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How to help your child gain weight


Tips for Increasing Calories and Protein

  • Try eating 6 to 8 smaller meals or snacks per day.
  • If you can only eat a few bites, eat more often, every half hour if needed.
  • Avoid favorite foods when you feel nauseated, or sick to your stomach. If you vomit after eating a favorite food, you may no longer enjoy that food.
  • Save favorite foods for when you feel good!
  • Eat when you feel hungry. Keep ready-to-eat foods on hand if your hunger only lasts a few minutes.
  • Don’t fill up on liquids at meals. Instead, drink just enough at meals to swallow food with comfort. 
  • Sip on liquids between meals to stay hydrated.


  • Try drinking whole milk, flavored milk, buttermilk, hot cocoa, or milkshakes with meals.
  • Use milk or “Half and Half” instead of water to make soups and hot cereals.
  • Have ice cream or regular yogurt for snacks and desserts. Top off waffles or pancakes with ice cream, whipped cream, or fruit toppings.
  • Add whipping cream to pies, fruit, pudding, fruit-flavored gelatin, hot cocoa, and other desserts.
  • Serve heavy cream with fruits (peaches n’ cream, strawberries n’ cream, etc.)
  • Add sour cream to potatoes, casseroles, dips, vegetables, fruit, beans, and soups.
  • Add cream cheese to spreads and cheesecake, or put it on crackers.
  • Mix cheese with almost everything.
    • Melt cheese in scrambled eggs or on fried eggs.
    • Melt cheese on hamburgers and add it to other meat sandwiches.
    • Melt cheese onto meatloaf, spaghetti, pizza, and casseroles.
    • Melt cheese onto baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and other vegetables.
    • Add cheese to salads, soups, and chili.
    • Melt cheese onto bread, biscuits, rolls and cornbread.
    • Serve cheese dip with chips or vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)
  • For any recipe that calls for milk, use a high calorie supplement, whipping cream (heavy cream or light cream), whole milk, or fortified milk.


  • Put extra meat on sandwiches.
  • Have extra helpings of meat at meals. Eat the meat first and eat less of other food.
  • Add chopped, cooked meats to soups, salads, pizza, macaroni and cheese, and pasta dishes.
  • Add extra eggs to meat, casseroles, etc.


  • Serve nuts as snacks like trail mix as well as in cereals or breads, and on desserts.
  • Put extra peanut butter on sandwiches, bagels, and biscuits.
  • Spread peanut butter or other nut butters onto cookies, vanilla wafers, graham crackers, granola bars, pretzels, and crackers.
  • Add peanut butter to pancakes, French toast, and waffles before pouring on the syrup.
  • Put peanut butter on fruits and vegetables (apples, bananas, pears, celery, carrots, etc.)
  • Make peanut butter milkshakes.


  • Use butter, margarine, or oil.
    • Add it to soups, vegetables, mashed potatoes, cooked cereal, pudding, rice, pasta, and casseroles.
    • Spread extra onto rolls, biscuits, cornbread, sandwiches, and toast.
    • Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil to smoothies and milkshakes.
    • Sauté or stir-fry vegetables, meats, chicken, and seafood in olive, canola, or coconut oil.
    • Marinate meat, chicken, or fish in vegetable, canola, olive, or sesame oil before cooking.
  • Add foods such as avocado and nuts to meals.
  • Add salad dressings to vegetables, potatoes, and salads.
  • Add extra mayonnaise to sandwiches, tuna salad, egg salad, chicken salad, and ham salad.
  • Add gravy to potatoes, vegetables, rice, pasta, and meats.
  • Add extra frosting to fruit, cookies, cakes, graham crackers, and other desserts.

Recipes to help your child gain weight


  • ½ cup soy milk
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 2 TBSP peanut butter
  • 2 frozen bananas, sliced
  • 1 tsp. pasteurized honey

Combine soy milk and whole milk in blender. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving • 542 calories • 19.2 g protein • 16.4 g fat


Fruit Dip

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz. vanilla flavored yogurt or pudding
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon

Blend until smooth. Serve with fruit.

Nutrition facts: 2 oz. serving • 313 calories • 9.2 g protein • 19.8 g fat


Vegetable and Cracker Dip

  • 1 large container of sour cream
  • 1 packet (dry) onion soup mix or (ranch-style) dry salad dressing

Mix well and serve.

Nutrition facts: 2 oz. serving • 131 calories • 2.4 g protein • 12.3 g fat


Creamy Avocado Dip

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt

Scoop the avocados out of their skins and place in a food processor or blender. Add the cilantro, sour cream, lime juice, jalapeno, and salt. Blend until smooth.

Nutrition facts: 2 TBSP serving • 143 calories • 3 g protein • 13 g fat (Makes 8 servings)



  • 1 (15oz) can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP tahini (sesame seed paste; optional)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ¾ tsp. salt

In a food processor or blender, puree the chickpeas and garlic with the olive oil, lemon juice, tahini (if using), cumin, and salt until smooth and creamy. Add 1 to 2 TBSP water as needed to achieve desired consistency.

Nutrition facts: 2 TBSP serving • 145 calories • 2 g protein • 12 g fat



  • 4 scoops (about 2 cups) vanilla or chocolate ice cream
  • ½ cup cold whole milk
  • ¼ cup chocolate syrup

Place ice cream, milk, and syrup in blender. Blend until smooth.

Nutrition facts: 10 oz. serving • 400 calories • 8 g protein • 16 g fat (Makes 2 servings)


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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