High-Calorie, High-Protein Diet

This is a balanced diet that is specially designed to help your child increase his intake of calories. Calories give your child’s body energy. Protein helps your child’s body heal and grow strong.

  • Do not make mealtime too long for your child. Often 30 minutes is about right.
  • Do not coax, argue, plead with or threaten your child.
  • Let your child help fix the food. Children often eat more this way.
  • Make meals a pleasant time for you and your child.
  • Turn the TV off during mealtime and avoid toys or distractions.
  • Help your child eat more often. Let your child eat four to six times each day. For instance, your child can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and one to three snacks. Snack times can be in the morning, afternoon and before bedtime.


This group is an important source of protein, calories and minerals. High-calorie meats and other protein foods include:

  • Bologna and salami
  • Eggs (Do not use raw eggs in any thing uncooked. Use egg substitute instead.)
  • Fried or breaded meats, chicken and fish
  • Hot dogs (not for children under 4, possible choking hazard)
  • Peanut butter (not for children under 4, unless already introduced with no allergic symptoms)
  • Refried beans
  • Sausage or pepperoni slices
  • Tuna in oil
  • Whole-milk cheese
  • Legumes and nuts

Add additional protein to foods.

For Example: Use peanut butter (not for children under 4) with:

  • Blended drinks
  • Cookies
  • Fruit
  • Raw vegetables
  • Bread
  • Crackers
  • Ice cream

Add grated or sliced cheese to:

  • Casseroles
  • Hamburgers
  • Sandwiches
  • Make nachos with cheese and chips.
  • Eggs
  • Meatloaf
  • Soups

Whole milk and milk products

This group provides protein, calories, vitamins and minerals. Do not use low-fat or fat-free milk products if your child needs to gain weight, unless specified by your pediatrician.

  • Whole chocolate milk
  • Cream or half-and-half
  • Double-strength milk (see recipe below)
  • Ice cream
  • Milk shakes
  • Pudding
  • Sour cream
  • Whipped cream
  • Whole milk
  • Whole-milk cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Double-Strength Milk - There are two ways to make double-strength milk: To add protein - mix 1 cup whole milk and 1/3 cup powdered milk. To add calories - mix 1/2 cup whole milk and 1/2 cup half-and-half. Uses:
  • Cocoa
  • Desserts
  • Hot cereals
  • Milk shakes
  • Pancakes
  • Soups
  • Custard
  • Gravies
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Muffins
  • Pudding
  • Waffles

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are often low in calories and protein but are high in vitamins and minerals that your child needs.

  • Avocado
  • Canned fruit in heavy syrup
  • Coconut
  • Dried fruits
  • Fried, butter or creamed vegetables
  • Fruit nectar

*Limit fruit juices to less than 6 ounces per day so children do not fill up on juice and stop eating other things. Fruit juice is very high in sugar and has little nutritional value. It is a very poor source of protein and will not help children to gain weight and grow.

  • Add salad dressing, cheese, avocados, and croutons to salads.
  • Serve raw vegetables with sour cream or cream cheese and mayonnaise dip.
  • Serve cooked vegetables with grated or melted cheese or cheese soup.
  • Add cream, half-and-half, sour cream, yogurt dips or whipped cream to fruit.
  • Add raisins or other dried fruits to cereals.
  • Mix dried fruit with peanut butter and jelly or honey for dip or sandwich spread (not for children under 4).

Breads, cereals and other starches

Bread, cereal and starches are an important source of calories, vitamins and minerals. High-calorie starches include:

  • Corn bread
  • Granola bars
  • Muffins
  • Quick breads
  • Granola
  • Pancakes
  • Waffles
  • High-fat crackers such as Ritz, Triscuits, and Cheez-its

Add additional calories to breads, cereals, pasta, rice, tortillas and crackers with:

  • Butter, margarine
  • Honey
  • Jam
  • Sugar
  • Cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Jelly
  • Syrup


Fats are high in calories. Avoid low-fat or fat-free products and fat substitutes if your child needs to gain weight. Add these fats to any foods:

  • Bacon
  • Gravy
  • Oil
  • Sauce
  • Nuts (not for children under 4)
  • Butter, Margarine
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salad dressing
  • Sour cream

High-calorie breakfasts:

  • Orange juice
  • Sausage
  • Scrambled eggs with cheese
  • Muffins with butter and jam
  • Custards