Skinny Kids: 12 possible causes

Submitted by on April 3, 2012 – 8:18 pm44 Comments
thin girl playing by the water

Is your child too thin? ZisBoomBah’s nutrition experts talks about possible causes – some harmless, others reason for concern.

Parents of skinny kids need information about causes and solutions for their too skinny kids, but it seems like everybody is talking about childhood obesity. The Internet is buzzing with warnings about adverse long-term effects of kids’ unhealthy diets. Well-intentioned advice for parents of overweight children is abundant. But what about too skinny kids (below the 5th percentile on the CDC growth charts for boys and girls)? What is the healthiest way for these children to obtain a healthy weight?

When this short article on How to Help Skinny Kids Gain Weight ranked among the most popular reads on our blog week after week, we quickly realized why this might be. There simply isn’t much solid, relevant information out there for parents of children who are too thin – let alone tips for helping kids reach a healthy weight in a sensible way (meaning, NOT by feeding them a Happy Meal every day).

I sat down with ZisBoomBah nutrition expert Lisa Lanzano, MS, RD to talk about possible reasons why a child might be very skinny and when to be concerned.

Reasons why your child might be very thin — examine these for keys to a healthy weight

  1. Genetics. If being very skinny runs in your or your spouse’s family, chances are one of you has said this before: “I looked exactly like that when I was a child!”
  2. Your child is very active and burns a large amount of calories throughout the day.
  3. Your child is a fidgeter. “If your child fidgets a lot, his body is moving all the time, expending energy,” Lisa said. He probably even burns extra calories while watching TV.
  4. Your child is very muscular. “More muscle mass burns more calories”, our expert reminded parents.
  5. Your child has a poor appetite. “Your child could also be depressed, overtired or overstressed and then the appetite goes down,” Lisa explained. “Toxic dynamics at the dinner table can be an issue too.” Talk to your pediatrician about possible reasons and to rule out a more serious cause.
  6. Your child is a picky eater. This reason is very similar to the one above and might be difficult to distinguish. The difference is that you have ruled out underlying medical concerns.
  7. Your child has an undiagnosed food allergy or sensitivity. This in itself could lead to poor appetite. “If a child’s tummy hurts every time she eats, she is not going to want to eat,” Lisa explained.
  8. Other medical reasons – “With celiac [gluten-intolerance], for example, a child does not absorb enough food,” Lisa said.
  9. Your child’s diet is unhealthy. If your kid eats too much overly processed food, his taste buds are trained to like very sugary and very salty foods. “Then nutrient-rich whole foods don’t taste as good,” Lisa said. As a result, your child is missing out on these wholesome foods that would help him maintain a good weight.
  10. Too much fiber in your child’s diet. “Too much fiber causes unpleasant bloating and, as a consequence, your child might not want to eat as much,” Lisa said.
  11. Your child is lacking vitamins or minerals. For example, according to our nutrition expert, low zinc intake is associated with decreased sense of smell and taste. Thus, your child might not be able to enjoy food as much. “Also, low iron, low folic acid (folaid) and low vitamin B12 all can reduce your child’s energy level, which eventually reduces a child’s desire to eat enough,” she said.
  12. Your child’s or your relationship to eating is disordered. “Some parents withhold food or certain foods from their children—intentionally or unintentionally—because they don’t like these foods themselves,” Lisa said. “Or maybe the mother is on a long-term weight loss diet and cooks with little or no oil or butter, uses only skim milk for the family, etc.” Without fat in their diet, children’s bodies can’t absorb vitamins A and D. What’s more, Lisa said, “Kids need carbs.”

[Read our related article: Picky Eating or Eating Disorder? Know the Difference and When to get Help]

Lisa had one last comment to add. She knows from experience, that parents can get concerned about how little food kids are eating. “Small amounts could be just fine. Kids don’t need to eat as much as adults, and some parents can’t judge that,” she said. This article is not about children at a healthy weight who are not big eaters, but rather addresses parents of children who weigh less than experts recommended for their height.

Check back next week for tips on how to boost every meal and snack for weight gain.

We also spoke with moms of skinny kids about the problems and comments they face every day and what they do to help their children achieve a healthy weight.

Update: When we posted this article on ZisBoomBah’s Facebook page, one reader and concerned mom of a skinny girl posed the question how you would know if a child is malnourished, even if she seems happy and active. We had a feeling that this is queite possibly the number one question of parents of skinny kids, so we asked one of our nutrition experts, and turned her answer into this blog post: “Skinny Kids: How do you know your child is malnourished

Are you the parent of a skinny child? Do you find your child described under any of the reasons above? Please share your experience in the comment section below.

Also read: “Every Bite Counts: Boost meals for healthy weight gain

There is help for parents with skinny kids. Pinpointing the causes and determining the solutions that work well for your own child is the best way for parents to help skinny kids get to a healthy weight. 

