Weight gain in toddlers is something that most parents are extremely worried about.
When a child is thin – her/his weight affects the health of the parents much more than it affects her/him
“Why is your child so thin?”
“You should feed your child more.”
“You should take better care of your child.”
Are some of the common comments that the parents of thin children have to listen to almost every day.
And such comments can send the parents of thin children into a state of panic.
Is your child underweight?
Thin children are not always under-weight.
Weight is a combination of muscle, bone and fat weight. And a child who looks thin may actually not be underweight at all if he has enough muscle mass and bone weight.
If you think your child is under-weight – consult with a pediatrician. Weigh your child on a weighing scale and then plot your child’ weight on a height-weight chart made for Indian children.
The chart will typically help you ascertain two things –
- Whether the child is the right weight for her/his age
- Whether the child is the right weight for her/his height
If the child is underweight compared to the children of her/his age – it is important to look at whether the child is the right weight for her/his height.
When you should and should not worry about your child’s weight?
- Do not worry if your child is at the bottom of the reference curves. The bottom of the curve is also normal. In fact anywhere within the curve is normal.
- If your child is consistently at the bottom of the curve – there is nothing to be worried about. You should only worry if your child’s weight abruptly falls from the top of the curve to the bottom of the curve. This is something you must bring to your pediatrician’s notice.
- If your child’s weight is lower than children of her/his age – look at yourself and ask your parents what you were like as a child. Thin parents will typically have thin children because of the inherited genes.
- If your child’s weight is alright for her/his height – but both height and weight are consistently below the reference curves – then you need to look for chronic health conditions or chronic infections which may be stunting your child’s growth. You must also look at her/his diet in this case.
- If your child’s weight for her/his height was normal and suddenly drops much lower on the curve – it could be because of a recent illness like a viral fever during which your child may not have been able to eat properly. It is important to monitor the weight at this point and see that it goes back to its original place on the curve. Do not force feed your child to push the weight back up.
10 Things You Can Do For Toddler Weight Gain
Fill your child’s Diet with high Calorie food
Growing active children require lots of calories in each meal.
Do not keep giving your child fruit and vegetable purees because you you’re your child to get vitamins.
Vitamins will not help your child gain weight.
Fill your child’s diet with carbohydrates from whole grains like whole wheat flour, brown rice and millets
Give your child something to eat every hour
Children cannot eat 4 meals a day like adults and satisfy their nutritional requirements from those.
Children have very small stomachs and can eat very small quantities at a time. There is no point in fighting with your child and forcing her/him to “finish” her/his breakfast lunch and dinner
Instead have snack sized meals. And when your child gets hungry in-between the meals – serve a healthy nutritionally balanced snack.
Make lots of healthy snacks
Junk food must not be served as a snack.
Junk food has no nutritional value.
In addition – it fills your child up and prevents her/him from eating the next meal.
Don’t get upset if your toddler gets hungry within 15 minutes of finishing a meal.
Instead plan for this hunger and keep a healthy snack ready that you can give your child immediately after the meal.
Most of us get upset when children are not hungry at meal times. But we also get upset when children are hungry after meals. Don’t get upset. Expect the erratic hunger patterns and plan for healthy snacks and healthy meals.
Add proteins in every meal
Most of the things that children eat are carbohydrate rich.
Carbohydrates provide energy – so that children can jump around – and so children love carbohydrate rich food.
Excess carbohydrate is turned into fat and makes children fat. But this is the wrong way of gaining weight and fortunately children never eat more than they should.
What actually helps in healthy weight gain is protein because it builds muscle.
However protein by itself is useless.
Every meal must have carbohydrate and protein.
So dal must be given with rice. A dosa is an excellent combination of dal and rice.
Also read How To Plan A Balanced Diet For Your Child :10 Tips
Juice is bad – avoid it
Juice is useless. And fresh fruit juices are just as bad as packaged juices.
Sugary drinks and juices kill the appetite and provide very little nutrition.
Juices make your child fat. But this is the unhealthy way of becoming fat because it does not strengthen your child’s body. It just adds a layer of fat.
Avoid too many saturated fats
Saturated fats have almost no role in the body.
They just add unhealthy fat to your child’s body – making her/him fat and unhealthy.
Burgers, sausages, cakes, biscuits and cheese contain saturated fats. Do not give your child these foods to increase their weight.
They also have the added disadvantage of being addicting and can really damage your child physically and mentally.
Do not force feed your child
When you shout and scream at the table and force feed your child – your child completely loses her/his appetite.
You cannot make your child gain weight by force feeding her/him. You have to increase her/his appetite.
And appetite cannot be increased by giving medicines.
Appetite increases when a child is happy and relaxed.
Give your child small portions of food and eat happily and cheerfully with her/him. Never force her/him to eat more than they want.
Also read How does a Child become a Picky Eater
Talk about good health and healthy food
Healthy eating is a habit you want to teach your child for life.
Do not be short sighted in your goals and focus only on weight gain for your child.
Talk about the importance of healthy food and exercise. And practice healthy eating and healthy living.
Children learn more by watching us than by listening to us.
Never bribe children with junk food
Bribes are bad. And using junk food as a bribe is just terrible. It is probably the worst thing you can do to your child.
If you say – “You will get ice cream if you finish your vegetables.” Your child will hate vegetables even more and never eat them.
Children will not like some vegetables. This is normal.
Keep giving your child the food that she/he doesn’t like – in small quantities every day. Let it remain on her/his plate. Do not insist that it is finished.
Slowly your child will get used to seeing the food and smelling it. Then one day she/he will also try it and start eating it.
This may take years. But don’t give up.
Give your child time to play outside
Fresh air, sunlight, running, jumping and playing happily are the best ways to increase your child’s appetite.
Let your child play.
Don’t worry that your child will become even thinner if you allow her/ him to play.
Playing will increase your child’s appetite and also build her/his muscle mass – resulting in healthy weight gain.
The weight of your child is important. But it is not the only thing that is important.
Weight is checked and plotted by your doctor on the growth chart because your doctor is seeing your child once in 3-4 months. And usually when your child is sick. So it is the only way for your doctor to assess her/his health.
But as a parent you should not use weight to judge your toddler.
If you have an active, happy and healthy child – stop worrying.
Live a healthy life as a family. Allow her/him to enjoy healthy food.
And stop force feeding because you are obsessed with her/his weight
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