Food and Nutrition

How to Put Underweight Child On Healthy Kilos? Follow These Tips

Tanuja Sodhi
1 to 3 years

Created by Tanuja Sodhi
Updated on Jan 31, 2019

How to Put Underweight Child On Healthy Kilos Follow These Tips
Reviewed by Expert panel

While there is a buzz about the detriments of obesity amidst children, there are parents who find themselves on the other side of the scale. They are concerned about their child being underweight. This may lead to force-feeding the child at times. And does it do any good? Far from it! For the hapless child, mealtimes just turn into a battlefield.

‘If I don’t force-feed her then how will she put on weight? How will she look healthy?’, is a common concern among parents with an underweight child. You can relax about your child’s weight if she is an active child. She is probably blessed with a good metabolism and burns calories faster than others. Most underweight children put on some weight once their eating habits change or as they grow.

How Do I Know For Sure If My Child Is Underweight?

There’s only one sure shot way – a trip to the doctor. The pediatrician will check these factors-

  • Overall health, and whether your child has been sick recently
  • Eating habits
  • Are the parents very thin? There’s the genetic factor to be considered
  • Has your child recently had a growth spurt and grown taller? This can make him appear thin for a while

The BMI is then calculated, and if your child is below the fifth percentile, he is considered underweight

How Do I Help My Underweight Child Put On Healthy Kilos?

A couple of spoons are enough to get her started on a new food.

  • Explore calorie dense foods such as-
    • full-fat milk, fresh cream, paneer, cheese, milk shakes and yoghurt smoothies, cheese balls
    • peanut butter
    • eggs - scrambled egg with added milk or fresh malai
    • chicken
    • fish
    • stuffed parantha or boiled and mashed potato with melted cheese
    • full-fat milk based puddings like rice kheer, fruit custard, vermicelli kheer
    • gajar halwa
    • fruits like banana, mango, litchi, grapes
    • dried fruits, trail mix with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, honey, etc
  • Try feeding her good sources of protein to foster adequate growth, such as-
    • fish like sardines & salmon
    • soya milk, tofu
    • dried beans like kabuli chana/lobia/black chana/rajma/dried peas, dals and other lentils
    • vegetables like fresh beans, broccoli, spinach, okra, squash, watercress
    • peanut butter (note: try little portions initially to rule out allergy)
    • banana
    • orange juice fortified with calcium
    • Dried fruits like figs, raisins and prunes
  • Prepare meals that look interesting by being creative with its presentation. Some ideas for making food more attractive are-
    • Try cooking dishes in new ways. For instance: Instead of making palak aloo or dal palak every time, make spinach-cheese or corn-spinach casserole in continental style. You may add new flavors with the help of different dressings, seasonings, cheese or sauces
    • Add colors by adding an assortment of vegetables such as tomato, carrot, red/yellow/green capsicum, beetroot, etc. Bright colors have an instant appeal for children
    • Cut solid foods into different shapes with a cookie-cutter or corer. It adds to the appeal of the fruit/food and raises the interest level of the child
    • Make stories around food (e.g. Broccoli with cheese could be a tree covered with snow)
  • Offer six or seven smaller meals throughout the day instead of three big meals, especially during early years. Toddlers can be overwhelmed by big platefuls and may lose their appetite
  • Don’t allow unhealthy snacking between scheduled meals as junk food can kill appetite. Avoid giving juices and high sugar foods between meals. Remember that your child will be open to trying new foods especially when hungry
  • Don’t force-feed new foods as she will begin to hate them after a power struggle. Your child might come to associate mealtime with anxiety and frustration
  • Set a positive example. Role model by eating all the foods that you want your child to eat. Children are very likely to try foods that are being eaten and enjoyed by their parents and peers
  • Make dinner a family meal where your child experiences her full family enjoying all the foods served on the table and is encouraged to try new foods
  • Don’t panic and yell when your child doesn’t eat other foods. He may then associate mealtimes with stress. Be patient and give it time to resolve itself over time
  • Don’t give up. It takes repeated exposure to a new food before your child may even taste it
  • Don’t let him drink fluids just before and during his meals as even water can fill up a little belly, tricking your child into feeling full

In most cases, all it takes is patience before your child builds healthy meal time habits and eats well. Keep offering new foods, and encourage healthy snacking, and your little one will be back on track. Know some weight gain foods for your child.

