Mar 14, 2020

How to increase weight in children?

The one frequent question I get as a blog comment and Instagram DM is "Which health drink should I buy for my kid? He/she is underweight"

Through this article, I want to share my perspectives as the mother of an 8-year old daughter. I'm neither a pediatrician nor a nutritionist. 

My daughter has been underweight all these years, but taller as compared to children of her age. She was born underweight as well.

First and foremost, weight is just ONE growth parameter of a child. We need to consider all other parameters such as height, activity level, immunity and overall well being. How active the child is throughout the day? Does he/she catch a cold/fever frequently? Is the weight increasing slowly or is it stagnant for a long time?

One of the important factors that determine a child's weight is genetics. So if you or your spouse were underweight during your childhood, your kid might follow a similar growth pattern.
The other thing to consider is that kids have certain growth spurts, during which they tend to put on some weight. This especially happens during pre-puberty years. So if your child is underweight around 7-8 years, do believe that they will catch up during these periods of growth spurts. If the kid is already overweight, then there is a higher chance that he/she might exceed their normal weight range. It then becomes inconvenient for the kid to carry around that extra weight. As they turn 12-13, they become extremely conscious of their weight and start skipping their meals or turn to stress eating.

Kids don't need any of the packaged health drinks from the market. Let's change our perspective first. Growing up in 80s and 90s, most of us who are now parents presume that we need to buy some brand or the other by default - Horlicks, Boost, Bournvita, Pediasure, Complan etc. Let me reiterate this again - Kids don't need any of these drinks to put on weight or increase height. These drinks are loaded with sugar and other unwanted synthetic ingredients. 

Buying a packaged drink and mixing it with milk might be an easier, convenient option but definitely NOT the right choice for our kids' health. As parents, let's search for natural, homemade solutions. In order for this to happen, we need to put in that little extra effort (menakkedal in Tamil). 

If you are a parent with young kids (< 5 years old), the thing to focus on is NOT to pick the most expensive, health drink from the market BUT on inculcating healthy eating habits in your kids. Here are a few ideas:
  1. Set an example. Young kids love to emulate their parents. They may not listen to what you say, but they are observing you. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Include more salads in your diet. Eat a wholesome, homemade, fresh meal.
  2. Don't get fixated on their height and weight. Stop comparing your child's weight with other kids in your neighborhood. Stop discussing these topics during birthday parties or get-togethers. Ignore if anyone passes snide remarks on your child's weight. I know it is difficult but it is very much required for your mental peace.
  3. Prepare your child's meal by yourself, if possible. Make sure to include a variety of vegetables and greens when you plan a meal for your family. 
  4. Stock up on fresh fruits once every 3-4 days. Make sure that they are visible on the kitchen counter. Serve freshly cut fruits for mid-morning and evening snack. Make fresh fruit juice, lemonade or smoothies, especially during summer. Fruits and vegetables will ensure they get their daily dose of vitamins and minerals, which will improve their immunity.
  5. Plan for three wholesome meals for your child. Jot down a list of foods that your kid loves. The daily menu doesn't have to include ONLY your kids' favorites but mix and match in such a way that your child's favorites feature now and then. If your child loves pasta, include it in the menu once a week, with homemade pasta sauce and a lot of veggies. The same goes for noodles. 
  6. If your child drinks plain milk without a fuss, continue the same. If he/she doesn't like milk, please don't force-feed it or mix unwanted health drink powders to it. Milk IS NOT THE MOST important food for your child. Let's change this commonly held opinion. The nutrition required for kids are available in a wide variety of cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. There are plenty of plant-based sources that are rich in calcium and protein.
  7. There are a variety of healthy drinks that one can make at home - multigrain health mix porridge, sprouted ragi porridge, boiled rice porridge, badam milk, mixed nuts kheer, moong dal kheer (made with jaggery and coconut milk). You can try out many such options (plenty of recipes available online) and figure out what your child prefers. As I said earlier, these require a little bit of effort which we need to invest for the sake of our child's health. Do we want to outsource this crucial responsibility to a profit-focused corporation?

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