Every baby/toddler goes through phases when they do not get enough calories in their usual diet. Learn how to encourage your baby/toddler to eat more calories, and which foods add extra calories.
Foods to increase calories
- Powdered milk. Add to soups, sauces or baked dishes.
- Milk, cream or half-and-half. Use in place of water in hot cereal, soup or mashed potatoes. Add to cream sauces with pasta or vegetables.
- Eggs or meat. Add to salads, vegetables, baked dishes or sandwiches.
- Cheese or whole milk yogurt. Melt on baked dishes or mix into omelets and sauces. Put yogurt on cereal, waffles or mix with fruit.
- Fruits and vegetables. Add fruit to yogurt or snacks. Serve vegetables with dip.
- Nut butter, beans or nuts (if your baby is not allergic). Add nuts or beans to soup or salad. Spread nut butter on crackers, sandwiches, fruit or vegetables.
- High-calorie toppings. This includes sour cream, butter, cream cheese, gravy or cream soups. Add to potatoes, hot cereals, rice, pasta or cooked vegetables.
Why does my baby/toddler need extra calories?
Eating extra calories helps with weight gain and proper growth and development. Some babies/toddlers are busy and do not take time to eat. Others are not hungry because of low appetite or if they are receiving certain medical treatments.
How can I help my baby/toddler eat extra calories?
Here are some tips on how to help your baby/toddler eat extra calories:
Create a positive environment
- Have meals around the same time and in the same place every day with family members.
- Focus on eating. Do not bring phones, iPads®, televisions or other distractions to the table.
- Keep mealtime relaxed and fun.
Encourage positive behavior
- Let your baby/toddler decide when they are hungry. Offer different types of foods. They can decide how much to eat. Try not to force your baby to eat.
- Praise good behaviors around eating.
- Set a good example for your baby/toddler. Try not to argue or punish. Children learn best from people around them. Model the behavior you want your baby/toddler to learn.
- If your baby/toddler does not want one type of food, offer a different choice.
Provide healthy choices
- Keep healthy snacks on hand. Do not offer foods or drinks with extra sugar or salt.
- Offer drinks in the middle or toward the end of meals. This can help prevent your baby/toddler from filling up on liquids. Do not give juice (even 100% fruit juice). Juice has extra calories and sugar your baby does not need.
A note about extra calories...
The care team has recommended that your baby/toddler needs extra calories for a specific reason. Eating too many calories regularly can lead to extra weight gain or obesity. Follow the care team’s recommendations for eating extra calories until it is no longer needed.
Rev. 9/2018. Reviewed by the MGHfC Family Advisory Council. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.