Underweight Child

  • Fitterfly - Team Nutrition

  • Posted On July 08, 2019

underweight-child

While we hear a lot about current epidemic of overweight children, you find yourself on the opposite end of spectrum. Doctor has identified your child as ‘underweight’. Let’s find out what does this mean and what can you do about it?

How can I determine if my child is underweight?

Being able to tell if a child is underweight is tricky as all children grow at different rates and at different times. Also, the growth pattern differs between boys and girls. Being thin and lean does not necessarily mean being underweight. Best person to determine if your child is underweight is your doctor and most trusted way is by calculating BMI [Body Mass Index]. A child is considered underweight if they are in the bottom 5th percentile for weight compared to their height. You can check this yourself by downloading Fitterfly App and charting height/ weight which will calculate the BMI and the growth charts.

What are the health risks associated with an underweight child?

Yes. Research has shown increased chances of diseases and infections in underweight children due to weak immunity, along with a tendency of low muscle mass, hair loss and fatigue. Being underweight can also lead to numerous nutritional deficiencies

How can I help my underweight child gain weight?

  • Your child’s stomach may be small but his/her body and mind are growing at a rapid pace. Small portions of food which are calorie dense must be encouraged.
  • Goal is to aid in weight gain in a healthy way and not fatten your child by empty calories from fatty or sugary foods like chips, chocolates, biscuits, bakery products etc.
  • Good sources of protein for weight gain include – nuts, dry fruits [walnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachio], peanut butter, full fat milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs.
  • Good sources of carbohydrates for weight gain include – whole wheat chapati, rice, potato and sweet potato.
  • Make every calorie count. Pack cheese sticks, dry fruits and crackers to eat in the car. Spread peanut butter over bread or chapati.
  • Make fruit smoothies with full fat milk or yogurt; add nuts and seeds to it.
  • Remember to give 5 portions of fruits and vegetables in meals every day.
  • Vegetables and fruits can be given in the form of curry, soups, mixed with curd, added to pulse preparations, rice and as salad.
  • Adding dryfruits like cashew paste, Peanuts to veggies, creams in soups and make small portions calorie dense.
  • Be patient, fussy eaters need to try a new food 10-15 times before they develop a taste for it.
  • Involve your child in food shopping, meal planning and preparing.
  • Make sure there are no distractions like TV, phone or tab during mealtimes. Emphasize on the relation between food & hunger, and food & health.
  • For small kids you can make food fun by cutting and calling finger foods playful names such as: apple moons (thinly sliced) banana wheels, broccoli trees (steamed broccoli florets) carrot swords etc.
  • A healthy calorie-rich diet balanced with exercise will help in increasing weight. Yes, exercise too is important to help increase appetite. This will not only aid in improving the muscle mass but also in the regulation of hormones.

The goal is to instil sustainable and healthy eating habits. Getting in touch with a nutritionist can help you create a suitable helathy diet plan as per your child’s needs and to help him'her gain weight and monitor your child’s progress.

Disclaimer: All information here, including text, images, tables, videos and any other content is for your knowledge only and we do not guarantee any specific result by following these recommendations as it may vary from person to person. The information is not a substitute for qualified medical advice from a doctor or other medical health expert.