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Recipe & Meal Ideas

Super Simple Snack Ideas for Children with Low BMI

Did you know 4 percent of children and teens in the U.S. are underweight? If your child has Low BMI, you’re likely spending a lot of time reading about growth charts and where your child stands. Before you can feed your child the right snacks to get on track, you have to understand what their place within the growth chart means.

Bracha Kopstick RD and Dietitian at BeeKay Nutrition, explains: “Childhood growth charts are a comparison to other children, so if your child is in the 75th percentile, it means they're taller and weigh more than 75 percent of children, and less than 25 percent of children. The most important part of growth charts is to measure that your child remains on his/her trajectory—that is, [that they maintain] their ideal weight/height (BMI).”

If, however, you don’t know that your child has a low BMI just yet, keep an eye on the fit of their clothes, suggests Jennifer Willoughby, RD. She says, “At home, keep an eye on how clothes fit your child. If a younger child doesn’t begin to outgrow her clothes over several months, you should meet with your pediatrician.”

After getting confirmation from your pediatrician, you may need to start exploring healthy ways to increase their nutrient and calorie intake, suggests the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). They explain: “Assuming your child has no underlying medical concerns, the strategy will then be to encourage weight gain in a healthful way, with food. Empty calories from foods high in fat and added sugars might add a few pounds, but they will not provide the nutrients a child needs to build strong bones and a healthy body.”

The best way to do this? AND encourages you to focus on serving your child nutrient-dense snacks and meals, including foods like eggs, nut butters, whole wheat bread, and sweet potatoes. What does nutrient-dense mean? It refers to foods that are high in nutrients compared to serving size, or, as Ashley Smith, Pediatric Dietician says, “make every bite count.” Cincinnati Children’s Hospital also gives a great example:

“Hummus is 25 calories per tablespoon, but cream cheese is 50 calories per tablespoon and peanut butter is 100 calories per tablespoon. Therefore if your child eats only small amounts and you’re looking for a good dip to have with celery, serve it with cream cheese or peanut butter.”

Choosing nutrient-dense foods is especially important for kids who have a low BMI because they have small bellies and can’t eat as much in one sitting. These foods ensure they get enough without feeling overly full or turning them off from snacking altogether.

When prepping food, remember that you can boost the nutrient content of their favorite snacks by making small modifications, like the example above, or swapping out water for milk in their morning oatmeal.

Get more tips for making the best snacks for your low-BMI child and don’t miss our super simple snack ideas to help you get started.

Tips for Good Snacks

A low-BMI child needs snacks that satisfy them both in taste and nutrition. That means your usual go-to options may need to be modified to increase nutritional value and overall calories. Keep these tips in mind as you test new recipes and grocery shop.

Use the high-calories food list as your guide:

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital created a high-calorie food list for parents of children who are low BMI and this is a great resource for you to have on hand when grocery shopping and cooking. This is especially helpful when cooking for your whole family—not everyone needs a high-calorie meal, so you’ll need to make modifications for your little one.

Better yet, when cooking for the whole family, you can use the list to find a side that’s healthy for everyone while being nutrient-dense. The list includes great options for everyone, like quinoa, brown rice or sweet potatoes.

Focus on high-fat foods:

“Believe it or not, the goal is to incorporate more fats into the child’s diet,” says Willoughby. Why? Fat has the most energy (calories) per gram, at 9 calories per gram, compared to carbohydrates and protein, both of which have 4 calories per gram. As such, a high-fat diet is helpful in getting them the nutrients and energy they need to stay fueled throughout the day.

The key however, is choosing healthy fats. Here are some healthy fat examples from Willoughby:

  • Add peanut butter. Dip raw fruit or celery in peanut butter—or an alternative nut butter if there’s an allergy.
  • Sneak in healthy oils. Stick with heart healthy oils like olive oil or coconut oil; these are easy to sneak in since you’re often cooking with them.
  • Try oral supplements. Willoughby recommends that you speak with a registered dietitian to determine the appropriate oral supplement for your low-BMI child.

