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.