Adding Calories to Your Toddler's Diet

Category Nutrition
Toddler's can be very inconsistent and picky eaters. If your doctor recommends increasing their caloric intake you may need to get creative. This is a page about adding calories to your toddler's diet.


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I need to boost the calorie intake of my toddler (per the pediatrician request). To me, she's just a typical toddler in the way she eats; not exceptionally picky, just toddler picky. She doesn't like cheese but I can get her to eat more with a dose of ketchup or peanut butter on stuff.

We're going to the nutritionist soon and I don't want to be told to just load her up on pediasure (I have a BIG problem with pushing calories on a child in the form of sweet stuff). She'll be 2 next week and is about the size and weight of a big one year old.

Any advice?



September 21, 20150 found this helpful

My Grandson is 2 & is small. Very picky but likes milk. We use Carnation Instant Breakfast (cheaper than Ensure etc & has no funky taste) to fortify his milk & add the calories & extra protein.


He eats very little meat so the protein is a boost.

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April 6, 2011

I need to boost the calorie intake of my toddler (per the pediatrician request). To me, she's just a typical toddler in the way she eats; not exceptionally picky, just toddler picky. She doesn't like cheese but I can get her to eat more with a dose of ketchup or peanut butter on stuff.

We're going to the nutritionist soon and I don't want to be told to just load her up on pediasure (I have a big problem with pushing calories on a child in the form of sweet stuff). She'll be 2 next week and is about the size and weight of a big one year old.


Any advice? Nancy


More Calories For A Toddler

If you make your meals from scratch, be sure to use full-fat everything: whole milk, real butter, etc. That way your little one can get as many calories as possible from the foods she already eats, until she catches up with others her age.

Also, smoothies are quite kid-friendly, easily done in a blender using full-fat plain yogurt with sweet fruits like strawberries and bananas that have been frozen. You're right--pushing sweets with empty calories is not the best way, but Pediasure does have the advantage of being both calorie- and nutrient-rich. Even the addition of 1/2 a can a day can be helpful. Hope this helps. (03/07/2005)


More Calories For A Toddler

The meals from scratch is a great way to get more calories in, just watch out for yourself. She might like the smoothie idea, and they offer several choices of already made yogurt drinks in the dairy section. I also used to make little ritz sandwiches for the kids to snack on with peanut butter.


We tried peanut butter on apple slices and the kids loved that too. My kids also loved hard boiled eggs at that stage and still do. Another food that we used were the protein and nutrition bars and the granola bars. They are healthy snacks that are sweet, but nutritious also and usually loaded with calories.

By Cindy F.

More Calories For A Toddler

It's not just the "empty calories" of sweet things that I object to, it's sweet even if it is calorie/nutrient dense. I think when you give kids sweet stuff, be it nutritious or not, they start to develop a taste for only sweet things & shun other alternatives. I could give her whole milk with ovaltine or carnation instant breakfast mix in it every day and she'd be fine with that. She'd also never drink plain milk again.


I try to limit chocolate milk to no more than once every day or two so she won't lose her taste for regular milk.

I also only give yogurt as a dessert after she eats her other food. I give peanut butter as a "main course" but that's about it in the way of sweet stuff for meals. All other sweets (good for her or just for fun) are offered after she's eaten her meal.

By Nancy

More Calories For A Toddler

Yogurt is a good choice. I like the YoBaby Yogurt. It's made with whole milk. (03/08/2005)

By Sugar

More Calories For A Toddler

Nancy, My toddler was also a VERY picky eater. I just gave her the same meals as the rest of the family, the only concession being, making her plate full of food look like a clown, eg, scoop of mashed potato for a nose, grated cheese and carrots for hair. I also used a very small dinner plate. You are obviously a very good mother doing a very good job. Take heart in the fact that your daughter will grow into a picture of health. Good on you. God Bless.


