If your pediatrician recommends a few more pounds for your toddler, it can prove challenging given little one's typical picky eating habits. In weaker moments, you might resort to junk food. That's not a good idea, however. It's unhealthy, and remember, you're laying the foundation for your child's lifelong eating habits. It may take trial and error -- and creativity -- but focus on a high-calorie menu of healthy foods for your low-weight toddler.
1. Meal Plan
First, don't try to bulk your toddler up by force-feeding her gigantic meals. Toddler don't eat all that much in one sitting, nor should they. This just turns food into a generally unpleasant experience with negative associations, and makes it more difficult to get your child to eat when and what you want her to. Also, it sets the stage for poor eating habits with no regard for hunger cues in the long run. Instead, feed your toddler five or six small but relatively high-calorie meals -- some of which may be more like large, nutritious snacks -- over the course of the day.
2. Dairy Products
Include a dairy product at every meal and snack. They supply protein, calcium, vitamin D and more. Most are high-calorie, too. Opt for full-fat products over reduced fat or fat-free for the highest calorie content; typically, they taste richer, too, so your little one will be happier to eat or drink these full-fat dairy products. Offer hot cereals like oatmeal made with milk rather than water, and add yogurt, cheese and other dairy foods your toddler likes. Melt cheese over veggies, eggs and other appropriate foods. Put yogurt or cheese on sandwiches or whole grain crackers. Even the occasional pudding is a delicious snack that contains calories and some nutritional value. Add powdered milk to foods to raise a meal's caloric and nutritional content.
3. Unsaturated Fats
Include a source of unsaturated fats at every meal and snack. They offer many health benefits and are the most calorie-dense basic nutrient. Nut butters are a healthy, high-calorie choice. Most kids like peanut butter, but give almond butter, cashew butter or other nut butters a try, too. Spread them over whole grain breads or other baked goods, whole grain crackers or other suitable foods. This makes a great high-calorie snack or meal side. Add vegetable oil when cooking your toddler's meals, use a liberal helping of vegetable oil-based mayonnaise on tuna, turkey sandwiches and other foods.
4. Other Tactics
Fun food can make for a nutritious, high-calorie meal. For example, let your toddler have a smoothie for lunch. Load it up with fresh fruit and yogurt, and maybe even a spoonful of ice cream. See if your child will eat granola with milk for breakfast, or just a few handfuls of dry granola for a snack. Mix in some fresh berries your kid likes to sweeten it up. Whole-grain baked goods like muffins are fun, high-calorie foods, too, and a good opportunity to add fruit. One muffin can be more than enough for a nutritious, high-calorie meal for a toddler. Just remember to cut sticky or dense foods up into 1/2-inch, bite-sized pieces to help prevent choking.