We hope that these tips turn out to be useful for you. Feel free to share some of your own tips in the comment section below.

This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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| Dec 12, 2013

Thank you Tanuja for this important compilation. All parents should be aware of the tips you mentioned to cultivate good eating habits among children besides the other important points.

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| Dec 17, 2013

This is so good. Many parents obsess over their child's weight and most of us are ill informed. Thank you Ms. Sodhi for the comprehensive tips.

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| Dec 23, 2013

This is a good information.... can we try giving some medicines to increase appetite in underweight children ?

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| Dec 23, 2013

Thank you for this post. My daughter is underweight, though she ain't fussy but eats only small quantities of food. yes patience is required here, but at times I wish she would eat well and not give me a hard time. She is an active child and i would take into account all your suggestions.

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| Dec 23, 2013

Hi Ashwini, Child's pediatrician needs to take a call on this based on the child's current weight viz a viz her height.

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| Jan 28, 2014

thank u TANUJA JI for providing such valuable information

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| May 02, 2014

Thanks a lot. my son is underweight and he eats Very littlle .good information .

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| May 15, 2014

My son is 2 nd a half n he is only 13 kgs he eats very little n is a fussy eater n more over he is allergic to milk,egg,lays,coldrinks,prawn etc .what can i do for him to eat correctly.

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| May 16, 2014

Well written article... congrats tanuja for that. However, would just like to add that if the child is not growing/ gaining weight inspite of all your efforts to feed him and him/ her taking food appropriately, please do consult your doctor as there may be some underlying infections which may be responsible for poor appetite/ weight gain.

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| Dec 10, 2014

Thanks for sharing this information tanuja. My maid gives food to my kid that's very watery and literally shoves it down his throat by lying him on a jumper. So when I give him food sitting him upright, he shuts his mouth tight. What can I do about it?

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| Dec 10, 2014

he is just a year old boy.

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| Jan 29, 2015

Thanks tanuja..... my daughter is underweight am more concern about her health... she looks very small.... she is a celiac patient.... she is restricted to any type of wheat food so being a proper North Indian have to face lot of issues

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| Feb 18, 2015

Thanks for information

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| Feb 18, 2015

Nice n in formative

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| Feb 18, 2015

Very useful

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| Mar 28, 2015

hello tanuja maam.. this is just a clarification.... can even the red millet malt based drink bring the child into a proper size!??

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| Apr 12, 2015

Very uselful and can be tried out easily. Thanks.

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| Apr 12, 2015

My son is almost three and weighs only 11 kg. he s a very giod eater n full of energy n am giving everything thats mentioned above. Still he looks thin and everyone who sees him gives me tips on how to make him fat. He was premature and was just 1. 3 kgs wen born. No other concerns except that he s underweight. Any suggestions?

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| Apr 19, 2015

Thank you Tanuja for sharing this useful information.

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| Apr 29, 2015

Thanks a lot tanuja sodhi

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| Apr 30, 2015

My daughter is two n a half years n she hates food. I have to run after her every time. She eats slowly n keeps food in her mouth for longer time. What should I do???

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| May 01, 2015

Thanks for giving such an important information

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| May 02, 2015

Thanks tanuja. .... I liked your suggestions..... Thanks for the information

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| May 03, 2015

Thanks a lot

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| May 07, 2015

My daughter is 3 years old... She is very poor in eating. When we even talk of eating food, she says: "Amma I dont want food". Also my son who is just 10 months old, he started telling no to food even at this stage... Starts crying when food is fed to him and keeps the food in the mouth... not able to make him eat, even while showing all kinds of plays. Please suggest me some way out to relieve me from this...