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Categories: General, Healthy Meals and Activities for Kids, Issues, Skinny Kids


  • Haley says:

    My son is also skinny. It was years before we discovered he had low muscle tone (hypotonia) which is a neurological disorder that causes him to not gain as much muscle mass. Muscle weighs more than fat, and he had much less muscle mass than other kids and was therefore low in weight. It also caused him to fidget a great deal as sitting or standing in one position would fatigue his muscles. He would burn a lot of calories as a result. He is a fantastic eater, which I am thankful for.

  • Corie says:

    My 8 year old daughter weighs 43 lbs and has not gained a single pound in over a year. She suffers from anxiety, mold swings and gets huge bruises when she falls down (which seems to happen a lot). She is pale and has bags under her eyes. She catches colds easily lately so she doesn’t want to eat as much, but last night she refused to eat what I cooked for dinner out of sheer stubbornness. I spoke with her pediatrician about it a year ago and she pointed to a Norman Rockwell picture hanging on the wall in her office of a bunch of skinny boys. She said some kids are just skinny. I addressed it again this week and she seemed unconcerned and offered no solutions. Should I see a dietician or find a new pediatrician? My daughter does well in school, has plenty of friends, is active in dance classes and is happy. She’s just all knees and elbows. Thpically she’s hungry all the time, but she gravitates toward fruits and veggies rather than junk (which I always thought was a good thing). I’m going to try to bulk up her diet. Hopefully it will help her.

  • Sandra Henderson says:

    Corie — thank you so much for sharing your story. It sounds like some of the expert tips in our skinny kids series of articles might have some tips for you on helping your daughter gain/maintain weight. The dark circles, as well as some of her other symptoms, may point to a food allergy. Have you ever had your daughter tested for food allergies? Let me run your comment by our nutritionists and see what they think.

    Once again, thank you for sharing and reaching out to us.

    Have a good day,

  • Sandra Henderson says:

    Dear Corie,

    We asked both of our nutrition experts for advice on your behalf, and both of them responded immediately, quite concerned.

    Keith Ayoob, ED.D., R.D., F.A.D.A., believes that your instincts as a mom are probably right, and his gut feeling tells him that there may be more going on with your girl than is currently apparent. He as well as our house nutritionist Lisa Lanzano, MS, RD would like you to dig deeper by seeking further help from health professionals.

    Here is Dr. Ayoob’s message for you:

    “Your pediatrician is right that some kids are just skinny. Your daughter, however, is more than just skinny. She hasn’t gained weight in a year when she should have gained about 5 or 6 pounds, typically. Also, she has anxiety, mood swings, and bruises easily — not typical of Norman Rockwell’s children. In addition, she’s hungry all the time, pale, and has bags under her eyes — all of which warrant further evaluation. At the very least I’d get the opinion of another pediatrician. If your daughter hasn’t had a full blood test in the past year, get her one. You may also want to have her evaluated for an eating disorder. She may not have one, but at this point you need to rule it out. Seeing a dietitian is recommended, and a baseline evaluation of your daughter’s present diet is a start, but the dietitian also needs to know exactly what the diagnosis is: lack of normal weight gain, behavioral eating problems, true eating disorder, etc. If your daughter does have an eating disorder, working with a therapist and a dietitian together can be very helpful.”

    (Corie, our article “Picky Eating or Eating Disorder? Know the difference and when to get help” — — could be a start. It includes a link to a the website, an online resource on eating disorders that Lisa Lanzano recommends. There, you will find a comprehensive questionnaire that could help you consider whether your daughter might have an eating disorder. This can never, however, take the place of having your daughter evaluated by a professional.)

    Lisa Lanzano, MS, RD also sent a message in response to your note and Dr. Ayoob’s advice:

    “I think what Keith wrote is fantastic. I feel he covered the topic quite well!

    One question I have for the mom is whether her daughter has any undiagnosed food allergies or celiac disease. Has she ever been evaluated for this? Skin prick tests don’t always give us the answers we need–they need to be followed up with elimination/rechallenge diets that a dietitian who is experienced with this could assist them in doing safely. Does the child ever complain about not feeling well after eating certain foods? Or has mom noticed changes in stool frequency, stool consistency, straining upon defecation, increase in gas/bloating, etc. after eating certain foods or meals? (Does anyone in her family have food allergies, celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disorder, irritable bowel, etc which could even indicate a potential for malabsorption)? Sometimes kids instinctively choose foods that make their tummies feel good, and avoid those that upset their bellies or make them feel bad. There could also be sensory food issues going on, so this definitely needs to be investigated further. I agree with Keith on everything he wrote.”

    Corie, we are glad we were able to get you qualified answers from two experts so quickly. Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly with further questions. My email is

    Best wishes for you and your girl,
    Editor / Writer, ZisboomBah

  • Agatha says:

    My 9 year old son is in the 3rd percentile for height and weight. He has low muscle tone and feels muscle pain when he overdoes it. We had him gluten free, but have now found that he is also allergic to corn, soy, rice, onions, garlic, avocado, nuts, apples, broccoli and oranges. He can eat fish, meat and eggs. All of these allergies have caused esophagitis. I’m trying the elimination diet, but I have no idea how to help him gain weight. Breakfast is one of my toughest meals, do I give him eggs everyday? It’s been such a struggle.