Ang (03/08/2005)

By ang

More Calories For A Toddler

Add powdered milk to lots of things-make her smoothies with milk, fruit and extra milk powder. Use milk powder in meat loaf, make breads or snack breads like banana bread with milk instead of water, . There is non-fat and low fat powdered milk-get the highest calorie kind. Learn to read labels. Even soups can be made with milk instead of water-think tomato vs. cream of tomato. Flour tortillas are good for wrap sandwiches and they are usually pretty high in calories. Take one, butter it, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and toast in oven or on a griddle until crispy. Or spread with peanut butter. (03/08/2005)

By Linda

More Calories For A Toddler

Maybe she's just petite? Is she healthy otherwise? I was a very tiny as a toddler and that is certainly no longer the case. Short but not (03/08/2005)

By SL Edens

More Calories For A Toddler

You can make her peanut butter cookie balls. Just mix peanut butter with dry milk, raisins, wheat germ, ground flax seeds, dry cereal, coconut or grated carrots and maybe a little concentrated fruit juice and roll into balls and chill. (03/10/2005)

By Linda

More Calories For A Toddler

I have a toddler who is also underweight. He likes chocolate milk, so I mix Carnation Breakfast Drink in with his milk. He gets more calories and vitamins this way. (03/10/2005)

By Marsha

More Calories For A Toddler

As a small child myself when I was that age, my mom actually didn't do what the doctor said (Adding more cals) because of how our society is,much past 6 we learn to eat because its fun or sociable, not out of true hunger(which is the ONLY reason we should eat anyhow) let her body be her guide.

If she is hungry, offer fresh, healthy foods. Fresh milk, fruits and veggies, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. I wouldn't try and force her to eat any more than she really wants. With our society full of rising obesity, our children might be headed for the same path if don't teach them that food is for nourishment, not emotional comfort. Best of luck with you little one!

morgan (03/11/2005)

By Morgan Kneib

More Calories For A Toddler

Thanks for all the responses. Just for a bit of more info, I'm 5' 7" and my husband is 6' 5" although I do have a short sister. My middle child is tiny as well although not as small as the youngest and my oldest child is not small or large, pretty much in the middle of all graphs. I've started adding ketchup on eggs (bleh) which she likes and I've tried carnation instant breakfast but I hate doing it.

If she was sick all the time or not meeting her developmental milestones maybe I'd feel like I need to gear up her eating but she's only been sick once in the last year & she's meeting her milestones fine, even ahead of when my other two did.

I guess I'm just really stressed about the upcoming nutritionist visit. I had to take my middle child once and was told to load her up on sweet things full of protein & fat. I don't want to set her up for a lifetime of eating problems by over stressing food now. I think I'll probably just ignore the nutritionist but I'm sure going hate listening to him/her criticize the way I take care of my child. She's a perfect, happy, little girl and I'm ok with that. (03/14/2005)

By Nancy

More Calories For A Toddler

Just wondering how active your daughter is, how much sleep does she get? Does she nap during the day? Longer sleep times would help. Sounds like you have all the nutritional aspects covered. [I was going to suggest whole milk, it's full of protein, calcium, & fat and it will put weight on faster than anything]. As everyone knows, eat & sleep, eat & sleep will put weight on us very quickly. Maybe she could just use more sleep.
I'd hate to see her put on high fat foods now to bring up her size & have her develop a taste for it.Then later, if she starts growing into a weight problem of too much, it would be hard for her to change her taste and the high fat would cause health problems. Better to keep her on lowfat to begin with I'd think. You seem to be an excellent Mother, don't worry about what the nutritionist or anyone else has to say about your parenting skills. As long as she's healthy, enjoy her tinyness. Children go through dramatic growth spurts all their lives.
Most children get long lanky, & tall; then pudgy; then long lanky & tall; then pudgy again; till they became adults. [What we call 'up & out/up& out']. Good Luck! :) (03/14/2005)

By Darween

More Calories For A Toddler

She's a very good sleeper. Almost always goes right to sleep, doesn't fuss about going to bed, etc. Bedtime is suppose to be 8:30 but sometimes that gets pushed to 9:30 but she sleeps until around 8:30 or 9:30 in the morning. Naptime revolves around "meeting the bus time" which is a pain but that will change soon as we're moving to a school district w/ house-to-house bus service. Even though she doesn't get to go down for a nap until 3:00, she'll sleep for anywhere from 1-2 hours. I usually wake her up at 5:00 if she's still sleeping (not too often) so she'll be sleepy at bedtime. So I guess she gets between 11-14 hours sleep a day, most days are closer to 14 hours. (03/18/2005)

By Nancy

More Calories For A Toddler

To the person who suggested low-fat. Toddlers need full fat foods. Its crucial that they get a large amount of fat in their diet in the 1st 2 years. An underweight toddler needs it even more. Fat is not the enemy. It is a required part of a healthy diet.
nina (04/24/2005)

By nina

More Calories For A Toddler

The high fat advice may be so for some children, as they are all different. But our pediatrician took our daughter off whole milk and put her on skim milk when she was a year & half because she was so pudgy, she could barely get around. Switching her to low fat milk helped tremendously. Children need protein, not high fat.
I just lost my beautiful 36 yr old sister to pancreatic cancer, caused from obesity ever since she was a baby. (04/28/2005)

By Darween

More Calories For A Toddler

Dear Nancy & others with this concern,

Following is an editorial article from our weekly newspaper. As soon as I read it I thought of you.
At the end of the article is an 800# you can call.

