If you have a child that needs to gain weight, adding some healthy foods that are high in fat may be an effective way to accomplish this. Fat is more energy-dense than carbohydrate and protein: Fat has nine calories per gram, whereas carbohydrate and protein each have four calories per gram. However, many high-fat foods that children enjoy, such as fast-food items, baked goods and candy, are often high in less-healthy saturated and trans fats. Foods that are high in healthier unsaturated fats include avocado, peanut butter and other nuts, olive oil, and hummus. While full-fat dairy products are high in saturated fat, they also contain protein and calcium and can be added to the diet in moderation.
One-fifth of an avocado has 4 1/2 g of fat, and is vitamin-rich. In particular, avocados are high in the B vitamin folate, which is important in cell and tissue development. Magnesium and potassium are also abundant in avocados, and these nutrients aid in proper enzyme function and metabolism. Avocados can be mashed and used in place of mayonnaise on a sandwich, or they can be made into a guacamole. You can also slice avocados and add them to a salad.
Nuts and Nut Butters
A peanut butter sandwich is a classic lunch for a child, and all-natural peanut butter — along with other nut butters — is high in calories and unsaturated fat. Nuts and nut butters are also high in many vitamins, including the B vitamins and vitamin E. You can spread nut butters on bread, crackers or fruit and add whole nuts to yogurt or cereal. However, whole nuts may be a choking hazard in young children and some children may be allergic to nuts. If either of these applies to your child, nuts and their butters may not be the best option.
Hummus is a spread made up of chickpeas, olive oil, tahini paste and a mix of spices, and it is high in fiber as well as fat. You can spread hummus on a sandwich in place of mayonnaise. Hummus is also a good dip for crackers, chips and vegetables.
Olive oil is 100 percent fat and an easy addition to a wide variety of foods. In particular, it is high in the monounsaturated fat oleic acid, which is an important structural component of cell membranes. You can cook with olive oil or add it to homemade salad dressings or cooked vegetables. You can also dip bread in olive oil instead of spreading butter on it.
Full-Fat Dairy Products
Although full-fat dairy products are high in saturated fat, adding a moderate amount of saturated fat to an underweight child's diet will probably not be harmful. In fact, children under the age of 2 need substantial dietary fat for proper brain development, and full-fat dairy products also provide protein and calcium. Your child can drink a glass of whole milk with a meal or added to cereal. You can put cheese slices in your child's sandwich, and you can make milkshakes with ice cream and whole milk for a dessert.