Turn snacks into “mini-meals”:

Nutrient-dense snacks should really be looked at as a small meal, suggests Kopstick. Instead of grabbing for a handful of goldfish or a banana, she explains, “Make snacks mini meals; rather than serving traditional ‘snack’ foods, provide ‘real’ food, like whole fat yogurt and cheese, nut butter sandwich, eggs, etc.”

Don’t force your child to eat:

It can be frustrating when you know your child needs to eat, but they refuse. In those moments, Kopstick says that it’s important to avoid forcing your child to eat more than they want. She warns that this can have negative outcomes, like picky eating, losing hunger/fullness cues or developing a negative relationship with food and their body.

Kopstick continues, “If they are full or not eating, listen to them-don’t make them another food option! And allow them to eat to their full at the next eating opportunity.”

Snack Ideas for Your Low-BMI Child

If you need some inspiration for high-calorie snack ideas, you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few to try as you figure out what your little one wants and what will help them grow.

Protein Smoothie

Protein smoothies are the best when you need a snack that’s filling, easy to make and easy to take on-the-go. Not only do they require minimal cleanup, but all you have to do is toss in the ingredients, blend and serve. Pour it into a cup with a lid and your little one can enjoy as you run errands or head to school.

The key to a nutritious protein shake is choosing the best protein powder and getting the ingredients right. Check out Healthy Height, first and foremost. Developed and tested by pediatricians, it’s been clinically proven to show growth in 6 months. What’s even better is kids love it:

“So glad that we found Healthy Height Shake. I have been worried about my daughter’s height. She’s a little on the short side so I wanted to find something to help her grow plus provide good nutrition. This shake takes care of both. And my daughter really likes the Vanilla flavoring. Sometimes we add a banana or strawberries. She calls it her “Healthy smoothie.” - Lara Meza, Amazon customer

Finally, get the ingredients right. Use the formula below as a blueprint:

Protein + fruit + veggie + fat + liquid + natural sweetener (optional)

If you’re not sure how to put all those ingredients together into a tasty smoothie, get some ideas from our guide: 10 Easy (And Kid-Friendly!) Smoothie Ideas for Busy Parents.

Trail Mix

Trail mix is one of the most classic snacks and is also great for children who need a lot of calories in a small package. Pick and choose the ingredients based on what your little one loves most and don’t forget the fun add-ins like: chocolate chips, coconut shreds, craisins and small crackers or pretzels.

Turkey Sandwich with Avocado

Turning your child’s snack into a meal is as simple as sticking the ingredients between two slices of bread. The important part is choosing sandwich fixings that boost nutrient content. A great go-to is sliced avocado; add it on top in slices or schmear it on the bread with mayonnaise or mustard if you think your child will gawk at the taste.

Yogurt and Healthy Height

Yogurt is already a great healthy-fat snack for children with low BMI. Stir in 2 scoops of Healthy Height and you’ll have a nutrient-packed snack that’s also easy to make and clean up.

Energy Balls

Energy balls make it possible to packed nutrients into one small, but tasty kid-friendly package. Not only can your little one use their hands to eat this tasty snack, but you can include their favorite ingredients. Find inspiration for your own energy balls with these simple recipes:


Protein Muffins

Muffins make for a great snack and these Oatmeal, Apple and Cinnamon Muffins will charm every picky eater. The best part is, they’re nutrient-dense, with Healthy Height, Wheat Flour and Oats as the base. Make these on Sunday and then send one to school as a snack or save them for post-school homework fuel.

Snacks for Your Low-BMI Child

If your child is underweight or has a low BMI, your pediatrician may recommend focusing on high-nutrient, high-calorie snacks like the ones we shared here. Just remember, sometimes, all you need to do is make small modifications to the foods your little one already loves to boost nutritional value and total calories—making your life easier and your child healthier.

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