Even those with overweight children sometimes have other children that are underweight and need to gain weight. My own children are the prime example. My oldest daughter has inherited my characteristic of storing most of her fat around her hips and thighs. However, my son is so skinny that if he turns sideways he doesn’t cast a shadow! (I know, you can’t fatten a thoroughbred!) Yet they have always eaten the same things.
So how do we solve the issue of how to increase kids weight?
Firstly, you need to understand where calories come from. There are three types of calories based on the sources of carbohydrates, protein and fats.
The role of carbohydrates in the body.
Carbohydrates provide the primary source of fuel to the human body.
- Carbohydrates are converted to glucose then burned to supply immediate energy requirements
- They supply energy to the Central Nervous System which requires glucose to function properly.
- They supply instant energy to the Muscles for physical activity – Fats and proteins are only utilized after being converted to carbs then sugar.
- They free proteins to be used for muscle development rather than an emergency energy source.
- Foods rich in carbohydrates are often rich in dietary fiber (especially whole grains). This fiber is crucial to digestive health and can help prevent many digestive conditions including cancer, diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
The role of protein in the body.
Proteins are essential building blocks for the body and muscles. They perform a variety of functions including:
- Antibodies – Specialized proteins that defend the body from bacteria, viruses and other potentially harmful foreign particles.
- Contractile proteins – Assist with muscle contraction and movement
- Enzymes – proteins which act as catalysts for certain biochemical processes in the body including digestion
- Hormonal proteins – messenger proteins that coordinate certain bodily functions such as the onset of puberty
- Structural proteins – fibrous, stringy proteins that provide support to tendons, ligaments etc. For example. Collagen, elastin and keratin
- Amino acids (storage proteins) – Muscles are predominantly made of the protein building blocks known as amino acids.
- Transport proteins – proteins that carry molecules around the body. E.g. hemoglobin which carries oxygen through the bloodstream to where it is required
The role of fat in the body.
While an excess of certain fats is unhealthy, fats fulfill important functions in the body including:
- Fat provides energy during times of famine or when illness causes low appetite or the body is unable to retain food (i.e. vomiting)
- Fat helps insulate the body against extreme cold or heat.
- Certain vital organs require a protective cushion of fat.
- Dietary fat carries and enables absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Fat supplies essential fatty acids like Omega 6 (linoleic acid) and Omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid).
As you can see all three sources of calories are vital to the human body. However, there are certain combinations that assist with weight gain.
It’s logical that an underweight person has a metabolism that burns only enough calories to supply their daily energy requirements. This is usually due to one of two factors… (a) They eat barely enough for their activity levels, or (b) Their metabolism is inefficient. Having an inefficient metabolism means that a significant portion of calories consumed pass unused from the body. Many young people experience this. They can eat whatever they like without gaining weight. However, this can change. Things happen, like pregnancy in women, that cause metabolism to become more efficient and you suddenly have to be careful of what you eat.
So how does this help us to know how to increase kids weight?
When you examine the functions of different calorie types you’ll see that the most readily absorbed form of calories come from carbohydrates. This is because carbohydrates are closest to the form required by the body for energy. Fats and proteins must be converted to carbohydrates before being utilized for energy requirements. So to increase kids weight, increase their carbohydrate consumption by feeding them more grain based products like breads, pasta, rice, cereals etc. Try to use wholegrain alternatives to provide the dietary fiber required for digestive health. However, don’t just increase their carbs. Carbohydrates are primarily converted to fat cells. Your child needs more than just fat cells. They also need to increase the muscle content of the body and for this they require protein.
Of course, you must consult with your doctor regarding this issue also. The doctor will want to ensure that there are no underlying factors causing the issue like juvenile (type 1) diabetes and may also recommend a vitamin supplement to increase your child’s metabolism.
It is possible to increase carbohydrate and protein consumption without increasing overall food consumption. It just requires a little research to reveal food options that are rich in carbohydrates and protein. You can do this at http://www.nutritiondata.com/tools/nutrient-search. But here are some foods to start with.
Cereals: Corn flakes, oat bran.
Pasta & rice: couscous, spinach pasta, rice.
Vegetables: Dehydrated mashed potato, leeks, shitake mushrooms, tomato powder, mung beans, fava (broad) beans, dried split peas, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans.
Fruits & nuts: Dried fruits, sunflower seeds, chestnuts.
Dairy: Tofu, Eggs, egg substitute powder, parmesan cheese topping, buttermilk.
Snacks: potato crisps (chips), popcorn, corn cakes, tortillas, pretzels, granola bars.
Meals: Kraft macaroni cheese dinner.
Meats: Fried chicken, beef round steak, bacon, veal leg steak, beef salami, honey roast ham, offal products (liver etc).