  • Sandra Henderson says:

    Agatha — feeding your son in a healthy way seems to be a true challenge, given his situation. We have reached out to one of our trusted child health and nutrition experts for advice on your behalf. Stay tuned! In the meantime, please know that you are not alone in this. There are many moms among the ZisBoomBah family who face similar struggles every day. We are glad to be able to provide a platform for sharing experiences and getting expert help so all kids can grow up healthy and empowered by knowledge to make good eating choices.

  • Agatha says:

    I’d love to hear any suggestions to help my son thrive.

    Thanks so much, this is such a great website!

  • Ronni says:

    my question is my daughter has not really lost any weight but i notice she has lost alot of inches..this concerns me because she was always a regular size..but now when i look at her she seems skinny to me..clothes that no longer fitted her last year, she is wearing and aside of the length the are fitting her looser than before..she tends to want to eat alot of breads, cereal, oatmeal, she is a breakfast person minus the eggs..she does eat meat, no cheese, she likes yogurt and milk. pastas are a plus but is she does not like the way something looks or feels inside her mouth she will not eat it..she is also good with fruits, the only vegetables i can get her to eat are corn and salads..she is picky about what she likes..she seems to never want to wake up in the morning for school but when i ask her to take a nap on weekends she says she is not tired but come nightfall she is out by 8:00..I worry because i feel she lacks energy and isnt eating well.

  • Sandra Henderson says:

    Ronni — we have passed your message along to our house nutritionist, Lisa Lanzano, MS, RD. She is posing the question to you whether you think it may be possibly your daughter is growing right now, which could explain her appearance of being thinner without any weight loss.

    How is she doing now?


  • Sandra Henderson says:

    Ronni — I now have more in-depth responses regarding your concerns about your daughter. Both our house nutritionist Lisa Lanzano as well as Dr. Keith Ayoob, who is an Associate Clinical Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and also Director of the Nutrition Clinic at the Rose F. Kennedy Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center at Einstein, have insights for you to offer.

    Dr. Ayoob said, “Your instincts about your daughter’s changing weight are probably right. If she has lost inches but stayed the same weight, then she may be losing fat and gaining some muscle, especially if she’s doing physical activity. Also, you don’t specify your daughter’s age, but children’s bodies go through different stages and if you have concerns, just take her for a visit to her pediatrician, who will likely plot her weight and height and compare it to her growth history.

    Some other considerations: Are the changes you see in your daughter’s body an issue for her? Has anything changed in her diet or lifestyle or social life? Could she be depressed or sad? If so, these kinds of issues can impact diet and food intake over time, and would be good to bring up at the pediatric visit.

    I’m not dismissing the influence of her diet, but there can be many reasons for fatigue in children. A rapid growth spurt can be one of them, but some children just need more sleep. Keep a record of her sleep pattern to bring to the pediatric appointment. Also, if she is not eating lunch at school, this can make for a tired child in the afternoon, so a chat about what she eats at school can be revealing.

    Regarding her diet, breakfast is absolutely key for ensuring a good energy level during the day. I’m a fan of a high-protein breakfast, so since she likes meat, consider even serving her leftover meat from the previous night’s dinner. In fact, it’s fine to give her any dinner food at breakfast.Milk and yogurt are also great breakfast options and if she likes yogurt, go for Greek yogurt, which has a lot more protein. Don’t hesitate to give her a meal that includes two protein sources, such as Greek yogurt and milk, or a chicken thigh and glass of milk. Include some fresh fruit and let her choose what she likes — they’re all good. As for the grain foods, make sure most of them are whole grains. Cereals are easy, but ditto for bread. If she likes salads, great! Put in as many raw veggies as you like and try for some beans as well — all of them are super nutritious. Choose a dressing she likes but if she’s flexible, then go for olive oil or canola oil and some vinegar or lemon.”

    ZisBoomBah nutritionist Lisa Lanzano also chimed in and said, “Excellent, Keith! As I’d said, my suspicion is the child is hitting a growth spurt, but that’s just my first gut response. I really like the points Keith is making about breakfast and lunch as it relates to her energy levels. And I’d possibly push for an afternoon “mini meal” using any of the suggestions Keith made. If she’s not eating enough during the day and then having a big dinner, that may be contributing to the fatigue in the evening hours. I don’t know how old your child is, but 8pm seems quite reasonable in my mind as to when bedtime should occur. Maybe even earlier.”

    Ronni, we hope this is helpful advice for you and your daughter. Please let us know if you have any other questions or concerns. We are here to support you! Keep us posted on her progress.


  • Jena says:

    Thank you for this article! My children have always been skinny. My oldest concerns me b/c he looks very,very thin. Our pediatrician is not concerned b/c he has been following the same growth pattern since he was a baby. He seems to just grow up, but never out or in width. He is a very picky eater. He was found to be allergic to eggs when he was 3 but it has never caused anaphylaxis, just eczema. He has had baked goods without a problem we can see. We still avoid straight eggs. How do I know if he has problem with gluten? Do they have a test? Should I be pushing my pediatrician to look for anything or just accept that he is naturao thin. It scares me he looks gaunt. My whole family has always been thin, but my son is very, very skinny. Thank you for talking bout this issue.

