How to feed an UNDERWEIGHT child

By Jelena Puskarica

We all know about the disease of modern age-obesity. It is crippling us at an alarming rate. We worry about our kids and tackle this issue on every single level. After all, every fourth Australian kid is overweight or obese.

But it seems to me that their “thinner’ “peers have often been forgotten. And that many don’t even consider this as a problem, even though these kids have equal risks of developing nutrition-related health issues.  If you have an underweight child, as I do, you know exactly what I’m talking about. 

Have you been told… it’s just the way your child is? 
Or that they should simply eat more food? 
 

Seems easy, right? All I must do is provide healthy nutritious food and motivate my boy to eat it. Even easier for me, I’m trained to do this stuff!

✓ I know how to feed my family
✓ Our diet is abundant in vegetables and wholegrain foods
✓ We have a good mealtime routine and my kids don’t graze on snacks between meals
✓ We don’t keep many energy-dense foods in our pantry and hardly ever do takeaways

Sounds like good advice I would give to any parent of a young kid who is trying to establish healthy eating habits. EAT. MORE. FOOD. It worked for my other three children…

But not for my son… 
Instead of thriving, he was just surviving. 

Let me be clear – my son does eat his food.  He is not even fussy about trying new food and ironically vegetables are on the top of his list of favourite foods. But he simply can’t have much of it.  After a bowl of side salad his belly is too full to contemplate the main meal. 

Food doesn’t rate highly on his agenda and he often forgets to eat if I’m not around, so I worry whether he is getting all the nutrients he needs.  I had to find a way to feed my boy without feeding the rest of the family with extra calories they didn’t need. 

This meant providing small portions of energy-dense, yet nutritious food packed with healthy fats and protein, several times a day. This gives him the opportunity to eat whenever he feels hungry and not make a fuss when he doesn’t. 

EASY CHANGES

  • Morning cereals are made with full cream milk and topped with extra nuts and nut butter
  • Salad coated with extra olive oil
  • His main meals are packed with protein-rich food
  • An extra snack before bedtime

I might add, the ‘extra snack’ before bedtime was the cause of many “it’s not fair” exclamations from his siblings! 

BUT, more than food, my boy needs constant encouragement, support and reminders to eat.  It is a work in progress and requires time and patience. 

So while you may be celebrating an occasion when your child tries a new vegetable previously rejected many times, I consider a victory when my son asks, “Mum, can I have a second piece of chocolate cake?” 

… because cakes can sometimes be healthy too! 

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