21 Healthy Weight Gaining Foods For Kids

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Children gain weight as they grow. Most children have a healthy weight while some fall short on it and/ or are genetically lean. Although weight and appearance are not the appropriate measures of a child’s overall health, children, too, have ideal weight requirements as per the international BMI regulations. These weight requirements are evaluated by plotting a child’s anthropometric measurements on percentile growth charts.

If your child’s BMI puts them in the underweight category, you may want to give them foods that help them gain healthy weight. In this post, MomJunction gives you a list of 21 best foods for kids to gain weight healthily.

Remember, never overfeed your child to gain weight as weight alone cannot be marked as an important factor determining growth and development in children. Overall activity levels of the kid and genetics too play a role in the weight gain.

What Should Be The Ideal Weight ForChildren?

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

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).

[ Read: Foods For A Child’s Growth ]

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, 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.

[ Read: High Protein Snacks For Kids ]

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

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

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.

[ Read: Iron-Rich Foods For Your Kids ]

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

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.

[ Read: Food Sources Of Proteins For Kids ]

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)

Make sure that the nutritious food you give your children is also delicious and visually appealing so that the mealtimes are cheerful for all. Bringing a change in their eating habits and lifestyle not only helps them gain healthy weight but goes a long way in building good eating habits.

In some cases, children may not gain enough weight in spite of eating healthy calories. You may consult a doctor to understand why.

What foods do you give your child to gain weight? Do share them in the comments section below.


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;
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


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