Your child may need high calorie meals due to poor appetite, high energy and activity level, limited access to meals throughout the day or failure to thrive. MayoClinic.com provides a resourceful list of estimated calorie and nutrient needs based on factors such as age, gender and activity level. Failure to thrive--inadequate growth-- is an serious condition that should be diagnosed by the child's physician and may be the result of a medical condition.
Whole wheat or brown rice pasta has more fiber than white flour based pasta. Even high calorie foods should be nutrient dense when possible. One cup of cooked pasta provides approximately 200 calories. Adding lean ground meats, low fat sauces and healthy fat such as olive oil will boost the calories as needed. Examples include: spaghetti, reduced fat fettuccine Alfredo, vegetable linguine or rainbow rotini.
Recipes with Rice
Rice is also a calorie-dense food and many kids would love to eat it daily. One cup cooked white rice provides 205 calories. Ideally children will consume at least half of their grains from whole sources, so if you child enjoys brown rice, this would be an easy switch. Adding fats, such as sesame oil, to rice will boost the calories, while adding lean chicken and vegetables makes it a well-balanced meal. Healthy meal examples include terriyaki bowls, shrimp stir fry, chicken and rice soup and mock fried rice with steamed vegetables.
Nut Butter and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Nut butters and trans-fat free margarine are excellent calorie-dense foods that can be used to make healthy sandwiches. Many children enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which can easily contain 500 calories. Natural nut butters are free of trans fats and contain approximately 190 calories and 14 g of healthy fats for 2 tbsp. Children with allergies to nuts may enjoy soy-nut butter or tahini as an alternative. Grilled cheese sandwiches are a sure win for finicky eaters and margarine assists in creating a buttery flavor. Find a margarine on the market that does not contain partially-hydrogenated fat--also known as trans-fat--on the ingredient list. Cheese is an excellent source of calcium for growing bodies and part-skim mozzarella or other 2-percent fat cheeses are good choices.
Most children actually enjoy helping in the kitchen. If you have a little one who likes to cook, find some healthy dessert recipes to boost daily caloric intake. When baking, use healthy oils to boost calories such as olive or canola which contain approximately 480 calories per quarter cup. Muffins, cookies, sweet breads and ice cream recipes can be modified to be healthier. For example, reduced-sugar oatmeal raisin cookies or a healthier version of a milkshake using low fat milk and light ice-cream will please tiny tummies while maximizing nutrition.
While eating fresh fruit is important, dried fruits add calories and fiber without overstretching little tummies. Raisins provide 438 calories per cup. Raisins or other dried fruits can be added to recipes such as trail mix which also includes healthy sources of fats from nuts. For example, almonds contain protein and monounsaturated fats and supplies approximately 204 calories for 1/4 cup. Using semi-sweet chocolate chips rather than candy provides more antioxidants from the cocoa in the chocolate with less sugar.