Typically, between ages two and 12 years, children should grow at least 2 inches per year. A lack of healthy growth could be due to a variety of conditions including anemia, hypothyroidism, or kidney problems. Poor growth is also common in a condition known as "Small for Gestational Age" or SGA.

More than four million babies are born each year in the United States and an estimated 100,000 are born SGA.

A baby is SGA when his or her birth length, weight or both is in the bottom third percentile for babies of the same gestational age.

The majority of the children born SGA catch up in size by two years, but about 10 percent remain small. Nearly all the children who fail to catch up by year two will remain substantially short as adults.

Being born SGA is a complex health issue that has been associated with growth disturbance, lowered intelligence, poor academic performance, low social competence and behavioral problems in childhood.

Moreover, SGA has been associated with health complications in adulthood, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. More studies are being conducted to further understand these health concerns.

Identifying SGA

Parents and pediatricians should discuss and track a child's growth progress on a growth chart. It is important for children who fail to grow two inches in a year to be evaluated by a pediatric endocrinologist.

Pediatric Endocrinologists specialize in helping children with growth and endocrine gland problems, such as diabetes, SGA or growth hormone deficiency. Early diagnosis of poor growth can improve a childs' chance of reaching his or her growth potential.

For more information on SGA and growth call 1-866-244-1284.

By Darween

More Calories For A Toddler

We have the exact same issue with our almost 2 year old. She's incredibly active, even for a toddler, eats like a horse and is still on the bottom of the charts for weight. But she is still very healthy, her weights and lengths are growing steadily and we've been told not to worry as long as she's growing consistently. Her doctor also mentioned adding more "natural" fats from butter, whole milk, full fat yogurt, olive oil, etc.

Basically, a healthy normal diet is all she'll need to grow. Also too much water or juice can "wash" away nutrients, so we watch that as well and she's not allowed to wander around with a sippy cup anymore. We also know that my hubby and I were small kids and I never could gain weight until I was pregnant so genetics plays a large roll. I worry all the time about my skinny girl, especially when people comment all the time about how tiny she is, but I know we're doing alright! (01/09/2006)

By Rebekah

More Calories For A Toddler

I use avocado, melted cheese sauce on veggies, add an egg or tuna to macaroni, add butter to pasta with Parmesan cheese. Anything to boost and give some extra calories without super loading on sugars.

More Calories For A Toddler

My 2 yr old is only 21 pounds and is a VERY VERY picky eater. She doesn't like eating the same stuff on 2 consecutive meals, so its hard to figure out what she likes. She doesn't like milk and hardly drinks any. She used to eat yogurt and cheese but not anymore so the docs have prescribed some calcium and multivitamin syrups for her.

She was 90% for weight when she was 4 months and then from 6 months there wasn't too much of a weight gain. So yes, sometimes I feel like a bad mother, but I get comfort knowing that she's intelligent and healthy. All we can do as mothers is to offer healthy foods. And yes, fat is important. (09/17/2006)

By Mom

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My 20 month old daughter only weighs 20lbs. She has been put on an appetite stimulant called cyproheptad. Not working too well. I use Polycose in a lot of her food. (11/06/2007)

By aubrey'smom

More Calories For A Toddler

My daughter is 20 months and she weighs just under 20 pounds and we have tried peanut butter, cheese, pediasure she just doesn't want to eat or drink sweet things. She will go about two days not eating anything and then 1 day she will eat more..but you can see her ribs and her shoulder blades through her back and it makes me nervous, so we are going to try to put some formula in her milk and see if she will drink that again. I just feel like we are going backwards because she will eat baby food and baby items, but not big people food. I just want her to be healthy. (03/12/2008)

By Deana

More Calories For A Toddler

Make her oatmeal cookies, with less sugar in them. Even if you have to sprinkle pretty colored sugar on top. You can
add: cream of wheat (dried) and instant potatoes (also dry) to these to make them more fortified.