  • Karen Laszlo says:

    Hi Jena, Thank you for your comments. Can you provide more information for our nutritionists? How old is he? What weight is he? tall? Does he do any sports or physical activities? How is his social life? In addition, can you provide us a list of what he likes to eat and how he eats daily? If you feel uncomfortable posting here – please send to our email at

    Thank you for your response.

  • Marie Hismis says:

    My son is two and a half and extremely skinny at 20 pounds and the 3rd percentile for height. He is very happy and active boy although he was diagnosed with failure to thrive as a baby. We were told to stop breastmilk and put him on formula. Then, at 11 months he was put on PediaSure. He has remained on his own growth curve for weight (way below) since putting him on formula and taking him off breastmilk. He has been checked for everything and everything came back normal. He has been seen by GI, endocrinology and genetics. He never was a huge eater as a baby and is a terribly picky eater today. When they told us to try and get him to drink more as a baby, he would throw up. He’ll take maybe a bite or two at a meal and throw the rest on the floor. We offer food after food at meal times and he refuses it. It is so upsetting. He looks so skinny that we don’t know what to do to get weight on him. He still drinks PediaSure after meals but that hasn’t helped at all. What do we do?

  • Karen Laszlo says:

    Hi Marie! Thank you for reaching out to us! We asked Keith Ayoob, our contributing nutritionist, and here is his comment. Please let us know if this helps.

    “Since the medical issues have now been ruled out, we need to look elsewhere for reasons for his poor intake of food. At age 2-1/2 years and after a lot of medical intervention and tests and parents worrying about him, he may have found the key to getting a lot of attention. What may have started out as a medical issue may have developed into some seriously manipulative eating behavior. It’s very easy for worried parents to sweat through meals with such a child and he sees this and loves seeing you get stressed. “Maybe I’ll eat a few bites and maybe I won’t. Let’s see what they’re going to do about it.”

    Regarding his dietary pattern (and THANK YOU for including this information!) stop the juice drinks. Sweet liquids will kill an appetite dead. Allow him only 4 ounces of juice daily and even then, only after he has solid food. Ditto the Pediasure. It’s a great supplement when needed but the key word here is supplement. It should not be used here as a meal replacement. He doesn’t eat much at meals because he doesn’t have to — he’ll get his Pediasure later. He needs to understand that if he eats only a little food at meals then he gets only a little Pediasure. If he eats 1/4 of his meal then he gets 1/4 of his Pediasure, and go up from there. If he balks, just exlain that the house rule is that food comes before Pediasure or juice. Above all — stick to your guns, don’t back down and if you’re feeling skittish about doint this, don’t let on. He needs to know what the ground rules are. Also — he may just not eat, to see if you’re bluffing about holding off giving him what he wants. Don’t fall for it, even if it means he skips his lunch or dinner. Chances are he’ll cave and start eating some more solid food. That’s when you give him a high five and a hug and tell him Mom and Dad really like it when he eat what the whole family is eating.

    Consider asking your pediatrician for a referral to a pediatric registered dietitian, especially one who specializes in eating beahvior. The dynamics around families and food can get complicated. Remind yourselves that Junior is medically fine and go from there.”

  • Beth says:

    My daughter will be 3 in March, she was a micro preemie who was 1lb 11.5 ozs and 13 inches at birth. She is now between 23 and 24lbs (my scale told me today 24.4lbs- I weighed both of us together then weighed myself)
    She was tube fed for the first almost year of her life and we have weened her fully off the tube and are waiting until April to get it taken out. She sees a nutritionist, occupational and speech therapy (and physical)
    She prefers homemade food and doesn’t like “normal” chicken nuggets, mac n cheese, hot dogs and other things. She does eat (I make her 3-4 meals and 1-2 snacks)
    We prefer taking her to real sit down restaurants, I bake cookies and cake from scratch and try to check ingredients because I’m trying to feed her poison, GMO and process free food so I won’t load her down in chemicals.
    She has, in the past, taken 6 months to gain a pound and was around 22lbs on her 2nd birthday. This is the biggest weight gain (we took her off baby food and she is on Pediasure- they told us to double up on that if she doesn’t eat enough during a meal instead of compensating with baby food which she is starting to reject anyways- she’s pretty much weened herself off. I try to feed her fish, shrimp (she loves popcorn shrimp), chicken and beef and I try to buy healthy. I don’t add a lot of extra butter like I was told to do (I really don’t want to end up with her having weight problems in the future)
    She has a “yellowish” (tanned, not literally yellow) tint to her skin and she’s a little darker than I am.
    She is a little over 36 inches tall and every time she has hit a growth spurt lately she gains height but not weight. She was around 31-32 inches around her 2nd birthday.
    She was diagnosed with low muscle tone but she doesn’t tire out anymore and is almost walking. She’s been cleared for a lot of different conditions and her thyroid was tested as a baby and came back off the first time but normal the second time so they dropped it, but I think she may have (at least minor) hyperthyroidism.
    I have 2 questions-
    Where her dad is 6′ and 110-115lbs and a lot of his family is also tall and skinny, you can’t see her ribs unless she raises her arms up and stretches and she is hyper, always moving and in every way healthy (hardly ever even gets a cold, has had one ear infection in her life and even when sick, she’s happy and playful)
    Does it sound more just genetics than medical? Noone really stresses me but she was diagnosed with “failure to thrive about a year ago (she failed to gain much weight) but since then has gained a couple pounds.
    and 2. What are some recommendations? She has an aversion to foods like mac n cheese, pasta, (unless it’s tiny) and other foods similar to pasta. She likes broccoli, cauliflower and carrots when she’s in the mood but it’s a struggle to get fruits into her- I can easily feed her baby food prunes but she will eat a bite of a banana, doesn’t like most citrus (but LOVES orange and apple juice which I give her a lot of) and she loves baby food peas but feed her regular peas, she rejects. I prefer natural, organic and healthy foods and I stay at home currently so I have time to cook, what would you recommend to try feeding her?

