Are you worried that your child is too thin? Don’t stress! Being thin or slender is not the same thing as being underweight, a medical condition in which the body isn’t getting enough nutrients to meet it’s daily need. The question is, then, how do you add some weight to your child’s frame without adding fat?
The answer to this is to have them follow a nutrient dense, clean diet and keep them active so that they grow muscle instead of fat!
Some kids have a naturally slight build and maintain it with a well-balanced diet and physical activity. You want your child to build lean body mass (or muscle mass) so make sure that you are balancing their macronutrients. An ideal macronutrient breakdown would be 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 30% protein. Contrary to popular belief, eating dietary fat does not add body fat; dietary fat aids in digestion and has a higher calorie count per gram than protein or carbohydrates.
You’ll want to encourage weight gain in a healthy way, with whole food choices. Calories from foods high in saturated fat and added sugars might add a few pounds, but they will not provide the nutrients your child will need to build strong bones and muscles.
Start by ensuring that most meals and snacks are nutrient-rich. Good sources of protein for weight gain include eggs, peanut butter, almond butter, chili, bean soups/dips, hummus, full-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and hot oatmeal cereal are excellent carbohydrate choices, while nuts and seeds, avocados, and coconut oils are healthy sources of fat.
When planning snacks, consider these healthy, higher-calorie foods:
- Guacamole: mash up an avocado and mix with fresh onions, spices, and tomatoes, and serve with corn tortilla chips (who doesn’t love chips and guacamole?)
- Smoothies: perfect for an on-the-go breakfast or afterschool snack, smoothies are an easy way to pack in the calories! Get creative with your favorite fruit, full-fat yogurt, nut butters and seeds. Make a game out of it to see if your family can make a new smoothie every day for 30 days. Have a smoothie war like the show “Cupcake Wars”.
- Granola or Trail Mix: Pack some ziplock bags with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, Chex Mix and chocolate chips. Add to yogurt for a higher calorie snack!
Get your kids more active with you in the kitchen! Watch cooking shows, let each child get to be the Sui Chef for the night and work to make mealtimes fun. Involve them in meal planning, grocery shopping, lunch making, and food preparation to encourage their interest in food and eating. If mealtime is a chore, your child will resist doing it.
Kids between the ages of 4 to 8 years need 1,200 to 1,400 calories each day. In order to gain 1 pound, an individual must eat an additional 3,500 calories. By adding an extra 500 calories to your child’s meals each day, they will gain about 1 extra pound of weight per week
If your child is not a big eater, they can gain weight by increasing calories from their drinks. 100% percent fruit juices, whole milk, and yogurt-based smoothies are all high-calorie drinks that can be added to a meal. Most of these also pack a variety of vitamins, minerals, and protein. Another thing to consider would be adding a protein supplement to their shakes for a few extra calories.
Feeling a little bogged down with information? Here is a quick list of high-calorie food to add to your child’s diet: Whole Milk, Eggs, Bananas, Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts), White, Rice, Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, Coconut Milk, Sweet Potato, Cream Cheese, Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups, Honey, and Coconut Sugar. Be sure to avoid foods with corn syrup and color dyes!
Finally, be sure to add exercise to your child’s daily regimen to help build muscles and strong bones. Get them signed up for SICFIT Scottsdale’s Lil’ Beast program today!