HomeHealth articlesgain weightHow to Increase Weight in an Underweight Child?

Are you worried about your child being underweight? Read the article below to know how to manage this problem through nutrition.

Medically reviewed by

iCliniq medical review team

Published At December 25, 2018
Reviewed AtSeptember 13, 2022


If your kid is a fussy eater or hates eating food and is severely underweight then he can actually suffer from many nutritional deficiencies leading to weak bones and impaired physical development as well as mental development. At this point in time, it becomes very necessary to feed your child energy-dense foods necessary for the overall development of your child so that your child does not suffer from iron deficiency anemia or bone problems in the future. Giving your child energy-dense foods does not mean that you can give your child foods rich in sugar and bad fats like burgers and pizzas, but do provide your child with essential fats instead.

How to Know if Your Child Is Underweight?

It can be difficult to determine if your child is underweight. However, if you are already aware of your child's age, height, and weight and want to know if he possesses an optimal weight or not then you can check it online by using the healthy weight calculator tool.

Your Child's Diet: It is essential for all children to obtain energy (calories) and nutrients from a varied and balanced diet. It is usually tempting for an underweight child to fill up his tummy with high-calorie yet unhealthy foods, like sweets, cake, chocolates, and other sugary, processed, and fatty foods and beverages. However, it is further important for a child to gain weight in a healthy and safe manner. For this, the consumption of a balanced diet is required.

What Is a Balanced Diet?

As per the government guidelines, children of five years of age and above should follow the recommendations given for adults, which come with the proportions in which various foods are required to be a part of the balanced diet. These are as follows::

  • Consume a minimum of five portions of different fruits and vegetables daily.

  • Instead of having potatoes, bread, rice, or other starchy carbohydrates, go for wholegrain whenever possible.

  • Choose some dairy products or their alternatives, like yogurts, and prefer low-fat and low-sugar options.

  • Eat proteins in the form of beans and pulses, fish, eggs, meat, etc. Try to have at least two segments of fish every week.

  • Opt for unsaturated fats and their products and eat them in small quantities.

  • Sip plenty of fluids, 6 to 8 glasses a day.

  • Choose a diversity of food items from the main food groups.

  • Occasionally consume foods and drinks high in fat, salt, and sugar, and in small amounts.

How to Manage the Nutrition in Underweight Kids?

Following are certain ways in which you can nutritionally manage underweight kids:

Having a Healthy and Balanced Diet: Just because your child is underweight, it does not mean that you give him junk food as junk food does not contain nutrients as compared to a healthy and balanced diet. Rather than just having three main meals, give your kid healthy snacks too in between the meals. Remember to not give your child aerated drinks as they are very high in sugar as well as empty calories which will definitely not lead to the growth and development of your child.

Good Source of Proteins: Good sources of proteins include milk and milk products, chicken, and fish which help with muscle development. Proteins are also essential for the function of certain enzymes in the body. Hence, see to it that the diet of your underweight child contains good sources of protein.

Iron Rich Sources: Has your child often complained of feeling sleepy or lethargic for no reason? When your child is underweight due to a lack of certain nutrients such as iron, your child might experience symptoms of anemia. The best way to improve this is to supply your kid with essential sources of iron like garden cress seeds, flaxseeds, chicken, and liver. Green leafy vegetables like spinach are also a very good source of iron. It can be incorporated into the diet of your child in the form of cutlets that are baked rather than deep fried.

Carbohydrate Sources: Good sources of carbohydrates like brown rice and red rice would additionally provide your child with essential B complex vitamins, necessary as an essential source of energy.

Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamins and minerals are obtained from various kinds of foods like fruits and vegetables as well as non-vegetarian foods. Deficiency of certain vitamins like vitamin A can lead to symptoms of night blindness in your child. Deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine) can cause beriberi in your child.

How to Improve Your Child’s Calorie Intake?

To aid in weight gain by your child, gradually increase his portion sizes at every meal, particularly for starchy foods like bread, rice, potatoes, etc. However, if the kid finds it difficult to consume larger portions, try adding the energy density of the child's feeds until they gain adequate weight. Some higher energy density foods are cheese, nuts, whole milk, and nut butter which have comparatively increased amounts of fats.

Keep Your Child Active: In spite of the fact that your child is underweight, it remains equally important that he is physically active. Physical activity will help him develop strong and healthy bones and muscles. It is also important for better mental health status. Kids above five years of age should engage in at least sixty minutes of physical activity daily. However, as your child is underweight so the amount of physical activity for him will be different from other healthy kids in his age group. A general physician, nurse, or school nurse can be consulted for this.