  • Karen Laszlo says:

    Hi Beth – Here is the response from one of our contributors – Keith Ayoob. Please remember to stay in touch with your pediatrician and a child nutritionist who really understands this issue.

    First, there could be a genetic “inherited body type” coponent here — especially if dad is 6 feet and only 115 pounds. That’s really quite thin. So thin that if he were a model he’d not be allowed to walk the runway in many countries.

    It sounds like the medical and nutritional advice you’re receiving is solid. Now you need to follow it. If you don’t want to add butter to her food, try corn oil or olive oil to cook vegetables and to fry rice. You can also add heart-healthy spreads but the point is that your daughter needs calories and she’s not likely to get them with developmentally appropriate textures unless you add some fat. Try avocados as well — the calories are almost all from fat and it’s healthful fat but also easy to chew or mash up. Smoothies that have her favorite fruits but also full-fat Greek yogurt and some nut butter or seed butter are also an option. Have no hesitation about adding a little heavy cream to her smoothie either. I understand your reservations about adding butter and fat but understand that the usual nutrition rules just don’t apply in your daughter’s case because her needs are different right now. Mayonnaise is another healthy fat because it’s mostly vegetable oil. You can add it to chopped/minced chicken, shrimp, etc. and you can use it in egg salad. All these are great ways to give her both protein and a lot of calories in a small volume. I agree that the Pediasure is best used to supplement meals but don’t fall into the habit of using it as a meal replacement. It’s a supplement.

    One thing to consider is getting your daughter on an eating schedule to help regulate her appetite. Give her 3 meals and two snacks but insist on at least 2 or 3 hours between eating occasions. Kids this age who have had a history of being medically fragile can also learn how to exhibit manipulative eating behavior so be on the lookout for that. Offer food on a set schedule and refuse her food when it’s not time to eat. Encourage her to eat during meals and snacks but don’t allow the length of the meal to go for more than about 20-30 minutes, or a snack for 10-15 minutes. Then acknowledge that she’s not hungry and don’t make a big deal about it. Just tell her there’ll be another meal or snack in a few hours and move on.

    It’s good to monitor her weight but don’t be obsessive about it. It sounds like she’s growing well and that’s where most of her calories appear to be going. Her weight will likely follow. Good luck!

    Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA
    Associate Professor
    Department of Pediatrics
    Albert Einstein College of Medicine

  • RM says:

    I have 2 boys – 6 and 1.5 yrs old. My older one weighed 6.5 lbs and has always been below 5th percentile. He actually hit 5th percentile this year. It was a struggle to feed him bottle when he was a baby and then solids when he grew up. He always prefers fruits over any other food although now we make sure he eats all his meals which includes milk, egg, rice, vegs, lentil etc. BUt he does not gain weight easily. Due to his low weight I feel he does not do good in sports although academically he is very good. He does not get sick too often, just like any other kid. His pediatrician once diagnosed him with low Vitamin D and low bone density. We gave him Vitamin D for almost 2 years. His eating has improved in last few years but he is still in 5th percentile and very thin.
    My 2nd boy was born at 7 lbs but once we started him on bottle his weight is on downward trend too. It used to take me an hour to feed him one bottle of milk which other kids finish in 10 mins. He eats better than his brother but still falling below the chart. He weighs 20.5 labs at 19 months.
    I want to understand is there anything I am doing wrong in feeding them or are they genetically like that. Me and my husband both were very thin as kids and not anymore.

  • Stacey says:

    Sorry just to add his legs are still very bowed, we’ve been to 2 drs who say its normal but I thought maybe it could be rickets because of his eating. He seems constantly congested but not stuffy, if that makes sense. He also has had dark circles under his eyes for as long as I can remember. He is fair skinned also. Very very active child and seems happy and alert 95% of the time.

