Too much or too little of anything can be bad, and this holds true for your child’s weight as well. While obesity is a problem that plagues many children these days, being underweight is another major issue at the other end of the spectrum. Some children are naturally lean, but, being lean and slender is not the same as being underweight. If your child is underweight, he may not be getting the nutrition he needs. And to help him gain weight, feeding foods with high fat content is not desirable, as it will not contribute to his overall health. What your child needs is to gain weight in a healthy way. So, if you are wondering how to make a child gain weight fast, read on.

But first, how do you know if your child is underweight?

To tell whether your child is underweight or not simply by looking at him may be difficult for parents. To get a better idea, you will need to compare your child’s height and weight against a height-weight chart. The ideal weight for a child depends on the child’s gender, age and height. Children are considered underweight if they fall in the bottom 5th percentile of the height-weight ratio. Some of the signs to look out for are:

  • Your child does not outgrow his or her clothes for several months
  • His or her weight percentile keeps falling on growth charts
  • The child’s ribs stick out prominently

Causes for being underweight

There are many reasons why children may be underweight. These include:

  • Underlying medical issues
  • Certain medications, such as those prescribed to children with ADHD
  • Food allergies
  • Hormonal issues
  • Digestive problems
  • Skipping meals
  • Poor dietary habits

Increasing food intake in children can be challenging

There are many challenges you might face as a parent who is looking to increase her child’s weight fast. Toddlers have very small stomach sizes. This limits the amount of food they can eat in a single session. Getting them to eat healthy foods instead of unhealthy snacks can be quite difficult too. Children from families that follow strict diet plans may also find it difficult to get well-balanced meals. Similarly, children in nuclear families with mostly absent parents might end up skipping meals, due to the lack of monitoring.

Steps to increase weight in a healthy way

Here are a few tips on how to increase weight for a 5 year old child.

  • Make sure your child has 4-5 small and balanced meals in a day
  • Encourage healthy snacking
  • Avoid junk foods
  • Give your child nutrient-dense foods
  • Limit drinks during mealtimes and avoid giving him packaged juices
  • Do not allow your child to skip meals
  • Consult a nutrition expert for weight gain supplements. Your child might be prescribed vitamins to gain weight
  • Keep your child physically active to stimulate better appetite
  • Make mealtimes an enjoyable experience by praising your child when he eats a new type of food and by eating meals together as a family

A balanced diet for children

Your child should have a variety of foods. From 2 years onwards, children should follow a diet similar to that of the rest of the family. Meals can be based on starchy carbohydrates like rice, paratha, bread, or potatoes. In a day, children should eat at least 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. They should also have 2 servings of proteins such dals, paneer, chicken, or oily fishes like bangada or rawas. Include 2-3 servings of milk and dairy products in the form of dahi/yoghurt, paneer, cheese, buttermilk, lassi etc. Their diet should also contain low amounts of unsaturated oils. In addition, children should drink 6-8 glasses of water a day.

Recipe hacks to increase energy density

Here are a few recipe hacks that can help make meals more nutrient-dense.

  • Make soup with milk instead of water
  • Add cheese or milk to mashed vegetables
  • Give your child a smoothie snack with full-fat yoghurt, seeds and nut butters
  • Add a spoonful of powdered milk to your child’s regular glass of milk
  • Cook meals with healthy oils like olive oil
  • Serve cut vegetables and fruits with peanut butter or yoghurt-based dips, for snacking
  • Add an extra serving of ghee to your child’s meals
  • Give your child frozen curd as a dessert instead of ice cream
  • Add roasted nuts to pulaos

Lastly, monitor progress

As mentioned above, following a healthy well-balanced diet can help your child gain weight without becoming obese or nutritionally deficient. Just make sure to monitor his or her weight gain pattern against his/ her height, to ensure a good BMI.