Food Choices

Choosing high-calorie food options will help your child gain weight, but it is equally important to choose foods with real food value, instead of chips, sodas, desserts, and other “junk” foods. 
Here are some suggestions for foods that are high in both calories and nutrients:

  • Fried meats such as chicken nuggets and chicken tenders
  • Salisbury steak, pizza, and cheeseburgers
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Greek yogurt, whole milk, pudding, and full-fat cheeses
  • Mashed potatoes with gravy, French fries, and hash browns
  • Peanut butter sandwiches, nuts and dried fruit
  • Pasta with alfredo sauce
  • Vegetables with cheese sauce or ranch dip
  • 100% Fruit juice (Limit to one cup a day so that the juice doesn’t interfere with eating other foods.)
  • Fruit with peanut butter or another dip
  • Liberal use of gravies, cheese, cream, butter, mayonnaise, and full-fat products

Eating Environment

Creating the right mealtime environment can help your child take in more calories & nutrients.

  • Mealtime routines should be consistent, and there should be enough time between meals so your child gets hungry again. Grazing and drinking beverages throughout the day may keep your child from being hungry when it’s time to eat.
  • Mealtimes should be free from distractions such as TV, loud music or cell phones. Create a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere at the family table.  Young children like to imitate parents and older siblings, so parents should set a good example.
  • Children are sometimes slow eaters; they should be given plenty of time to eat as much as they want (at least 30 minutes).
  • Picky eaters should be encouraged to try new foods, but not forced. Children who are underweight should always be offered foods they enjoy.
  • Sometimes having large portions on the plate can seem overwhelming. Try offering smaller portions with unlimited seconds.  Making the food visually appealing may also help children want to eat—focus on bright colors or arranging the food in a pattern or funny face.



  • Fruits and veggies like blueberries, strawberries, bananas and baby carrots are kid-friendly, convenient, low-calorie and nutritious.
  • Offer drinks like water or low-fat milk more often, and drinks like Kool-aid, soda and juice less often.
  • Choose tomato-based pasta sauce over alfredo sauce.
  • If your kids don’t like whole grains, try making a sandwich with one side whole wheat and the other side white. They can bite it with the white side on their tongues.
  • There is no such thing as a “bad” food, only foods to be eaten less often, or on special occasions.
  • Kids watch what you do, and they like to imitate. Set a good example by eating healthy, balanced meals, trying new foods, and creating a pleasant mealtime environment.
  • Children are more interested in eating what they helped prepare. Let them help you in the kitchen to the level they are developmentally ready.


Moving our bodies is important for brain and bone development. Look for ways to make exercise fun for you and your child.

  • Put on some music and dance together
  • Play Simon says
  • Run or play ball outside
  • Do pushups or jumping jacks during television commercials
  • Walk or ride bikes after dinner
  • Let your child help you with household chores or outdoor work such as raking leaves


Resting is an extremely important component in a child’s healthy development.  Children and adults who don’t get enough sleep tend to overeat, make poor food choices, and be less active.

  • If your child is not getting enough sleep, start by setting a bedtime which is 15 minutes earlier than usual. Move bedtime earlier by 15 minute increments each week until he or she is getting enough rest.
  • If your child struggles to get to sleep, create a soothing bedtime ritual such as a bedtime story or bath to help them know it’s almost time for sleep.