Skinny kids get bullied, too. A reader mom recently commented on our article Skinny Kids: Moms reveal issues they face every day on the ZisBoomBah blog that everyone is quick to defend a chubby kid against hurtful or intimidating remarks nowadays. But what about children who are thinner than “normal”? The mom also raises another important point: Her very thin daughter wouldn’t look that much skinnier if she stood next to another child who is in the 50th percentile for weight. “But unfortunately, the average child of today is overweight, and she does look tiny next to a bigger kid,” Kayla writes. (You can read Kayla’s entire post here.)
One of ZisBoomBah’s trusted advisors, the renowned child nutrition expert Dr. Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA, said that at 4 feet tall and about 40 pounds, Kayla’s 6-year-old daughter’s BMI indeed falls below the 1st percentile. Dr. Ayoob can understand this mom’s sensitivity about comments on her daughter’s thinness and that she wants to reinforce a good body image for the girl.
While Kayla wrote she was “disgusted” at her pediatrician’s advice to add butter to her daughter’s food, our expert said this kind of advice on helping skinny kids gain weight isn’t unusual at all. “It’s an easy way to increase calories without adding volume,” Dr. Ayoob agreed. However, it’s not the only method for helping underweight children put on a few pounds. What’s more, parents certainly don’t have to resort to high-calorie junk food to boost their child’s daily calorie intake. “You could certainly add olive oil to her salad, use more cheese in sandwiches and snacks and trade some of her fruit and vegetable snacks for nuts and dried fruits, which are both super nutritious and would give her extra calories. For her, whole milk isn’t a bad idea either, because, with her issues, the rules change,” said our specialist in obesity, child nutrition and family dynamics.
Dr. Ayoob acknowledges that adding even just a few pounds to a skinny kid’s current weight can pose a challenge for the whole family. But if you can bring your underweight child’s BMI into the low range of normal percentiles (5th percentile or above) than it would be well worth the effort. “This is absolutely not about cosmetics, it’s about optimal health, so it’s worth pursuing,” Dr. Ayoob said, adding that, of course, you should consult with your pediatrician as well.
To learn more about your child’s body mass index (BMI), visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
For more ideas on how to help skinny kids gain weight healthfully, we also consulted with our house nutritionist Lisa Lanzano, MS, RD, who advises parent of children with a BMI below the 5th percentile to increase their child’s daily dietary intake in one of the following ways throughout the day, without changing other food intake:
- PB&J sandwich (2 slices of whole-grain bread, 1.5 Tbsp PB, 1/2 Tbsp jelly) with on cup of organic whole milk, 1 small banana
- 1/2 avocado mashed into guacamole and rolled into 1 corn or flour tortilla with 2 slices of cheese, plus 1/2 cup of organic whole milk
- Fruit smoothie with 1 cup vanilla yogurt, 1/2 cup fruit juice, 1 banana, 2 tsp. flax oil, 1 Tbsp chocolate syrup, plus any other liquid to make it a good consistency (such as milk, water, ice cubes, extra fruit juice, etc)
- 1/2 cup mixed nuts, or trail mix. You can also try stirring the nuts or trail mix into yogurt.
Following these daily meal add-on and extra snack ideas for one month should help your skinny kid put on 2–4 pounds, according to Lisa.
Are you trying to help your skinny kid gain weight in healthy ways? Have you tried strategies similar to what our experts are advising? Did it work? We would love it if you’d share your experience with the ZisBoomBah community in the comment section below.