Toddlers may need high-calorie foods as part of a daily diet to offset weight issues caused by failure to thrive, picky eating habits, or to regain weight after illness. Simple additions to everyday foods can significantly boost calorie content. Providing high calorie food choices can benefit healthy weight gain as part of a physician managed nutrition plan, while care should be taken to offer foods that do not pose an allergy or choking risk.
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Adding fat directly to food is an effective way to increase calories in meals and snacks. Spreads such as cream cheese, margarine, peanut butter, mayonnaise and marshmallow can be added to foods toddlers commonly eat, such as graham crackers or whole wheat toast. Half-and-half added to chocolate milk, mixed with instant breakfast powder, or combined with whole milk on cereal or oatmeal adds appropriate fat calories, as well.
Children transitioning from infancy to toddlerhood need essential fats and calories for growth and brain development. Toddlers needing additional calories benefit more from whole milk products than low-fat options. Whole milk, whole curd cottage cheese, string cheese, slice cheese and cheese dips provide nutritious calories. Adding shredded cheese to vegetables or whipping potatoes with whole milk and butter are options, as well. Alternately, sweetened condensed milk can be used as a substitute for whole milk in recipes or to mix with whole milk.
Dark meats, hot dogs, cold cuts and meats rich in fat, such as corned beef, provide higher calorie content than white meat. Additionally, breaded chicken strips, fish sticks, and meat options sliced into finger food, and are easy for toddlers to handle and eat. These can be dipped in mayonnaise or cheese sauce for an additional calorie boost.
Fruits and Vegetables
Dried fruit offers higher calories than fresh fruit; however a combination of both adds essential nutrition as well as calories. Papaya, mango and bananas are calorie-dense, while vegetables like avocados and pan-fried potatoes are good choices. Fruits and vegetables can be offered with dips and spreads to add calories, as well.
Snacks and Drinks
Kidshealth.org recommends staying away from snacks high in sugar while focusing on healthier alternatives, such as yogurt smoothies mixed with juice and fruit instead. Pudding, custard and ice cream provide high calories, while ready-made nutritional drinks high in protein and calories offer an appropriate snack option, as well. Fruit juice and fruit cocktails are good source of calories; however the Mayo Clinic suggests choosing 100 percent juice to ensure adequate nutrition.