The NHS tells us that about 1 in 5 children in reception are overweight or obese, rising to 1 in 3 in year 6. But what if your child’s weight places them in the underweight bracket?
First steps if you have been told that your child is underweight for their age, height and gender:
The dietitian-recommended measures to take if you need to focus on helping your child gain weight are to increase portion sizes of starchy foods and add more energy-dense foods to the menu. Some children will, admittedly, struggle with larger portion sizes, in which case reach for calorific ingredients. We’re thinking cheese, butter, nut butter, olive oil and avocado, for example. Extra cheese added to pasta, butter spread on their potatoes and peanut butter on their toast are easy diet upgrades to make. Busy brains are using around 20% of all the energy our children consume from their meals and snacks, which is another reason to reach for energy-rich options.
A family project?
Making the decision to tell your child that they are underweight and need eat more, and more energy-dense food, is of course a personal one. Perhaps you can increase portion sizes or load on calories without them noticing any difference. Alternatively, agreeing to change things up together can be fun and offer them the motivation they need to snack on those extra calories. You want them to be happy and healthy, so tell them so.
Swap in some energy
Some savvy breakfast swaps can help you sneak in an extra serving of calories, such as scrambled egg on toast to scrambled egg spread onto avocado topped toast, and plain porridge with blueberries to peanut butter porridge with sliced bananas. Olive oil is packed with healthy calories, so drizzle some on their side of salad leaves or experiment with olive oil in your cake baking.
If you don’t already use the following super snacks, now’s the time. Dollops of cream cheese on their rice cakes or canned refried beans and cheese on buttered pitta bread halves. Pour deliciously thick Greek yogurt on their mid-morning pancakes or mid-afternoon fruity muffins. And not forgetting nut butter – peanut butter, cashew and others – for dipping veg sticks and bagels into.
Parents can visit the NHS Live Well pages to find advice on weight for primary school-aged children, here – https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/underweight-children-6-12-advice-for-parents/