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| May 07, 2015

Gayathri does your children have their own favourite foods? I faced similar issues with my child, what worked for me was to mix her favourite food from time to time, and making each meal an enjoyable family time chit chatting, talking to each other and having fun while eating. It's a clear no-no in my house to eat with the TV on.

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| May 07, 2015

Thanks for giving good suggestions it is very helpful.

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| May 14, 2015

Thanks for the suggestions... my 3yr old daughter is vry fussy in her diet n only drinks milk... tried lot of different cookin but nothing goes down well wid her.... doctors say she is healthy but still worried for her..

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| May 23, 2015

I have twins. baby boy and baby girl. they above two years old. my daughter mostly have the problem of constipation as she is very choosy about food and fruits. plz suggest. my son is too weak as he is even not able to sit at the age of two and half. need the advice of experts. plzzz

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| May 23, 2015

priyanka you could ask in the Nutrition section in Nutrition corner and the experts shall revert

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| May 29, 2015

Very good information. Thanks a lot

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| May 29, 2015

Very good information.. Mu son is 3 yrs old n he uses to take food in very small. Especially no to any kins of vegetables. We r not solid vegetarian family but not added nonveg in our daily meal. He used to eat roti with jam or ketchup. So i used to made vege roti for him. But i think its not enough nutrition suppliment for him. I tries almost all mentioned here but in vain.. i jusr crossed my fingers when he started eating vegies.

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| May 30, 2015

Thanks a ton!

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| May 30, 2015

These tips are really helpful

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| May 31, 2015

Thank you so much for such useful information.

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| Jun 04, 2015

Very helpful tips. thank u so much.

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| Jun 06, 2015

Very much informative n helpful. But my 2 year son doesn't like milk products. Moreover we are vegetarian .can't even give egg. pls suggest.

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| Jun 09, 2015

Thank you so my much. I am also worried for my child's weight... This seems helpful..

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| Jul 03, 2015

Good suggestions... will definitely try them

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| Jul 03, 2015

Hi tanuja... Ur suggestions were very valuable.. But my daughter is two years n is allergic to wheat eggs n rava.. If I feed her any of dis she poos three to four times a day... If I feed only rice based food with veggies she poos only one r times a day.. Wat to do... N other thing she doesn't chew food she only swallows it.. Food shld b very soft otherwise she vomits... Feeding her is really tough for me.. She suggest me an alternative...

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| Jul 03, 2015

Plz suggest me an alternative...

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| Jul 04, 2015

Hi tanuja, My daughter is almost 4yrs but weighing only 11. 5kg. she don't like any food. she used to keep food in her mouth for long time so it takes more time to feed her anything. have tried many foods which you have mentioned. please suggest me an alternative.

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| Jul 04, 2015

my daughter is 19 month older and her weight is 10 kg.. is this ok she is active and eat everything but dnt drink milk but eat milk products like cheese, cream, curd, paneer, and cereal.

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| Jul 05, 2015

Any kind of physical activity or sport can help the child eat better & grow well in terms of both height and weight in terms of bone and muscle mass and prevent weight gain secondary to excess fat intake with an intention to just increase weight

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| Jul 05, 2015

Thanx for sharing this valuable. tips... i think these information could be helpful for my chilid.

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| Jul 05, 2015

my daughter is one and doesnt eats anything properly n is thin.. but very active.. she doesnt look like a year old.. she doesnt like to eat anythg.. plz suggest

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| Jul 06, 2015

Thanks a lot, nutritional information....

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| Jul 06, 2015

Thanks a lot for sharing this post. My daughter is 7 yrs and under weight I cannot encourage her to have milk and milk products as she is allergic to it. Can u plz suggest me some other food items.

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| Jul 06, 2015

Thanks a lot for sharing this post. My daughter is 7 yrs and under weight I cannot encourage her to have milk and milk products as she is allergic to it. Can u plz suggest me some other food items.

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| Jul 06, 2015

When can I start giving egg to my daughter, she is nine months old.

