If your toddler needs help gaining weight, you can make small but significant changes in her diet to help with the process, even if she's a picky eater. One important detail to keep in mind: don't force your toddler to eat, even if she needs to gain weight. Instead, the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta recommends making high-calorie food available at all times so your toddler can graze and pick throughout the day.
Dense breads such as those made with black rye or oats are higher in calories, but not all toddlers might like them -- especially if they're used to eating white bread. If your toddler is not loving these breads, try introducing them slowly or offering them toasted and along dips and sauces for extra flavor. When choosing breakfast cereals, pick those with added fruits or nuts, which also increase the calorie count. The National Health Service also recommends adding other carbohydrates to the diet, such as pasta, potatoes and rice.
Dairy products are good for toddlers for several reasons. First, they're an excellent source of calcium, which toddlers need because they're growing and building up their bones, according to the National Health Service. If you choose whole milk and full-fat dairy products, you'll also be adding lots of fat and calories to the diet, which can help your toddler gain weight. Remember that dairy provides saturated fat, so you don't want to overdo it. A good way to maintain a balance is to ensure your toddler is also getting protein from other sources, and not just dairy. Peanut butter, nuts and meats are also good sources of calories and protein, according to Nutrition 411.
An easy way to add calories to your toddler's diet is to provide tons of dips, sauces and extras, according to the website AskDrSears.com. Both cottage and cream cheese are good starting points, but don't just stop there. Try guacamole, peanut butter and yogurt as possibilities, depending on what foods they're meant to go with. You can even puree your own fruits and offer them as dip for crackers.
Desserts and candy might not be the ideal choice when it comes to nutrition, but they do provide lots of extra calories. When it comes to toddlers, the trick is to choose sweets that are high in calories but also provide some nutrition, according to Nutrition 411. Examples of nutritious sweets that can help with weight gain include fruit smoothies made with whole milk, pancakes with syrup, fruit roll-ups, banana muffins, dried fruit and pudding, according to Nutrition 411.