Toddler Needs to Eat More Ice Cream!?

We’re just back from my daughter’s 12-month-checkup and thankfully she’s the picture of health, except for one thing: this toddler needs to gain weight.

Those infant height and weight percentile charts from the World Health Organization are pretty innocuous, when your baby is at or near the top. But if your little one is low down—like my baby girl, in just the third percentile for weight—they’re the cause of some serious stress.

I knew she was on the small side, but since she likes to eat, I wasn’t worried. Despite her tiny size (she’s about 17 pounds), my pediatrician isn’t really either, but we are under orders to fatten her up.

Previously I was trying to go the easy route of feeding her what the rest of the family is eating. But with instructions to make soups with cream and top broccoli with cheese sauce, it looks like we’re going to have to set up a short-order Restaurant Chez Toddler.

My doctor gave me an informational sheet with suggested foods to increase my daughter’s calories. With an original pub date of 1998, it might as well be a million years old when you consider how quickly and frequently our knowledge about nutrition changes. It’s ironically hilarious: it suggests things like adding sugar, jam, or honey to bread, cereal, milk, fruit, and yogurt; serving ice cream topped with chocolate or sandwiched between cookies; and offering high fat meats like cheeseburgers. Here I am trying to serve tasty but healthy food and hopefully shape her palate so that she enjoys eating foods that are good for you. But now the doctor is suggesting we feed her what reads like a fast-food menu! What’s a mama to do?!

Part of me wonders why I should even worry about this—I mean, she is obviously thriving. But I guess I’ll approach this challenge as I do most parenting issues: by trying to strike a balance. In this case, I’ll look to tip the scale slightly in favor of deep-fried cheese curds over plain steamed veggies. With that in mind, here are some ideas for on-the-healthy-side, calorically dense foods to serve an underweight toddler, as (mostly) interpreted from the informational hand-out “Foods To Increase Your Child’s Calories and Protein” from Seattle Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center:

–Spread nut butters (if you’re not concerned about allergies) on toast, crackers, pancakes, and apple slices
–Mix shredded cheese into eggs scrambled in butter
–Add granola to muffins and sweet breads
–Offer guacamole and cheesy bean dip with whole-grain pita chips
–Make pudding from eggs, milk, and a little sugar
–Top whole-wheat pasta and veggies with pesto or alfredo cream sauce
–Stuff tortillas with meat, cheese, and veggies
–Serve diced chicken or pork or in tikka masala sauce
–Swirl butter into rice, pasta, mashed potatoes, and vegetables
–Offer fresh fruit with a side of whipped cream or ice cream for dipping

I also plan on adding some more modern, nutritionally-rich fats and “superfoods,” like chia and flax seeds, as well as coconut oil, to her diet.

Do you have any concerns about your toddler’s weight? What are some of your toddler’s favorite foods?