Sincerely, Carol (03/12/2008)

By Carol Stover

More Calories For A Toddler

I'm having the same problem, but my son doesn't eat peanut butter. Put oil/ butter on everything and try pediasure. good luck. Also, I heard that the growth/ weight charts were changed in the early 2000's because of obese toddlers and the gov't wanted them to seem "normal". You're child probably is fine! Is she happy? (03/20/2008)

By Jennifer

More Calories For A Toddler

My child is 2 and 1/2 and weighs 19lb, very underweight and on peadiasure. I understand how you feel about it it is very sugary and can't be good for their teeth. (06/03/2008)

More Calories For A Toddler

I have a 16 month old that weights a little over 19 pounds and her doc is having me use whole milk and whole cheese no low fat or fat free stuff for her and a lot of high calorie foods and pediasure too. She's 34 inches tall and is very tall for her age and has been since she grew 6 inches her first month after being born. Shes very, very active and eats a lot and snacks all day. I don't force feed her. She will eat when she's hungry. Force feeding her is the worst thing you can do. My daughter loves to drink, so I give her a lot of milk and pediasure, if she doesn't want to eat, but I always encourage food first.

If she gets snacks, I do give her higher calorie snacks about 2 times a day not to take away from healthier snacks that she needs, and vitamins every day. She has also gone down to 1 nap a day now for about 1-2 hours a day. Try to feed her when she first wakes up. You wait closer to nap time or bedtime she will probably be to tired to eat, but again don't force her to eat. If she skips a meal here or there she'll make up for it at another meal. (06/08/2008)

By Melinda from Kansas

More Calories For A Toddler

I am having the exact same problem. My 16 month old weighs 18 lbs and her dr. is very concerned and has told me to add a lot of fat to her diet. She made me feel like I am not doing my job as a mother. I have 4 children and none of them have had any weight problems. We are doing pediasure and the dr wants me to give more whole milk even though my baby doesn't like it. I don't know what to do and am worried that the dr is going to start thinking neglect if she doesn't gain a lot soon. She is on track for height and head circumference. I worry about adding the fat and her wanting it for the rest of her life and having a different weight issue later. I appreciate any suggestions. Thanks. (07/06/2008)

More Calories For A Toddler

Neocate Eo28 Splash (juice box) is an amino acid based, complete nutritional supplement for failure to thrive and severe allergy toddlers. It has 240 calories per juice box, and flavors are grape, fruit punch, and orange. It has polyunsaturated oils added, without tasting like fat, or having your small one become addicted to the taste of fried, fatty foods. Personally, I loved the way my very picky and severely allergic 2-yr-old loves KFC popcorn chicken. He can't get enough, and it's great protein and fat and high in calories. Just serve with fresh fruit, for health and fiber. (08/29/2008)

More Calories For A Toddler

Try these: -Trivysol or Polivysol. The difference between the two is that Polyvisol has iron. It's an over the counter Multi-vitamins that stimulate appetite; can be taken 15 mn before meal once a day.

-Try not to offer food until your child asks for it; let him/her gets really hungry. You'd be surprise how much he'll eat. My son does not like to eat fruits, but when he gets hungry he'll eat a whole banana.

-Take him out for fresh air, let him walk, explore and play. Walking is a great exercise for bowels and Toddlers need to have bowel movement before you expect them to eat. At least that's what raising my toddler thought me!

-Cut down on sugary snacks or milk between feedings and junk foods, instead give him water and healthy home cooked food. And offer milk before nap time and bed time. My husband suggested giving my toddler milk mixed with yogurt while he's asleep at night and we did every 4hrs and we noticed a huge difference.

-Be patient during meal time and allow your toddler to make a mess and play with food. In fact, he might find it entertaining if you join him.

-Have fun with food; toddlers love it: like count cheerios while eating them; cut banana wheels, or carrot squares or potato triangles (my son loves it)

Be also reminded that toddlers have their own issues that they're dealing with, such as teething which pretty much hearts everywhere.

Sometimes not eating is not the issue itself but there might be an underlying issue that's causing them to loose appetite. Would you want to eat if you did not have a good night sleep, had a terrible toothache, headache, earache, etc.

-My son's Ped. had also suggested PediaSure, but my son hated it. Instead we tried the Vitamin and Organic drinkable yogurt (probaby from Stonyfield Farm company) it's delicious and my son loves it.

My son is 2 years 8 months now and we're still trying to figure out what's causing his recurrent congestion. We know that that's what causing his decreased appetite, since he does not sleep well at night.

