21 Healthy Weight Gaining Foods For Kids

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Underweight children may suffer from different health issues. That is why it is important to include some weight gain foods for kids in their diet. You may know about the ideal weight your child should have by following the international BMI regulations. The calculation is performed by evaluating the child’s anthropometric measurements on percentile growth charts. This post will help you provide the right nutrition to your children through some of the best foods. These will help them gain a healthy weight at a stable rate. Although most gradually gain the right weight as they grow, some may not achieve that. Weight gain can be influenced by other factors such as genetics, regular activities, or any other underlying issue. Hence, it is important to remember that food may not always be the solution or the problem so that you do not end up overfeeding your child.

What Should Be The Ideal Weight For Children?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ideal weight of children can be measured by their BMI-for-age percentile growth charts (1).

BMI percentileWeight status
Less than 5Underweight
5 to 85Normal weight
85 to 95Overweight
95 and aboveObese

While children should be given healthy foods for their overall growth and development, weight gaining foods are specifically for those who are underweight and need to gain healthy weight. The choice of foods in such cases thus gets tricky and hence it is always advisable to consult a pediatric nutritionist to plan a holistic diet aiming at weight gain.

21 Healthy Weight Gaining Foods For Children

Weight gaining foods for kids should be wholesome as well as mouth-watering. Whether it is an energy bar, a smoothie, or a whole meal, your children will enjoy it only if it appeals to them. Here, we list down some of the healthiest foods for weight gain in children.

1. Eggs

Eggs, a healthy food for children

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Wholesome and rich in protein, eggs can help in regulating your child’s weight. An egg helps in building the growth muscles and tissues of the body. Eggs should be boiled well and introduced in small quantities to young children. Packed with many nutrients such as phosphorus, protein, zinc, and calcium, eggs are a superfood for children (2).

Nutritional value per egg (3):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

2. Chicken

Chicken is a high-calorie and high-protein food for kids. It is also rich in phosphorus, an essential mineral that supports your teeth and bones, benefits the kidney, liver, and the functioning of the entire central nervous system.

Nutritional value per 100g of chicken (4):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

3. Salmon

Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, selenium, and choline that support brain function, cognitive function, and neurological health in young children. Therefore, cooking a healthy and delicious salmon dish for your little one, sometimes, can be a good idea.

Nutritional value per100g of salmon (5):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

4. Tofu

Tofu is a popular weight gain food for kids

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Tofu, a soy product,contains protein and essential amino acids, plant-based iron, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, and selenium. It is a nutrient-dense food item with high protein and healthy fats, both ideal for proper growth in children.

Nutritional value per 100g of tofu (6):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

5. Jaggery

Jaggery is a form of non-refined sugar. Prepared from sugarcane juice and date palm, jaggery is better than refined sugar. It contains essential minerals including iron, which it gathers during the preparation process that involves the use of iron vessels. To provide extra calories to your child’s diet, add organic jaggery to their favorite delicacies. However, do not overuse it as it can have similar side effects as sugar.

Nutritional value per 100g of jaggery (7):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

6. Honey

An alternative to sugar, honey is composed of 17% water and 82% carbohydrates, which promotes healthy weight gain. The natural sweetener has a low content of fat. You may add a spoonful on toast, sandwiches, or pancakes while making sure that the total sugar/ sweet intake is within the recommended limits.

Nutritional value per 100g of honey (8):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

7. Milk

Milk is a good source of protein. If your child is not lactose intolerant, then one glass of milk every day can help in maintaining a healthy diet (9). Milk contains fats, calcium, and essential vitamins which help in building strong bones.

Nutritional value per 100g of milk (10):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

8. Yogurt

Yogurt can be a healthy weight gain food for children

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Most children love yogurt. It can be mixed with something or eaten as it is. Calcium and potassium present in yogurt help in improving children’s bone health. In addition, yogurt is also a source of gut-friendly bacteria referred to as “probiotics” which help in proper digestion and absorption thus impacting the overall growth and development of the child.

Nutritional value per 100g of low-fat yogurt (11):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

9. Dry fruits and nuts

Perfect for snacking or used as toppings on ice creams and smoothies, dry fruits and nuts have a wide variety such as almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts, apricots, and more. Apart from being rich in iron, vitamins, and magnesium, dry fruits and nuts also provide proteins and healthy fats which are important for healthy weight gain.

Nutritional value per 100g of mixed nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and Brazil nuts) (12):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

10. Pancakes

Pancakes can be served as yummy snacks or breakfast for children. The ingredients of a pancake make it a high-calorie food.

Nutritional value per 100g of pancakes (13):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

11. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is gluten-free. The whole grain contains carbohydrates, proteins, and starch that make it a good choice for your child. Additionally, its high dietary fiber helps in digestion.

Nutritional value per 100g of fortified oatmeal (14):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

12. Beans and lentils

Protein-rich beans and lentils

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Beans and lentils are rich in protein. On average, every 100 grams of it contain nearly 300 calories. Beans are also an excellent source of soluble fiber, which regulates blood sugar and cures irritable mood swings. If your child is a fussy eater, then try feeding them beans cooked in their favorite style.

Nutritional value per 100g of beans and lentils: (15) (16):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)
Beans (15)3471.221.4
Lentils (16)1160.49

13. Olive oil

Use olive oil as a salad dressing or to sauté any food item. This oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and a wide array of vitamins. You may try the extra virgin olive oil.

Nutritional value per tablespoon of olive oil (17):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

14. Banana

Bananas are packed with nutrients that help in easy digestion. They are high in fiber, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B6, which make them one of the best high-calorie foods for kids. The fruit is thus ideal for weight gain.

