How Many Calories a day to Gain Weight?

We spend so much time talking about childhood obesity, we often forget that there is a group of kids out there who need to gain weight. My kid is one of them. What if your child needs to add calories and gain weight? And what if they are not a huge fan of eating? Mine isn’t.

According to my college professors and the Mayo Clinic, an lb is 3500 calories. To determine weight loss or gain, please talk with your child’s doctor. They can give you an estimate of how many calories your child is burning per day. The simple math is this: If you can create a 500 calorie surplus each and every day, that’s a pound per week.

calories to gain weight

Reasons that can contribute to lack of weight gain:

  • medications
  • ARFID (in this case, please seek a physician’s advice!)
  • food preferences
  • texture preferences
  • feeding issues/mechanics
  • excessive activity during day (stimming/bouncing)
  • disease process/disability
  • picky eating that is not easily overcome
  • dental issues

Aren’t we lucky that we get to check almost all of these boxes?

Underweight Kids: See a doctor.

Keep in mind, I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on the internet. You should always talk with a professional doctor or nutritionist before beginning any changes in your child’s diet. You should also go with your gut, especially if your child is diagnosed with a disability. So often, moms hear “He’ll eat when he’s hungry!” and that may not be the case.

My son has been to feeding clinics, feeding therapy and 2 or 3 different dietitians. I’ve lost track. If he doesn’t gain some weight within the next few months, talk of a feeding tube will be on the agenda. He’s having no part of Ensure or those shakes. (update: He now has a g-tube and it was a great decision!)

With his team, I’ve come up with a list of foods that have 100 calories or more. I am trying to sneak these into him 5 times a day. This is in addition to the foods I can already get him to eat.

Food Servings that have 100 calories or more.

  • butter-102 calories per tablespoon
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 20 M&Ms
  • 1 medium banana
  • 2 Oreos
  • half an avocado (going to try guacamole on chips)
  • 5 Hershey kisses
  • 20 Wilbur buds (local chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons of real mayo
  • switch to whole milk (about 90 vs. 150 calories)
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 oz of most cheeses

Keep in mind, my son’s issues are his and his alone. Right now we are just trying to get him to eat, eat regularly and bulk up a bit. When we get there, we’ll work on nutrition.

What I have listed above is hardly the healthiest food on the planet, but we are going to be adding it to healthy things. I make homemade pasta sauce and homemade tomato soup (from tomatoes that I grow!). I bake our own bread and source most things locally.

While it may seem horrific to just slather butter on things, this is on top of a mostly healthy diet.

There are many healthy options too. We are limited by his lack of rotary chewing and refusal to drink smoothies. But an apple has 100 calories. So does 100 raspberries or 25 baby carrots. This can be done differently if you have different needs.

My son also eats a ton of carbs/starches, which will affect his diet. Like I said, please see your doctor and run this past them with your concerns.

How to Make a Child Gain Weight

Building on the list above, I just have to do 4 or 5 of those things each day.

  1. When making grilled cheese, add a T of butter or mayo to the inside. Don’t just butter the outside of the bread.
  2. He eats oatmeal and cream of wheat for breakfast. I can stir in a T of honey or heavy cream.
  3. Add a T of heavy cream into tomato soup, or most soups.
  4. Add an extra slice of cheese to his grilled cheese.
  5. When making macaroni and cheese, stir in a few extra ounces of cheese or use heavy cream instead of milk.
  6. Buy all whole milk cheeses.
  7. Make oatmeal and cream of wheat with whole milk instead of skim or water.
  8. Set alarms (Alexa!) to remind me to interrupt him for an extra snack. Give chocolate or Oreos.
  9. Switch to whole milk yogurt.
  10. He eats applesauce, I can stir in a T of honey. (I actually make my own applesauce with local apples that I pick myself. Yes, really.)
  11. Add slice of cheese or T of butter to scrambled eggs. Try to squeeze in one more egg for 75 extra calories!
  12. Get in the habit of “doubling” everything-add more syrup, honey, peanut butter to things he already eats.

I also would encourage you to talk to your child’s behaviorists about this. For example, I am giving chocolate as a treat, separately. I will not be giving it at the end of a meal for dessert. This could possibly encourage him to not eat any of the healthy items and hold out for the chocolate.

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