Healthy Ways to Boost Calories in Your Toddler’s Diet (Alternative to Pediasure)

Published by Mama Knows Nutrition on

Are you looking for ways to boost calories in your toddler’s diet so you can avoid using Pediasure? Or maybe you’ve tried using Pediasure, and your toddler doesn’t like it. Continue reading for ways to boost calories in your toddler’s diet to help them healthily gain weight!

Why would you want to boost calories?

Boosting calories in your toddler’s diet isn’t always about gaining weight. Here are some more reasons you might be interested in high-calorie snack and food options:

  1. A quick snack that will fill your wiggle-worm in just a few bites
  2. Meals that will ensure they are getting the calories they need, even if they can’t sit at the table very long
  3. Your little one has been feeling sick and has a low appetite

Adding fat to boost calories in your toddler’s diet

A healthy way to boost calories in your toddler’s diet is to increase the amount of fat they’re eating. Why?

  • Fat is the most calorie-dense of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat). It has nine calories/gram versus four calories/gram for protein and carbohydrates. That means your little one can eat a smaller amount of food with high-fat than if they ate a large amount of food with low-fat content.
  • When I work with clients whose little ones are struggling to gain weight or falling off their curve, a common issue is that the foods they serve are primarily low in fat, and therefore lower in calories. Many parents who want to feed their kids healthy will focus on lean meats, veggies, and fruit, which all have great nutrients, but will be overall lower in calories than a diet that incorporates more fat. 
  • Adding fat guarantees that each bite will have more calories, which can help contribute to their weight gain or generally get enough calories to sustain appropriate growth.

What are some healthy ways I can increase the fat in my child’s diet?

There are several healthy ways to add fat to your child’s meals/snacks. 

  • If the snack already contains nut butter, increase the amount of the nut butter by 1 tbsp.  
  • You can also add a tsp. of ground flax or chia seeds to your child’s favorite baked goods before baking.  
  • Look for condiments that contain oils or mayonnaise.  
  • Replace milk with heavy cream or canned original coconut milk in your child’s favorite recipe.  
  • Does your child have a favorite sandwich that would pair well with cheese? If yes, then get cheesy with it.  
  • Try these 5-ingredient No Bake Nut Butter Bars for a snack. 

Here are some more specific ideas with caloric values and fat contents to give you an idea of how much of an increase they’ll add to your child’s diet:

Food SuggestionCaloric ValueFat Content
4 oz triple cream yogurt (Siggi’s brand)17010.0 grams
1 cup whole milk yogurt149 8.0 grams
1 tbsp. peanut butter1008.0 grams
2 slices ham47 1.7 grams
2 slices cheese120 9.0 grams
1 tbsp. mayonnaise9310.3 grams
2 tbsp. sour cream575.6 grams
2 tbsp. Ranch dressing12313.4 grams
Half a mashed avocado11410.5 grams
1 tbsp.  heavy cream50.55.4 grams
1 tbsp. cream cheese515.0 grams
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese1149.4 grams
¼ cup shredded Swiss cheese1068.4 grams
¼ cup grated provolone cheese997.5 grams
¼ cup grated muenster cheese1048.5 grams
¼ cup grated Colby cheese1119.1 grams
¼ cup soft, crumbled goat cheese927.4 grams
1 tbsp. butter10211.5 grams
1 tbsp. canola oil12013.6 grams
1 tbsp. olive oil11913.5 grams
1 tbsp. avocado oil12013.6 grams
1 tbsp. sunflower oil12013.6 grams
1 tbsp. peanut oil11913.5 grams
1 tsp. sesame oil404.5 grams
1 tsp. flax seeds221.3 grams
1 tbsp. coconut oil12213.5 grams
1 tsp. chia seeds, whole seeds161.0 grams
1 tbsp. almond butter968.7 grams
1 tbsp. Tahini898.1 grams
2 tbsp. hummus532.6 grams
2 tbsp. guacamole282.1 grams
¼ cup canned, coconut milk11112.1 grams

Cronometer

What kinds of fats and oils should you keep on hand?

