Because your child is still growing, her weight-gain program will be different than a plan for an adult. Children need to eat enough calories and a balance of nutrients to support their normal growth and development, plus a bit extra to add weight to their frame. Knowing how many calories your 11-year-old needs in order to gain weight is a good place to start. Every youngster is different, so talk to your child's pediatrician first to determine her calorie needs and weight-gain goals before making changes to her usual intake.
Calorie Needs for an 11-Year-Old
An 11-year-old needs anywhere from 1,600 to 2,200 calories a day to maintain weight, according to estimates from the 2015-to-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To help your child gain 1/2 to 1 pound a week, you need to add an extra 250 to 500 calories or more each day. For example, an 11-year-old girl who is moderately active -- which means she likes to ride her bike most days of the week -- needs 1,800 calories a day to maintain her weight and 2,050 to 2,300 calories to gain. A moderately active 11-year-old boy needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight, and 2,250 to 2,500 calories to gain. Children gain weight at different rates based on genetics, however, so if your child isn't picking up weight after a few weeks, another boost in calories may be warranted. Your pediatrician or a dietitian can help you monitor the child's progress.
Foods to Add Calories
Boost your child's calories with foods that pack a lot of calories into a small portion. Vegetable oil, for example, has 135 calories per tablespoon. Use it to cook meats and vegetables, toss it in salad greens and mix it with rice or pasta. With 27 calories per tablespoon, nonfat dried milk powder also makes a good calorie-booster and mixes well with oatmeal, yogurt, pudding, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, soup or any other moist food. Make "fortified milk" by adding the powder to liquid milk. Mix 1 cup of whole milk with 1/4 cup of nonfat dried milk to make a 250-calorie glass of fortified milk.
Importance of Balance for Children
Balanced nutrition is important for growing bodies, so offer your 11-year-old a variety of foods from all the food groups to ensure her vitamin and mineral needs are met, and use the calorie-boosters to get the calories. Also, try to include high-calorie options from each of the food groups such as milk and cheese, avocados and dried fruit, peas, corn and potatoes, whole-grain pancakes and waffles, peanut butter and eggs. Add kid-friendly, fun toppings, too, such as whipped cream on sliced peaches or a scoop of bean dip and a dollop of sour cream on pita bread triangles.
Soda, fast food and sweet treats are high in calories and OK for birthdays and special occasions. But these foods don't offer the nutrients your child needs for good health and shouldn't be the mainstay of her weight-gain diet.
Sample Weight-Gain Meal Plan
A healthy weight-gain meal plan for your 11-year-old should contain three meals and several snacks. For breakfast, a cup of oatmeal made with fortified milk and topped with 1/4 cup of raisins makes a healthy, high-calorie meal.
For lunch, make a turkey sandwich with 2 ounces of turkey on two slices of whole-wheat bread and a tablespoon of mayonnaise, and serve it with yogurt and a cup of 100-percent orange juice. Two ounces of cheese with five whole-grain crackers makes a good afternoon snack.
At dinner, toss a cup of whole-wheat rotini pasta with 3 ounces of cubed chicken, a cup of mixed veggies, 1/2 cup of tomato sauce and a tablespoon of olive oil; serve it with a cup of fortified milk. Make a healthy high-calorie dessert smoothie for a bedtime snack, blending 1/2 cup of fortified milk, 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and half a banana. This sample meal plan has 2,595 calories.
While you may be concerned about your child's calorie intake, focus on making sure he eats healthy foods, and work on sneaking the extra calories in.
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 - 2020: Appendix 2
- Penn State Hershey's Children's Hospital: High Calorie/High Protein Diet
- McKinley Health Center: Gaining Weight the Healthy Way
- University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture: The Exchange List System for Diabetic Meal Planning
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Food Nutrient Database: Milk, Dry, Nonfat, With Added Vitamin A and D