  • noshi says:

    Hi, my 4 year old daughter is constantly ill and refusing to eat food unless it’s junk or milk from a bottle. She seems to develop coughs, colds, wheezing and weakness within a few weeks of recovering from another lingering illness. It takes her forever to recover from illness. She is skinny and has dark circles under her eyes just now with shortness of breath coughing and weakness. Refusing to eat much just drinking water and the odd chocolate or peices of fruit. She also does not sleep through the night or her nap without waking up to cry. She passes a lot of gas whilst sleeping or after waking. Will not stop crying when she wakes. If I ask her why she’s crying she keeps on crying. She doesn’t tell afterwards either. I took her to the doctors last week incase she had a chest infection but they say she’s fine although she can’t seem to breathe. I just don’t know what’s wrong with her.

  • ellen says:

    Hi i’ m a mother of two boys.
    When i saw this site i got interested and to have open minded about if u have a thin kids.i just wanna share my experience about my two boys.they are really active,but they really a picky eaterbut they have vitamins,they drink milk everyday.but still they are skinny kids.what should i do? I want to see them one day they have just a little bit of fat in their body..plss give some advice and suggestion..i really appreciate it.tnx

  • Karen Laszlo says:

    Hi Ellen – I am sending this to our nutritionist and will let you know when we get his response. thanks!

  • Nateina Heaven says:

    Hi, my son is 4yrs old and he’s very skinny. He was born premature weighing 2lbs 8ounces. He’s had all the blood work and test done it was all normal. He eats like a normal toddler he just won’t fatten up. Also he’s very active throughout the day, Could he be skinny because he weighed so little when he was born?

  • Valerie says:

    I have a 13 year old daughter who has been losing weight over the last year and a half. I have taken her to the doctor numerous times over the last year and a half. They have done a complete blood test – from which everything came back perfectly normal – except she was low in vitamin D. Earlier, they had done a fingerprick test for anemia, which came back negative. I had them do another blood test, and in this one, they tested her thyroid, which also came back clear. She is about 5’5″ or 5’6″ and fluctuates between 88 and 90 pounds. A year and a half ago, she was 95 pounds and not as tall. I was a skinny kid, but not that skinny. And I ate like a pig. She seems to have a low appetite – sometimes I am practically forcing her to eat (as much as you can force a teenager to do anything). She is eating, and she herself feels she is too skinny (so I don’t think it is an eating disorder), she just is not hungry. Otherwise, she seems like a healthy kid. She doesn’t get fevers, she’s not tired all the time, she has good color, hardly ever gets sick, doesn’t bruise easily, but is just extremely skinny and getting skinnier. She has just recently been complaining of upset stomach from time to time. I thought about diabetes, and her fasting blood sugar was 99, but that is not considered diabetic. She has always kind of eaten like a bird, but I never had to make sure she is eating enough calories like I do now, she has always eaten enough for her body. We have recently cut out processed foods, as I thought this would help all of us. Even my husband says I need to stop worrying so much, but I feel like my daughter is wasting away in front of me and I don’t know how to stop it, and doctors aren’t helping. I am just at a loss as to what to do. I would appreciate any advice you can give me.

  • Teri says:

    My sons girlfriend is 16. She lives with us (I know that may seem old to be on here) The more she eats the harder It is for her to gain weigt without lossing more. She eats all the time saying she is hungry. We have tried junk food, healthy food, even a icecream diet. Because of all of this she get headaches, shaking spells and colds very easy. She was neverlike this. She goes down a number of pounds a week. Right now she is 92lbs when she should be well over 100. Please help.

  • june says:

    Hi how are u, my son is always very active, and plays numerous sports. His build is extremley muscular. He had lost a few pounds and doesn’t seem to have much of an appetite. He is also had been tired and moody. The only change I can think of is he hasn’t been playing as much sports.We couldn’t this summer due to a few reasons. He is starting back up as we speak.Could it be lack of activity, muscle loss? Help

  • Karen Laszlo says:

    “Your son probably has a muscular build for two reasons. First, it may just be how he is built — some kids are naturally more “beefy” while others are more lanky, etc. This can even happen within the same family. Secondly, you son likes to play lots of sports and this certainly can build additional muscle. He is probably good at the sports he plays and seems to really like participating in lots of sports activity, so not having the opportunity to do so this summer may have dampened his spirits a bit. If he’s a bit down in the dumps, that could explain his reduced appetite, which in turn could explain the weight loss. Whatever reasons there were for his not being able to play sports as much may also have contributed. At any rate, if he’s back being active again, his appetite should improve and with the added demands on his muscles, they’ll likely bounce back. However, if his mood and appetite don’t improve soon, schedule a visit with his pediatrician, as you’ll want to rule out any possible underlying reasons for the changes. Indeed, with school coming back soon, it would be a good excuse to have him checked before he heads back to class.”


    Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FAND
    Associate Clinical Professor
    Department of Pediatrics
    Albert Einstein College of Medicine
    1165 Morris Park Ave. 4th Floor
    Bronx, NY 10461
    718-430-3970 ext. 6412
    T: @KeithAyoob

  • kerry says:

    My 15 month old son is.super skinny. 18lbs 0.42 percentile… he was born at 36 weeks and had.some respiratory issues at birth but has since been healthy he gained great from.birth-4.5 months went.from 2.8percentile to.the 14th percentile.but has since declined in percentile steadily and now is below the 1st percentile. His pediatricians do not seem alarmed even though I bring it up all the time they say he’s happy active.and meeting his milestones but how can I not worry when he no longer has a.growth “curve” but rather a straight line across the page…. he eats well 3 well balanced meals throughout.the day along.with 4-5 snacks he loves drinking his whole milk and drink about 8 12oz cups a day along with about 4 cups of juice or water. I had gestastional diabetes with him and it concerns me that he could have that or something else. My older son is skinny as well but has always followed his curve. They have tested him for celiacs and other blood work once and said everything looked normal, but I just don’t understand why he isn’t gaining. Any suggestions?

  • Karen Laszlo says:

    Hi K! We are passing this to our nutritionist for insight and will contact you as soon as we hear back. thanks for sharing.

  • christopher says:

    My nineteen year old boy who dos’nt do much physical activity,”constantly on computer” eats in very very large portions, for example half a large pizza or two cheese burgers, but never gains wait or muscle tone.He can physically eat twice the portions as me,but probably weighs 50 lighter than i did when i was his age! Should i be concerned?

  • MrsJ says:

    My son is six. The pediatrician thinks he is at normal weight. He throws up a lot. My pediatrician is not concerned about that, either. His face is pale a lot. He told me if he eats bean burritoes, he will get fat, so he only ate one bite. I am so worried about him, but my husband is not.

  • Keith says:

    I’m a 29 year old male.

    For years I have been struggling to gain weight and when I did it’s always been very few pounds and underweight. I’m 6’1″ and 123, but that fluctuates daily especially after a bowel movement it can go down to 117 or waking up in the morning overnight the weight is lost but never under 117. I eat and I can go from 117 to 123 within a few hours that is how much I eat but it’s easily lost. My BMI is underweight even though I eat a balanced diet and frequently. Ever since about 6 years old I started looking thin, I was born 8 pounds and chubby and even as an early toddler was normal height weight and BMI I was colic as a baby and put on sensitive formula but it seemed to help. I was tested for diabetes, thyroid, given protein shakes, even saw a geneticist and gastroenterologist nothing abnormal was found except underweight and I used to get constipated easily but adding raisin bran to my diet helped that and with keeping my weight more consistent. My vitals are normal like heart and blood pressure and urine. It’s so difficult finding pants in my size being tall and thin, most are made for men with more weight my height. My family being tall runs in it but nobody my height was ever underweight like me which worries me they all have a normal BMI im the only one who doesn’t. I notice odd symptoms like I eat very often and if I don’t my body feels weak and I shake slightly and feel exhausted and I do get arthritis and muscle aches frequently when I’m not sick, and I don’t deal with cold weather well even going in the pool for more than 10 minutes makes my fingers turn purple. I’ve told all my doctors this and no test is finding anything wrong. I’ve been given a blood test for celiac or food allergies and nothing showed up, I don’t know what to do im not getting any answers! People think I starve myself and always give comments to eat more when they don’t understand I can’t help what’s goung on nothing I do helps. If anyone has answers please email me at

  • Somer says:

    My 7 year old son weighs only 50 pounds and I am very concerned. He is very active in sports and just in general we are outside or doing something everyday. He has what I think is a lot of muscle for a boy his age. His pediatrician says it’s because he is active but he so skinny he says his bones hurt all the time. Is there something I can do or vitamins I can give him that will help? Thank you very much.

  • Karen Laszlo says:

    Hi Keith, I sent your posting to Lisa our Nutritionist. As soon as we hear back we will post. Thank you for the post and we hope you start to feel better!

  • Karen Laszlo says:

    Hi Somer, we are sending this to Dr Ayoob and as soon as we hear back we will post his response. Thanks!

  • Somer says:

    Thank you Karen I really appreciate it!

  • Sarah says:

    Hi, I have a 7 year old boy who is extremly thin, all skin and bones. Right now he is only 46.2 pounds. He hasnt gained any weight in over a year. His height is normal. His appetite is pretty good, although he can be picky with vegetables, etc. We had him tested over a year for food allergies, and he is intolerant to gluten, eggs, and dairy. But even with a strict diet, he still hasnt been able to gain any weight. He is also pale with bags under his eyes. Hes very active, plays soccer and martial arts. Although because of his thin frame, he does get hurt easily. His blood test showed normal iron, vit.D and cbc. Im not sure what other tests if any I should be doing for him. The pediatricians I see keep saying its better to be skinny than obese, but i still feel there must be some other underlying issue with him.

    Thanks for your help!