But, at least the tips above have helped tremendously. Good luck. (10/28/2008)

By Katie.

More Calories For A Toddler

My daughter is a very picky eater and only likes milk and fruits. She is not a carb eater nor cheeses. Something I tried has been working very well and is helping gain her weight. Komilon. It's a multivitamin that makes them more hungry and is available over the counter. Please do check with your pediatrician first. Good luck (11/10/2008)

By laila

More Calories For A Toddler

My son is in the 5% now, at 19 months old. He was 75% at birth. He is very active, but does not eat at all. I've tired everything. Up until 14 months he would eat great, but not at all after. There are literally some days he only eats a cracker. His DR. doesn't seem to be worried at all. He said offer him a variety of food throughout the day, but not to fuss over whether he eats it or not.

The main difference I'm reading here is he told us NOT to give him sweets or junk as he will grow custom to those and want that. Instead I should limit his cup to water all during the day and offer foods. At night give him milk and the pediasure drinks for the nutrient value.

He also suggested if I'm concerned I could give him a scoop of baby formula in his whole milk for a while. (12/17/2008)

By Carmen

More Calories For A Toddler

I have 13 month old twins that are under 17lbs. and 19lbs. Both have been in the lower percentile on the scales since birth. On top of that, they are allergic to milk, soy and many other foods. After I stopped nursing them last month, I had to make a milk alternative for them that was calorie dense, nutritious and tastes good.

Ingredients:(Makes 4 - 8 oz. servings)

32 ounces of Purified water
4 tablespoons of Dairifree milk alternative (or powdered milk if your child tolerates it)
1 cup of whole grain rice cereal fortified with iron
4 tablespoons of brown rice protein
4 tablespoons of wheat germ oil
2 tablespoons of sugar (optional)

In a blender, mix ingredients with 16 ounces of warm water. Use pulse and stir settings to ensure the dry ingredients dissolve well into the oil and water emulsion. Then add remaining 16 ounces of water to the mixture. Use pulse and liquefy settings until smooth and frothy. Refrigerate and use within 7 days.

Nutritional Content (per 8 oz)vs.Whole Milk

Protein 7 gramsvs8 grams
Calcium 30% RDAvs30% RDA
Vitamin D15% RDAvs25% RDA
Fat13 gramsvs8 grams
Vitamin E125% RDAvs0%
Iron12% vs 0%

You can add more wheat germ oil, rice cereal, protein, etc. to increase calories and nutritional content as needed.

I hope this helps someone because it took me several trial runs to get it just right --- they love it!


More Calories For A Toddler

My boys are grazers. They have a large selection of healthy snacks whenever they want (trail mix, yogurt, berries and fruit, veggies cut up, peanut butter on a spoon,etc) I make regular meals and they do pretty well on them, but they do eat lightly. My oldest is over the charts in height (at 6 years of age) but is in the 75th percentile for weight. Keep in mind, these charts are based on the average kid and they have a lot of sugar and junk food.

My kids get chicken nuggets and fries at times from a popular fast food joint, but for the most part they eat good, nutritious food, natural juices, healthy snacks. My old pediatrician recommend letting them graze and is has worked well for us (I don't think a child should ever be hungry, but I also don't think we should stuff them with junk).

My youngest, 3, was allergic to milk. He drank rice milk from 1 year old and did great on it. I read the labels and they were comparable in calories and such, just the rice milk is lactose free and the nearest super center carries is. Rice Dreams. (also smells good and doesn't get totally gross if you loose the lid on a sippy, lol) (01/01/2009)

By Shaylee

More Calories For A Toddler

I am a registered dietitian (nutritionist) and wow, there is some absolutely horrible advice listed on here. Don't get me wrong, some of it is great. But for the sake of your child I hope people don't take some of this advice.

Try to add calories in ways that will be simple to decrease once they are finished power packing.
For example: use whole milk in baking. whole milk yogurt, high fat cheeses vs. low-fat (mozzarella), then when they are finished it's easy to switch to low-fat dairy.

P.S. The tip about adding powder milk to everything is dangerous- a toddler's kidney are not able to handle that much protein. Toddlers need protein but not nearly as much as fat. The recommended daily allowance is 13g or 5-20% whereas fat should make up 30-40% of their daily intake. The fat is still aiding in development, brain development.

Here is a great article on childhood obesity for all of you paranoid about making your kids overweight
Be careful!

By Jen

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Parenting Toddler and Preschooler NutritionMay 4, 2016
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