Start by stocking up on these:

  • Oils (avocado, olive, sunflower, canola, peanut, sesame)
  • Butter (okay as part of a healthy diet as long as it’s not the only fat) or a vegan alternative
  • Nut butters
  • Ground nuts
  • Avocados 
  • Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, sardines)
  • Ground flax seeds
  • Chia seeds (whole or ground)

Now, let’s discuss when to use the various oils:

  • Avocado, canola, and sunflower oils are good for baking (because of their mild taste), saute or pan-frying (because of their high smoke point)
  • Sunflower and avocado oils for searing
  • Peanut oil for stir-frying
  • Extra virgin olive oil for dressings, vinaigrettes, finishing oil

High-calorie meal ideas

Here are some meal ideas that will boost calories in your toddler’s diet:

  • Whole milk yogurt with fruit, granola, and ground or chopped nuts (use coconut milk-based yogurt for dairy-free)
  • ½ cup quick oats with ¾ cup whole milk (or canned coconut milk), 1 tbsp peanut butter stirred in, 1-2 tsp butter or vegan alternative, and 1 tsp honey
  • 1 flour tortilla, 2 slices ham, 2 slices cheese, 1 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • Grilled cheese with 2 slices bread or tortilla, 2 slices cheese, and 2 tbsp. Butter
  • Half of an avocado mashed on a piece of buttered whole-wheat toast
  • Put ham and shredded cheese on crackers and then melt
  • Use heavy cream in soups
  • Spread cream cheese on sandwiches, fruit slices, or crackers. 
  • Roll cream cheese into balls and coat with chopped nuts, wheat germ, or granola
  • Black bean and cheese quesadilla on whole wheat tortilla, pan-fried in avocado oil
  • Tuna or egg salad with mayonnaise

Condiments and ‘extras’ to increase calories:

  • 1 tbsp. butter, margarine, vegetable oils (canola, olive, etc.), peanut butter, almond butter, tahini, mayonnaise, and sour cream
  • You can even add 1 tsp avocado oil, extra light (NOT extra virgin) olive oil, or vegetable oil to juices or fruit cups to boost calories.
  • 2 tbsp. hummus, guacamole
  • Use heavy cream in place of milk in: 
    • baked oatmeal
    • mashed potatoes
    • mac and cheese

High-Calorie Cheese

  • Cheddar
  • Swiss
  • Provolone
  • Muenster
  • Colby
  • Goat Cheese

High-calorie smoothie ideas/shakes for weight gain

Here are some ideas for high-calorie smoothies and shakes that you can make. You can add a scoop of NutriKid powder to any of these for added vitamins, minerals, probiotics, omega-3s, and digestive enzymes. They have chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors— use affiliate code MAMAKNOWSNUTRITION15 for 15% off.

  1. Vanilla Peach:
    1. 1 c. canned coconut milk
    2. 1 c. canned peaches
    3. 1 c. vanilla frozen yogurt
  2. Strawberry Banana:
    1. 1 cup frozen strawberries 
    2. 1 medium banana
    3. 1 cup whole milk
    4. ½ cup whole milk Greek yogurt
    5. 1 Tbsp chia seed
    6. 1 Tbsp honey
  3. Pineapple coconut
    1. 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
    2. 1 medium banana
    3. ½ cup coconut cream
    4. 1 cup cold pineapple juice
  4. Chocolate peanut butter cup
    1. 3/4 cup whole milk
    2. 2 tablespoons peanut butter
    3. 3 soft Medjool dates, pitted
    4. ¼ cup frozen avocado chunks
    5. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    6. 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
    7. Tiny pinch of sea salt, if using unsalted peanut butter
  5. Creamy peanut butter
    1. 1 cup whole milk
    2. 3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
    3. 2 tablespoons peanut butter
    4. 2 soft Medjool dates, pitted
    5. 2 tsp ground flax
    6. Optional: 1 frozen banana

These great smoothies make fun popsicles too! Click here to see my favorite popsicle molds.

High-calorie smoothie mix-ins

  • Avocado
  • Canned coconut milk
  • Ground flax or chia
  • 1-2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp nut butter

A Note on Allergies

  • For dairy-free: Kite Hill has alternatives for sour cream, cream cheese, and yogurt.
  • For nut-free: use sunflower seed butter in place of nut butter; chopped or ground seeds in place of nuts.
  • If nut-free AND dairy-free: add oils and vegan butter everywhere you can. Nut-free granola will be a good source of added calories too.

Add some Added Sugar-Free Sweets

Every toddler still wants some sweet, but did you know there was a way to have sweets without the added sugar? Check out my recipe book No Sugar Still Sweet for healthier baked goods. 

You can pump up the calories in these recipes by using canned coconut milk in place of milk, adding 2-3tsp ground flax or chia into recipes, or serving with butter or nut butter spread on top, or even some whipped cream.


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