  • Joye says:

    My 8yr old daughter is a very very picky eater and slow at eating even since when she was a baby. She is a very active girl can’t sit still even when eating. She only weighs 50 pounds and her doctor says she is fine and she is tall but being a mom i am concerned i would like for her to weigh alittle more. Is there any vitamins or suggestions on how i can get her to gain some weight. Any help is appreciated


  • Katherine A says:

    Hello there i came across your artical and wanted to speak out on my 3 children. i have a 5 year old boy a 3 year old daughter and 23 month old daughter and they are very low on the growth chart around 5 percent or less. im worried about how small my children are in height and weight, my son eats everything but goes to the bathroom right after so he never is full but never keeps much in either right now he weighs 30 lbs and is around 3 ft tall. ive talked to his doctor and he tells me not to worry because at least hes gaining weight at his own pace and not losing it, the doctor thinks he may just have a growth spurt when he gets older but my fear is what if he doesnt will he be so small his whole life. i need advice on what i can do or give him to maybe gain more fat in his tiny body??? please and thank you

  • Joye says:

    I have a 8 yr old daughter who weighs 50 pounds. She is a very very picky eater and a slow eater.She is also very active. She will hardly sit still even at the table. She will not eat any meat other than chicken nuggets. She does eat pizza,veggies, mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, pasta etc and some other things. She does not like eggs either.I have tried getting her to eat new things but she refuses. Her doctor says she is fine but as a mom i am still worried about her weight. People are always saying how tiny she is weight wise but she is tall. Is there anything like vitamins or something else i can try to help her gain 5-7 pounds. Thanks

  • Malia Cable says:

    Hi Joye,

    Thank you for reaching out to us at ZisBoomBah, we are consulting our Nutritionist and will have an answer for you shortly.

  • Karen Laszlo says:

    From Ram000- June 2014

    Hi. My daughter is 32 month old and weighs only 24 lbs. she was at 45th percentile at birth and 25th at 6 months and weighed 15th percentile when she turned 1 year. At 18 months visit, she was down to 2nd percentile. Since then She has been steadily, rather painfully slowly growing, her own growth chart at 2nd percentile. Her pediatrician isn’t concerned at all about her low weight gain, but we are. She was tested for celiac and it came negative. What other tests can be done to rule out conditions that may prevent her from gaining weight. She is active, but eats very less. We offer multiple, high calorie nutrient rich meals and snacks in addition to pea fissure and whole milk. She loves nuts and almonds and peanuts are a regular part of her snacks.

    Please advise on what we can do to help her gain weight. Thanks.

  • Malia Cable says:

    Hi Joye,

    It is definitely a difficult task to 1) get kids to sit still during the dinner table and 2) try new foods when they’re so picky about the things they like! How often do you engage your daughter during meal times? Does she sit at the table and wait for you to bring her the food, is she sitting at the couch in the living room, or is she allowed to get whatever she feels like? These are important things to take note of.

    Children love to be engaged and be able to make decisions about the foods they choose. Perhaps during dinner – if you are the person that usually dishes up the meal, invite your daughter into the kitchen to build her own plate. You could ask her to build what she thinks is a healthy plate, and when she’s done educate her on important food groups that may be missing or foods she took too much of. When explaining the importance of missing food, try and relate the benefits to things that kids care about. These things include: improved appearance (ex. keratin from carrots will make your finger nails longer and stronger), more energy (they always want more of it), stronger muscles (to help them play harder and run faster). If you can educate kids on the benefits of different foods in relation to these benefits – she may be willing to try them! And if she isn’t, put a small serving of the food on the plate in case she changes her mind. If you continually introduce new foods to the child without “their permission” they might eventually give in and give it a try!

    However, there’s sometimes too much engagement that they cannot focus. Does your daughter watch t.v. when the family sits down for a meal? Watching t.v. during meals is usually never a good idea. It can lead to either over or under consumption of foods – rarely do we ever stop when we’re appropriately full. Try sitting at the table with your daughter with zero distraction. Perhaps asking her about her day would put her in a good mindset and you can distract her from the fact she’s eating eggs. And who knows, she may enjoy them!

    But if you feel, that you’d like her to gain a little weight as a buffer – try giving her a smoothie in the morning with various fruits, vegetables, protein and fats. Peanut butter can mask the flavor of about anything! Below is a fun smoothie recipe that if given a couple times a week, could result in slight weight gain. Once you feel she is at an appropriate weight, you can continue the smoothies but remove the fat and half of the protein. A children’s multivitamin may also be a good idea if you believe she’s not getting all the necessary nutrients – a Flintstones multivitamin (no gummies) will do just fine.

    Strawberry Peanut Butter Smoothie:
    Start by placing 1/2-cup of 100 percent strawberry or strawberry-blend juice in your blender. Add 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter and frozen strawberries. Blend until smooth. To increase your protein intake, stir in a few tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt. Serve as is, or over ice.

  • Joye says:

    ok thanks for advice will try it

  • Somer says:

    It has been a while since my post and i was just wondering if you have heard anything from Dr. Soon.

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