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Fueling Little Bodies: Top Nutrition Tips for Helping Your Child Gain Weight

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

A little boy drinking orange juice

As a parent, it can be tough to see your child struggle with gaining weight. Whether it's due to picky eating habits or medical conditions, it can be a frustrating and worrying experience. However, ensuring that your child is getting the right nutrition is crucial to their overall health and development.

Here we'll be discussing some nutrition tips that can help your child gain weight in a healthy and sustainable way. From incorporating high-calorie foods into their diet to making mealtimes more fun and enjoyable, we'll explore a range of strategies that can help fuel your little one's body and promote healthy weight gain. So if you're looking for some practical advice on how to support your child's nutritional needs, read on to discover our top tips for fueling little bodies.

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Understanding healthy weight gain for children

Before we dive into the nutrition tips, it's important to understand what healthy weight gain looks like for children. Children grow and develop at different rates, so it's essential to consider their age, height, and weight when assessing their growth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides growth charts for children based on their age and sex. These charts help parents and healthcare providers track a child's growth over time and identify any potential issues.

A healthy weight gain for children is typically around 0.5 to 1 kilogram per month for children younger than two years old, and around 0.5 kilograms per month for children two years and older. However, it's important to note that every child is different, and their rate of weight gain may vary. It's also important to ensure that the weight gain is due to an increase in muscle and bone mass rather than excess body fat.

Common reasons why children struggle to gain weight

There can be various reasons why children struggle to gain weight. Some of the common causes are:

Picky eating habits

Picky eating habits can often lead to inadequate calorie intake, which can ultimately lead to weight loss or slow weight gain. Children who are picky eaters may refuse certain foods or food groups, limiting their overall nutrient intake.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions can affect a child's appetite or ability to absorb nutrients. Conditions such as celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and inflammatory bowel disease can all impact a child's weight gain.

Slow metabolism

Some children may have a naturally slower metabolism, which can make it more challenging for them to gain weight.

Lack of physical activity

Physical activity is important for maintaining a healthy weight. Children who are not active may struggle to gain weight or may gain excess body fat instead of muscle mass.

A mom and daughter singing into wooden spoons in the kitchen

The importance of proper nutrition for children's growth and development

Proper nutrition is essential for children's growth and development, and it can also impact their weight gain. Children who consume a diet that is high in calories, healthy fats, and protein are more likely to gain weight in a healthy way. Nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and iron are also important for children's bone and muscle development.

It's important to ensure that your child is consuming a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods. This includes:

Healthy, nutrient-dense foods for weight gain in children

  • Protein-rich foods: Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue. Foods such as eggs, lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds are all excellent sources of protein.

  • Healthy fats: Healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil are all great sources of healthy fats that can help promote weight gain. Read more about healthy fats here.

  • Complex carbohydrates: Complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread, pasta, and rice provide a steady source of energy and can help your child feel full for longer periods.

  • Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are packed with essential vitamins and minerals that can support your child's overall health and development. Make sure to include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables in your child's diet.

  • Calcium-rich products: Products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are high in calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for bone growth and development. Kids who are intolerant of cow's milk can easily get the required calcium from dairy-alternatives like almond milk and other plant-based dairy alternatives.

Meal planning and portion control

Meal planning and portion control are essential for ensuring that your child is consuming enough calories to support healthy weight gain. Here are some tips to help you plan your child's meals:

  • Offer five to six small meals a day: Instead of three large meals, offer your underweight child five to six small meals throughout the day. This can help increase their overall calorie intake. Note that having 3 regular meals and offering 2-3 additional snacks per day is a good general feeding plan for everyone.

  • Make meals fun and enjoyable: Get creative with your child's meals by using fun shapes or colors to make them more appealing. This can encourage your child to eat more.

  • Avoid distractions during meals: Encourage your child to focus on their food during mealtimes and avoid distractions such as TV or electronic devices.

  • Use smaller plates: Using smaller plates can help your child feel like they are eating more food, which can help increase their calorie intake.

Tips for encouraging healthy eating habits

Encouraging healthy eating habits can also help support your child's weight gain. Here are some tips to help you promote healthy eating habits:

  • Lead by example: Children often mimic their parents' behaviors. If you eat a balanced diet, your child is more likely to follow suit.

  • Involve your child in meal planning and preparation: Get your child involved in meal planning and preparation. This can help them feel more invested in their food choices and more likely to try new foods.

  • Offer a variety of foods: Offer your child a variety of nutrient-dense foods to ensure that they are getting a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals.

  • Be patient: It can take time for children to develop healthy eating habits. Be patient and consistent in your efforts to promote healthy eating habits.

A boy playing in a ball pit

The role of physical activity in weight gain

Physical activity is important for maintaining a healthy weight and promoting muscle development. Encourage your child to engage in physical activity that is appropriate for their age and abilities. Activities such as swimming, bike riding, and dancing are all excellent options for children.

Avoiding unhealthy weight gain practices

It's important to avoid unhealthy weight gain practices, such as overfeeding or relying on high-calorie, low-nutrient foods like fast food and overly processed, packaged foods. These practices can lead to excess body fat and can be harmful to your child's overall health.

When to seek professional advice

If you're concerned about your child's weight gain or growth, it's important to seek professional advice from a healthcare provider. They can help assess your child's growth and development and provide guidance on how to best support their nutritional needs.


Ensuring that your child is getting the right nutrition is crucial for their overall health and development. By incorporating healthy, nutrient-dense foods into their diet, promoting healthy eating habits, and encouraging physical activity, you can help support your child's weight gain in a healthy and sustainable way. Remember to be patient and consistent in your efforts, and if you have any concerns, don't hesitate to seek professional advice.

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All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.

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