Nutritional value per medium-sized banana (18):

Energy (Kcal)Potassium (grams)Protein (grams)

15. Avocado

They are high in vitamins C, E, K, and B6, potassium, fat, fiber, Avocados also provide lutein, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial in improving the overall health of the body.

You can blend them into a smoothie or a dip to serve them with fried beans.

Nutritional value per avocado (19):

Energy (Kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)

16. Hummus

Protein-rich hummus for healthy weight gain in children

Image: iStock

Hummus contains essential nutrients and healthy fats. The main ingredient that goes into making hummus is chickpeas, which is a source of vital minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium that are beneficial in fighting anemia. It also has a good amount of protein which is important for healthy weight gain.

Nutritional value per 2tbsp (20):

KilocaloriesFat (grams)Iron(mg)

17. Corn

Corn is rich in carotenoids that promote eye health. It is primarily composed of carbohydrates.

Nutritional value per 100g of corn (21):

Energy (Kcal)Protein (grams)Carbohydrates (grams)

18. Fruit smoothie

Fruits come in rainbow colors and should be given to children for good health. But do they enjoy eating them as much? They may sometimes become fussy eating whole fruits.

But add a little milk and turn it into a delicious, colorful smoothie, they are sure to love it. Fruit smoothies contain vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and fiber and must be included in the everyday diet.

Nutritional value per 100g of store-bought smoothie (22):

Energy (Kcal)Protein (grams)Carbohydrates (grams)

19. Sweet potato and potatoes

Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, vitamins B and C, and minerals such as iron, calcium, and selenium. They are high in antioxidants and improve the absorption of beta-carotene for the body. Sweet potato chips or fries are one of the easiest snacks to prepare.

Potatoes contain fiber and essential vitamins such as A and C. They are also rich in carbohydrates, which promote healthy weight gain. (23) (24)

Nutritional value per 100g of potatoes:

Energy (Kcal)Protein (grams)Carbohydrates (grams)
Sweet potatoes(23)861.620

20. Other fruits

Children enjoy eating yummy, crunchy, and juicy fruits. The fruits strengthen a child’s immune system and help fight against illnesses. Fruits aid in a child’s healthy growth and development as they are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and loaded with other nutrients.

Nutritional value per 100g of fruits (salad) (25):

Energy (Kcal)Carbohydrates (grams)Protein (grams)

21. Other vegetables

Children may find veggies boring but they love them if they are tasty and crunchy. If your child is fussy about eating veggies, the best time to give them a plate of vegetables is when they are very hungry. Vegetables contain essential nutrients that play a crucial role in improving the child’s health and aiding their overall development  (26).

Nutritional value per 100g of vegetables (27):

Energy (Kcal)Protein (grams)Carbohydrates (grams)

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I make my child gain weight fast?

The key to making your child gain weight fast is incorporating ingredients rich in protein and fat into their diet. You could include protein sources on a plain sandwich or add cheese to their omelet. Similarly, add whole milk, pasteurized cheese, whipped cream, and other milk products to suitable dishes. Serve them nuts and seeds as snacks. Try to increase their meal frequency without inconveniencing them (28).

2. Do children gain weight before they grow in height?

Children might appear to gain weight before their height spurts since the excess fat stored in the body contributes to height growth (29).

Children require a wholesome, balanced diet for proper growth and development. Include healthy food options for kids such as eggs, chicken, milk, yogurt, tofu for proteins, honey or jaggery for carbohydrates, and nuts and seeds for healthy fats. Try presenting the food in a visually appealing form to get your child excited. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and dishes such as pancakes, smoothies, etc., to make them interesting for kids. And remember that even if your child is underweight, overfeeding is not an option. If good eating habits and lifestyles are not causing healthy weight gain, feel free to consult a pediatrician.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. About Child & Teen BMI; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2. 9 Health Benefits of Eating Eggs for Breakfast; University Of Southern California
3. Egg, whole, cooked, hard-boiled; USDA
4. Chicken, boiled, feet; Nutritionvalue.org
5. Fish, salmon, Atlantic, farmed, raw; USDA
6. Tofu, raw, regular, prepared with calcium sulfate; USDA
7. Nath A, Dutta D, Pawan Kumar and Singh JP; Review on Recent Advances in Value Addition of Jaggery based Products; Journal of Food J Processing & Technology (2015)
8. Honey; USDA
9. Nutritional Value of Milk
10. Milk, whole, 3.25% milkfat, with added vitamin D; USDA
11. Yogurt, Greek, plain, nonfat (Includes foods for USDA’s Food Distribution Program); USDA
12. Nuts, mixed nuts, oil roasted, with peanuts, with salt added; USDA
13. Pancakes, plain, prepared from recipe; USDA
14. Cereals, oats, instant, fortified, plain, prepared with water (boiling water added or microwaved); USDA
15. Beans, pinto, mature seeds, raw (Includes foods for USDA’s Food Distribution Program); USDA
16. Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt; USDA
17. Oil, olive, salad or cooking; USDA
18. Bananas, raw; USDA
19. Avocados, raw, all commercial varieties; USDA
20. Hummus; USDA
21. Corn, sweet, white, raw; USDA
22. Beverages, V8 SPLASH Smoothies, Strawberry Banana; USDA
23. Sweet potato, raw, unprepared (Includes foods for USDA’s Food Distribution Program); USDA
24. Potatoes, flesh and skin, raw; USDA
25. Fruit salad, fresh or raw, (including citrus fruits), no dressing; USDA
26. Children’s diet – fruit and vegetables; Better Health
27. Vegetables, mixed, frozen, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt; USDA
28. How to help your child gain weight; St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
29. Weight changes in kids: Knowing when to act, what to say; Children’s Wisconsin
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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different...
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