Weight is one of the main concerns when it comes to a child’s optimal growth and development. When children are underweight, as parents, it is natural for you to feel concerned and wonder how you can help your child gain the right weight.

Less than the ideal weight also means your child is not getting all the essential nutrients that he is supposed to. However, when his or her diet is monitored, and healthy eating habits are inculcated, the desirable weight can be achieved and maintained. When a child is underweight, most people tend to overfeed or force-feed the child, which can be more harmful than helpful.

So, how can you safely help your child gain weight?

After consulting a doctor and making sure that the child does not have any underlying medical condition and is underweight due to his/her dietary pattern, the concern can be addressed with the help of dietary changes. Remember that giving your child foods that are high in fats and sugars can help to add some weight, but is unhealthy, as such foods will not provide any nutrients.

Here are a few changes that you can make to your child’s diet so that they gain weight the healthy way

  1. Incorporate foods that are good sources of protein: Protein-rich foods for kids that can be added to the daily diet include eggs. They not only provide proteins, but other essential nutrients too, like vitamin A and vitamin D. Apart from eggs, paneer and cheese are also good options to add proteins, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin B12 to your child’s diet. Cheese can be sprinkled over an omelette or a boiled egg and served to the child. Yoghurt is also a good option. Plain yoghurt or yoghurt with fruits can be served to the child as a snack. Drinks such as whole milk, buttermilk, milkshakes, and smoothies also contain protein and can be given in between meals. When giving soups to your child, a little milk can also be added.
  2. Include healthy carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are very important as they provide the maximum energy and allow the protein to play its role. Giving a child whole grains (like whole-wheat bread or pasta) can help in adding healthy carbohydrates to his or her diet. Make sure to reduce the use of refined carbs like maida. Potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn can be included too. Porridge made with oats, milk, soy milk or almond milk, can also help in adding healthy calories to the diet.
  3. Integrate nuts in the daily diet: Nuts can be considered as good nutrition foods for kids. These are packed with energy and provide healthy fats to the body. Nuts such as almonds, peanuts, walnuts, etc. are good for brain health and should be included in your kid’s diet in small amounts. It can be given to children in the form of a dry fruit milkshake, or added to cereals during breakfast, or eaten as a trail mix.
  4. Incorporate fats/oils in a healthy manner: Fats are another great source of energy. Ghee is a popular Indian fat source with many health benefits. It not only contains heart-healthy fats but is also full of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K, which helps in carrying out bodily functions and are good for the brain and immune system. Stir-frying vegetables or meat in ghee can help your child gain weight healthily, or you can add it to chapattis and parathas as well. Ghee can also be added as a marinade on meat before cooking it. Apart from ghee, other oils such as canola oil, coconut oil, and olive oil can also be used for cooking as they are healthy fats. Coconut oil can also be added to milkshakes and smoothies (in very small amounts, so that it doesn’t overpower the taste of the milkshake) to boost the child’s energy intake.

Here are some tips to encourage children to eat:

  • Encourage smaller meals. If your child cannot eat one big meal at a time, it is better to break down the meals into smaller portions and let him or her eat small amounts throughout the day.
  • Try to make mealtimes pleasant and never rush children to eat.
  • Another good initiative is to involve your children while planning the meal, shopping for groceries and while preparing the food. If possible, you can get them to help you in the garden to grow some veggies too. These steps can help spark their interest in food and eating.

Maintaining healthy body weight is important for the overall growth and development of any child. Being either overweight or underweight can put a child at risk of developing certain diseases. And hence eating the right kinds of food is essential to maintain overall health and wellbeing. The best way to do that is by ensuring that most meals and snacks are nutrient-dense. The above-mentioned foods and strategies are not just a list of weight gaining foods for children, but a safe way in which these foods can be added to the diet. This way, your little one will get all the necessary nutrients and not just empty calories. After all, without nutrients, a child cannot reach the appropriate growth and development milestones.

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