Hence, it is very essential to provide your underweight kid with a balanced diet so that he gets all the essential nutrients necessary for his proper growth and development. Always remember not to force feed your child but feed him in a calm environment so that he does not feel pressurized. However, once the kid reaches a healthy weight, his diet may need to be adjusted so that he does not become overweight.

Frequently Asked Questions


How to Improve Calories in an Underweight Child?

In an underweight child, it is crucial to increase their calorie intake. Especially include more proteins like lean meat, beans, lentils, egg yolks, fish, etc. Try new recipes, including mashed potatoes, cheese, paneer, and milk, that increase the amount of calorie intake.


Which Foods Can Be Fed to an Underweight Baby?

The type of foods to be given to babies depend on their age. Breast milk is essential for babies of one to six months of age. If the baby is more than six months of age, boiled and mashed veggies and fruits, especially potatoes and apples, can be given. Other foods, like boiled egg yolks, paneer, and fish, can also be fed.


Which Food Helps in Healthy Weight Gain?

Foods that aid in healthy weight gain is as follows:
- Whole grain cereals, bread.
- Dairy products include cheese, paneer, etc.
- Try fruit smoothies and shakes.
- Protein-rich foods like lean meat, eggs, and fish.
- Eat at intervals, five meals a day.
- Drink more fluids.


Which Strategies Are Involved in Healthy Weight Management?

The primary strategies that are involved in healthy weight management are:
- Eat nutrition-rich foods that make you feel full.
- Drink plenty of fluids; keep yourself hydrated.
- Exercise regularly.


Which Is the Best Type of Protein?

Several kinds of proteins are available that aids in fulfilling nutritional needs, improving body mass, etc. It includes soy, whey, egg, milk, brown rice, and hemp. The best among them is the whey protein which improves energy levels and is easy to digest. They are available in powder forms that can be taken even after workouts.


Do Fruits Help in Weight Gain?

Yes, fruits are also essential in your daily diet to elevate calorie levels. Fruits like mangoes, bananas, and avocados are rich in calories that help with weight gain. You can also include dried figs, apricots, and prunes in your child’s diet to increase their weight in a healthier way.


How to Increase Baby’s Weight Gain?

Make sure you breastfeed your babies eight to ten times a day. Include fruits and veggies that are rich in calories, such as avocados, bananas, mangoes, etc. Add toppings like cheese and butter to the mashed veggies, which are high in calories and gradually lead to weight gain. In addition, proteins such as egg yolks and lentils are also essential.


Which Nutritional Disorder Is Frequent Among Children?

Children mostly have nutritional problems like vitamin D and iron deficiencies. Therefore, it is important to monitor children for any symptoms that indicate these deficiencies and to offer them foods and supplements rich in iron and vitamin D. Calcium, folic acid, zinc, and calcium may also be deficient in a few other children.


What Can Improve the Appetite of an Underweight Child?

Kids may not eat all the foods we give; hence, it is fine to offer them the foods they like to eat anytime, but make sure they are not so sugary. You can try giving them nuts, fruits, and veggies in between their meals. It is also essential to keep them physically active, which improves their appetite.


Do Vitamins Elevate Appetite?

Yes, the appetite may be improved with several vitamins when the child is already in need or deficient in such vitamins. Mostly vitamin B1 and zinc are essential in increasing the appetite in children. Instead of offering supplements, include foods that are rich in zinc and vitamin B1 that increase appetite in a healthier way.


What Are the Nutritional Needs of a Child?

The basic nutritional needs of a child include iron, vitamin D, protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Hence, nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and proteins must be included in their daily diet to improve their weight and fulfill their nutritional needs. Therefore, fulfilling their nutritional needs leads to enhanced growth and development.


What Can Help Children to Maintain Their Body Weight?

The ways to maintain a healthy weight in children are:
- Ensure they drink more water and other fluids.
- Fruits and veggies are musts.
- Include dairy and whole-grain products in their diet.
- Make them exercise regularly to improve their appetite and maintain a healthy weight.


Does Nutrition Have an Effect on Growth?

Growth happens with the help of several factors, which include proper nutrition. In addition to growth, children’s brains also develop and function well through the nutrition provided. Especially vitamin D and calcium are essential in improving growth. Hence, improper growth in children is directly based on poor nutritional needs.


Can I Take Protein Powder to Increase My Weight?

Protein powder is mostly suggested when the diet is low in protein content. Therefore, consuming such protein powders helps in enhancing muscle mass and improving appetite and body weight. However, before taking them, it is vital to consult a specialist to know better about them.
Quadros Krystel Godfrey Lavina
Quadros Krystel Godfrey Lavina


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