preparing it.
- Junk food gets a lot of positive marketing, making it quite appealing for kids despite all its negative effects. Healthy food, on the other hand, doesn’t get enough praise! Well, that’s up to you to change. When you take your child shopping for foods and produce (which you should do regularly), tell her of all the advantages she stands to gain by choosing an apple over a chocolate bar. Make it fun and entertaining, just the way kids like it, so that the next time you go shopping, your child runs to the healthy foods section, because she wants to!
- Introduce new foods at weekly intervals along with her favourite foods. Appreciate her when she tries out something new.
Do remember that maintaining healthy eating habits in children is more important than having them reaching a target weight. Let your child consume a healthy and wholesome diet, and she will eventually reach a healthy weight. If you are concerned about your child not putting on weight 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.