Healthy Weight Gain for Fussy Toddlers


In today’s society we usually hear about weight loss and calorie restriction. However, when it comes to our children, we want to make sure that they are eating nutritionally balanced meals and gaining weight as they should. Some parents have children that may be underweight, and are looking for guidance on how to ensure that their little ones are getting the nutrients they need. There are a number of helpful tips that can guide you through the process of ensuring that your children are eating right and enjoying the foods they eat!

First and foremost, it is important to consult with your pediatrician to ensure that the reason your child is underweight isn’t due to a food allergy, intolerance, or medical issue. Furthermore, visiting with a Registered Pediatric Dietician will also assist you in determining whether there are any underlying deficiencies. For example, a lack of appetite may be linked to a zinc deficiency. Finally, some parents may worry about their children’s weight even if this should not be of concern, so it’s best to consult with your pediatrician for his/her thoughts on your child’s development.

What you serve, how much your serve, and the way you serve, all contribute to your child’s relationship with food. It is also important to realize that toddlers ranging from 1-3 years old need roughly 1,000-1,300 calories per day, but it’s important to look at a nutritionally balanced week rather than analyzing calorie intake on a daily basis.

What you serve:

Nutrient-dense meals are essential in helping your child develop healthy eating habits for the long run. Serving your child fried food may help them gain weight in the short run, but could lead to a life-long struggle with proper nutrition. If you child has a poor appetite, filling up on empty calories will not lead to healthy growth and development and will further reduce their appetite without contributing to healthy weight gain.

The following are healthy choices that many toddlers enjoy eating:

  • Avacado (Spread avocado on whole wheat bread and sprinkle with cinnamon)

  • Pasta (Add ½ tsp of olive oil to the sauce on Whole Wheat noodles)

  • Grilled Cheese (Whole Wheat bread with hummus & finely diced vegetables)

  • Broccoli, Squash, Sweet Potatoes (add Olive oil to vegetables)

  • Various natural nut butters (peanut butter & banana) – although some pediatricians advise delaying the introduction of nuts for a few years

  • Eggs (Omelets or Scrambled with Vegetables & Cheese)

  • Yogurt with fruit and Granola or Cottage Cheese & fruit

  • Poultry, Fish, Tofu

  • Kidney beans, Chicpeas, etc.

  • Dried Fruit

  • Smoothies & Vegetable juices (make your own to avoid added sugars etc.) The Magic Bullet is an excellent tool

  • Pizza on Whole Wheat Pita with spinach puree, loaded with vegetables

How Much You Serve:

Some children prefer eating smaller portions of a variety of foods, and this gives them the opportunity to choose the foods they would like to eat. Offering a variety of different foods at each meal may be the solution to selective eating habits.

The Way you Serve:

Use an ice-cube tray, mini-muffin tins, or a dish with compartments and put small portions of colorful foods within each section. Naming the foods on the plate may create a fun meal time ritual that could encourage your children to enjoy the foods they eat. You can also make mini-quiches, mini- chicken skewers, etc. as smaller portions may be more intriguing to little tummies.

The following are some additional ideas to get you started:

  • Apple Moons

  • Avacado Boats

  • Broccoli trees

  • Cheese building blocks

  • Olive rings

It is important to make eating a fun and pleasant experience. Kids love to dip things – so try hummus, yogurt, or guacamole with vegetables cut into creative shapes. Sandwiches, pancakes, etc can also be cut into various shapes using cookie cutters.

When cooking, use extra olive oil and add milk instead of water (to cereal, sauces, etc) in order to add healthy calories to mealtime. You can also add wheat germ,flaxseed, or chia to many of the meals you prepare.

Also beware of soups and fruit (foods with high liquid concentration) if your child has a poor appetite as these may fill them up before they’re able to eat enough of the more nutrient-dense components of their meals.

There is an abundance of ways to get your child to eat healthy nutrient-dense meals, but with fussy eaters it’s never easy – it takes a tremendous amount of patience and ultimately perseverance to succeed – good luck!

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