Gaining Weight With High Calorie Foods

Child Nutrition Basics

Several nutrition labels
Reading nutrition labels can help you figure out how many calories your kids are getting each day. Imagesbybarbara / Getty Images

In general, parents usually want to avoid high-calorie foods, such as a milkshake with 1100 calories or a cheeseburger with 730 calories. Getting so many calories in a single meal almost ensures that your child will be overweight, especially if he does it on a regular basis.

Trying To Gain Weight

On the other hand, there are parents who struggle to get their kids to gain weight.

While some of these kids might be underweight, others are simply picky eaters and are small, but are truly growing normally.

Others have a poor appetite and aren't gaining weight well, like kids with ADHD who have some appetite suppression from their ADHD medicines. Not gaining weight well can also be a consequence of a chronic medical condition.

Many of these kids trying to gain weight might benefit from eating high calorie, nutrient dense foods, as long as they are healthy foods and not just high-calorie junk foods.

A registered dietician can help you plan these meals and help your child get more than enough calories to gain weight well.

High-Calorie Foods

It won't surprise most parents to see a lot of fast food items on this list of high-calorie foods. Other foods, like trail mix, potato salad, and dates, might be more of a surprise.

  • Condensed Milk (Sweetened)
  • Trail Mix (with chocolate chips, nuts, and seeds)
  • Fast Food - Hamburgers, Sandwiches, Tacos, etc.
  • Fast Food - French Fries
  • Dates
  • Fast Food - Milk Shake
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Cheese Sauce
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Pecan Pie
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Baked Beans with Franks
  • Potato Salad
  • Eggnog

Other items that can be high in calories include salad dressings and other toppings. Be sure to read the nutrition label of whatever foods you are buying for your family to try and find those that are high in calories.

Other high caloric foods that could encourage healthy weight gain might include sweet potatoes, avocado, raisins, nuts, nut and seed butter, eggs, hummus, cheese, whole milk, oils, butter, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, bread, pancakes, and waffles.

Boosting Calories

If your child is underweight and you are actually trying to give him high-calorie foods for safe weight gain, some things that might help include offering your child more snacks and things like:

  • use peanut butter as a dip for celery
  • offer hummus, bean dips, or guacamole made with fresh avocados
  • Nuts, Trail Mix, etc.
  • add Trail Mix to full-fat yogurt
  • add cheese to more foods and other 'extras,' like sour cream on baked potatoes, gravy on meats, butter on vegetables, mayonnaise on sandwiches, cream cheese on fruits, etc.
  • make a breading for more foods you prepare using bread crumbs
  • make a high-calorie smoothie with Nestle CARNATION Instant Nonfat Dry Milk, whole milk, bananas, orange juice, ice cream and some water
  • add 1/3 cup of Nestle Carnation Instant Nonfat Dry Milk to 1 cup of whole milk (adds 80 calories)
  • add a packet of Nestle Carnation Instant Breakfast Mix to 1 cup of whole milk (adds 130 calories)
  • add a few tablespoons of dry milk powder to mashed potatoes, soups, casseroles, and oatmeal, etc.
  • avoid empty calories during and before meals, such as a cup of juice

Most importantly, remember that even though you are trying to give your child extra calories, in this case, that doesn't mean giving your child a lot of junk food, such as candy, soda, or juice.


USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Energy (kcal) Content of Selected Foods per Common Measure, sorted by nutrient content.