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My Child is Underweight! II

Is your child underweight? Just because he looks thin, don't force food down his throat. More tips on how you can cope with underweight children.

As six-year-old Samar rushes out to play with his friends, his mother Rekha is left staring at yet another of his unfinished meals. Although she knows that many kids are fussy eaters, Samar's appetite worries Rekha because she thinks her son is grossly underweight for his age. Obesity among children nowadays is a much talked-about issue. But some parents find themselves at the other end of the scale. Clueless about how to achieve healthy weight for their kids, they often resort to force-feeding. This doesn't solve the problem but worsens it by making eating meals a chore. Parents need to understand that eating does not equal nutrition. But before we give you some tips on nourishment, it is important you get a correct diagnosis.

Is my child underweight?

Your pediatrician or physician will be the best person to answer this. Your child's weight and height will be taken into account and compared to standard growth charts. His BMI (body mass index) will be calculated. A less than 5 percentile BMI will mean that the child is underweight. Your physician might ask you to boost his nutrient and calorie intake. Many children may be slow climbers on their growth chart but gradually overcome the problem.

However, if you child still does not gain weight gradually even after proper nutritional intake, your doctor would test him for underlying medical problems.

Tipping the scales in your child's favor

Chart a diet management plan with the help of your doctor. Here are some ways you can help your child reach an ideal body weight:

  • Your doctor will recommend a higher calorie intake. Energy dense foods are rich in calories. Choose more of calorie-packed foods that have nutrients, too. Carrots, spinach, lean meats, whole-wheat bread are some nutritional foods. Whole milk, dairy products, nuts and unskinned potatoes are some high calorie foods with nutrients.

  • Avoid foods with empty calories like cold drinks, potato chips or junk food.

  • Supplement energy foods with nutrient dense foods. Try banana shakes, fruit custard and creamed soups. Serve soya bean chunks or bit-size boiled vegetables like carrots, broccoli along with a cheese dip or fondue. Top pizzas with boiled vegetables. Make puri/egg rolls with stuffings of mashed potatoes with peas, grated carrots and chopped beans.

  • Forget about three heavy meals a day. Intersperse small meals with soups or light snacks like chips and biscuits with vegetable toppings. Keep some roasted cashew nuts or peanuts as munchies for hunger pangs.

  • Eating can be fun too. Routines, meal-time happy conversations, dressing up boring meals are some ways that encourage better eating habits.
  • Cook simple recipes with your child. Ask her to put toppings on pizzas before putting them in the oven. She can also try her hand at cutting out triangles and circles from rolled out puris.

  • Say yes to breakfast. It is a very important meal because it is the body's fuel for the day ahead.

  • Go for good fats like vegetable oils, olive oil instead of processed butter or margarine.

  • Any dietary supplement should be taken only on doctor's advice.

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