What are the Best Foods to Feed a Toddler Who Is Underweight?

Feeding a toddler can be challenging. Toddlers are often picky about what they eat, making it difficult for him to get proper nutrition. When a toddler is underweight, or has slower than expected weight gain for his age, parents should watch his beverage intake and assess the type of food that he or she does eat. Sometimes, it is simply a matter of increasing the calories in the child's diet.

Trail mix on a table. (Image: nilsz/iStock/Getty Images)

Finger Foods

Using a fork or spoon may still be difficult for your toddler, so make it easier for him to eat by offering finger foods. He may be more likely to pick up a chicken nugget and take a bite than he is to use a fork to eat a piece of grilled chicken. Other good examples of finger foods are fish sticks, cheese sticks and cut-up fruit.

High-Calorie Foods

Make your child a grilled cheese sandwich with bread coated in butter before cooking. Or, give him peanut butter "dough" to play with and snack on. Mix equal amounts of peanut butter and powdered milk to play-dough like consistency. Mix his milk with half and half to increase the caloric content. Dried fruit contains more calories than fresh fruit, and you can mix the dried fruit with nuts and candies to create a trail mix. Carbohydrates contain more calories than fruits or vegetables, so offer bagels, whole grain breads or muffins topped with jelly or butter.

High-Fat Foods

Ask your pediatrician about giving your child whole milk instead of low-fat, and full-fat dairy products such as cheese or yogurt. Offer cream soups instead of chicken- or vegetable-based soups. Adding margarine, butter or vegetable oil to soups, oatmeal, meats, eggs or cooked vegetables can add as much as 45 calories and extra fat per teaspoon. Also try topping foods with mayonnaise, sour cream, cheese or cheese sauce, or gravy.

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