“Oh my God, are you even feeding her? She looks so thin!” Is this something you hear commonly about your child being thin? And then comes the endless advice on what to feed her to make her look “healthy.” Stumped as to what to do or how to answer those pesky questions? Worry not, for this blog throws some insight as to how to tackle underweight kids and what measures can we, as parents take to overcome this issue.
In a recent survey conducted in 2018, covering tier one and two cities, it is found that one in four urban children under the age of 5 suffers from undernutrition.
What is normal weight?
For a full-term baby, the following would be normal:
By 2 weeks: Your baby has regained her birth weight and gains around 1 kilogram per month. Sometimes, breastfed babies will need a bit more time to reach their birth weight, but that’s normal.
By 6 months: Your baby has doubled her birth weight.
By 1 year: Her birth weight has been tripled
By 2 years: She weighs four times her birth weight
For children (from birth up to 18 years of age), there is no such thing as BMI. What we often perceive as underweight, might not be true at all! Some kids falling in the healthy weight category may appear as being too thin. While on the other hand, there are kids who are actually undernourished and have low immunity. The WHO ( World Health Organisation) has come up with a growth chart for boys and girls aged between 0 to 5 years of age which would be a more reliable indicator of your kid’s weight for age.
Find the growth chart for girls between 2 to 5 years here: Weight-for-Age GIRLS
Find the growth chart for boys between 2 to 5 years here: Weight-for-Age BOYS
Developing healthy food habits to overcome undernutrition
- Stick to simple, fresh and healthy homemade foods and avoid processed foods.
- Junk such as doughnuts, chips, burgers, chocolates, and candies will not help in gaining healthy weight.
- An occasional binge of junk is alright, but it should not become the norm.
- Practise mindfulness when eating. Having meals in front of screens will induce an unhealthy relationship with food.
- Eating small and frequent meals, but packed with nutrition is the key to gain weight in a healthy way.
- Staying away from supplemental foods and health drinks is the best bet, why get it from synthetic sources when we can consume fresh and natural?
- Avoid serving “concealed foods” to your kids. We think we are being clever by sneaking vegetables into our kids’ meals, but a smarter approach would be to help our children learn to become adults who choose to make conscious and healthy food choices.
- Avoid feeding her at random intervals. Sticking to a routine will ensure that she eats while hungry and not due to boredom.
Paying full attention to food will help your kid’s body to establish a healthy relationship with food. By noticing it’s taste, the emotions it produces, if it tastes healthy, etc she will enjoy the experience of eating.
Sample meal ideas for underweight children
Small and frequent meals loaded with nutrition is the key to help underweight kids gain weight healthily. Foods aiding in healthy weight gains such as dry fruits, avocados, starchy vegetables, full cream milk and milk products, nuts, and seeds must be included as part of her regular diet.
Veggie egg scramble + milk/ Egg dosa and veg chutney + milk/ Poha with veg and peanuts + milk/ fruit pancakes/bread pizzas
Dry fruits and nuts
Rice, dal, veg, meat, curd combo/ Pasta cooked with white sauce and spinach puree/mix veg rice with raitha/ veg noodles with scrambled egg/
Cheese rolls/ veg and paneer cutlets/ pasta salad/ healthy bhel/ boiled egg/ veg soups/boiled corn/dry fruit laddoos/ fruit salad/ sundal
Paneer paratha with salad/ stuff veg parathas and egg gravy/ avocado chapathi with dal/ curd rice with vegetables
Fruit milkshake/ apple and peanut butter/fruit smoothie
Refrain from paying too much attention to where your child fits on the growth chart. Instead, focus on the rate at which she is growing. As long as she stays on her own personal growth curve – whether this curve is under or above the 50th percentile curve – development is normal.
But children shouldn’t measure below the lowest curve – then she would be severely underweight. Another red flag that your child isn’t growing well is when her weight curve flattens out or dips over a period of 2 months, or in a series of measures.