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| Jul 07, 2015

Hi tanuja nice suggestions. my daughter is 4yrs 6 Mnths she weights 13,5kgs. my issue is she doesnt eat lots but quantity is less .but she is very active .ya she is allergic to cold .any fruits lik bannana or pommegranate she takes she catches cold. can u tell me anythin else which helps hef to be healthy

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| Jul 07, 2015

I am priya having two kids both are very lean and thin. Ist one is 6 and half year and 2nd one is 4 and half. Ist one is having synus and mild asthma complaint. So i am avoiding to give citrus fruits and cooling item . What sall i do for her to get a healthy life and to become fat.

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| Jul 07, 2015

Hiii. my son eats all these things but he cant attain weight

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| Jul 07, 2015

Hi my son is 3and half yrs is anaemic and has vitiligo can u pls suggest the best home methods or food to take care of this pls

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| Jul 08, 2015

Hi My daughter is active and take minimal food but show interest in food. she is 13 months old and feed only mother's milk. Problem has arisen that she has not put weight and height since six seven month. Should she is having some infection or.... what should I do?kindly guide me. she dosennt take food forcefully and vomate immediately

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| Jul 12, 2015

Hi my child is abt 10 mnths. his wt is just 7. 500kg bt he is very active nd energetic . Wht shud I do to increase his wt. Plz guide me nd help me hw to reduce his wt

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| Jul 22, 2015

Thanks for the information it's a great boost. Mine lo is 13 months and gets distracted most of the time during mean to play or simply refuses to eat. Her height is good but she has been on borderline for weight measure since birth. I have started solids as per pediatrician's advice since 4 months. She is Lil underweight. Please share some recipes names and exact food items that are good for gaining weight. Can I give bread, cheese like things to her. She is just 13 months.

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| Aug 03, 2015

Thanks for Sharing.. Very useful

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| Aug 03, 2015

Thanks for very informative blog

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| Aug 03, 2015

My son is 2years old n his weight is only 9. 5kg.. but he is taking his meal properly.. So what can I do for weight gain

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| Aug 03, 2015

My daughter is 2 year old, she didn't eat any vegetables, what I do for her to eat

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| Aug 03, 2015

My daughter is 18 months and weight is only 8 kg... she seems active .. but no strength.. she feel down often... doesn't eat properly and doesnt take fluids .. plss suggest me to increase her weight

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| Aug 03, 2015

Thanks a ton! Truly helpful...

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| Aug 05, 2015

Hi, my daughter is 2 years old and she is not eating properly she is only 9. 5 kgs n she is constipated, trying to give her lots of water but she doesnt drink. Please help

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| Aug 05, 2015

My daughter will be 6 this sep. N doesn't try any new food or creatively presented food even.... hv tried everything but she doesn't want to eat.... she weighs 20 ks only n is a tall baby ..so looks very thin. pls suggest something that adds muscle to her body .m really worried

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| Aug 06, 2015

Very nice and useful.

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| Aug 06, 2015

My daughter iz 1 yr 9 mnthz nd she dnt have her meal properly only one or two bite then she splits of the food frm her mouth for her I try many different types of fofood so tha she can have it properly I mean like dal khichidi nd etc . Bt she refuse to eat dat also nd there iz a not a single day when she had finished her whole food .

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| Aug 06, 2015

Please suggest me wat to do and and recently she was not feeling well nd she had severe fever and within two she felt very weakness she dnt had dat much capacity to walk properly . so please help me out she iz very weak nd even not having complete food .so wat can I do.

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| Aug 06, 2015

Thanks a lot

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| Aug 20, 2015

Thanks for the information Tanuja..

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| Sep 01, 2015

Very interesting and informative blog for parents with underweight kids. My daughter is underweight as well but yes she eats food and is very active.

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| Sep 14, 2015

Really very helpful!!! Thank you...

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| Sep 15, 2015

My daughter is 3years old n only 11kg .....not ready to take any meal except milk .....wat to do she doesn't want to eat anything....

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| Oct 03, 2015

Thank you so much.

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| Nov 16, 2015

Thank u so much

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| Nov 16, 2015