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Nutrition for Children With Low Muscle Tone

By Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D. ; Updated June 13, 2017

Lower muscle tone, also known as hypotonia, sometimes occurs in children. The cause of low muscle tone in kids varies widely, but it includes brain damage, muscle disorders and other genetic or chromosomal disorders, according to MedlinePlus. Some kids just naturally have lower muscle tone than others. Unless your child with low muscle tone also has a genetic disorder that requires a special diet, however, nutrition requirements are the same as kids with higher muscle tone.

Caloric Recommendations

Children with low muscle tone have similar caloric requirements as other children. But because they have less muscle mass, they may need slightly fewer calories than children with higher muscle tone, depending on their activity level. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggests boys ages 9 to 13 need about 1,800 to 2,600 calories daily, girls within the same age range require 1,600 to 2,000 calories, kids ages 4 to 8 need 1,200 to 1,800 calories and children ages 2 to 3 require 1,000 to 1,400 calories daily.

Fruits, Vegetables and Grains

Kids with low muscle tone should get plenty of fruits, veggies and grains every day. The publication "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010" suggests that kids eating 1,600 calories per day aim for 2 cups of vegetables, 1.5 cups of fruit and 5 ounces of grains each day. Choose whole grains when possible. One ounce from the grains group equals 1/2 cup of oatmeal, one slice of whole-grain bread, 1 cup of whole-grain breakfast cereal or 1/2 cup of quinoa, brown rice or whole-grain pasta.

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Protein and Dairy Foods

Because regular exercise is important for children with low muscle tone, getting plenty of protein -- including dairy foods -- is a must. Kids who eat 1,600 calories need 3 cups of dairy foods and 5 ounces from the protein foods group daily, notes the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010." Healthy, protein-rich foods include lean meats, eggs, poultry, legumes, soy products, nuts, seeds, low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.

Improving Muscle Tone

While it’s important to chat with your child’s pediatrician before encouraging a child with low muscle tone to become more physically active, exercise is often effective at increasing muscle mass and tone in these children. Boston Children’s Hospital suggests that regular physical therapy is often beneficial for kids with low muscle tone. The "2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans" recommends kids get at least one hour of physical activity daily -- this includes children with low muscle tone, unless a pediatrician suggests otherwise.

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