My daughter may only be in the 10th percentile for weight, but I always describe her as a “great eater.” Why? She always surprises me with her adventurous culinary choices. Example: at a family gathering last year, she happily ate an ENTIRE barbecued baby octopus, tentacles and all!
So, in the spirit of adventure, here are some high calorie foods that we’ve had success with (meaning, she’ll eat them happily, even if not in the quantity I’d like):
1. Cold-pressed, unrefined, virgin coconut oil.
While eating coconut oil won’t help to increase body fat (it’s made up of medium chain fatty acids that aren’t stored as fat), just one tablespoon of this buttery-smooth substance has 113 calories and myriad health benefits. You can add a teaspoon of this, melted, to your child’s warm drink of choice. If your little one loves the taste by itself, as my daughter did for a while (though not so much at the moment), give her a teaspoon of the oil to eat off of a spoon like peanut butter.
If she really likes the mild, sweet taste of the coconut oil, she’ll probably love coconut butter, an equally high calorie, similar product that contains coconut flesh mixed in with the coconut oil. We’ve had some success with these Coconut Butter Melties from the lovely Chocolate Covered Katie, but only when we made them in tiny, toddler-bite-sized form.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, and it can be used in place of butter in cooking. In my experience, it has an extremely mild, pleasing flavor that we all enjoy and is especially good on roasted or sauteed sweet potatoes, stir fried green vegetables, and in tropical smoothies like this to-die-for and fabulously named “Flex on the Beach” smoothie from Peas and Thank You. Unrefined coconut oil is easily found online, at Trader Joe’s, and at most health food stores.
Chia seeds are fabulously high protein and high calorie, packed with omega 3 essential fatty acids and loads of other great-for-you properties. They have an extremely neutral flavor–a little bit nutty–but a distinctive texture. They’re reminiscent of miniature tapioca balls or boba pearls when soaked in liquid, and they look like poppy seeds when they’re dry. Pixie loves that they look like black sprinkles and thinks it’s a treat to have them sprinkled on her breakfast oatmeal. Who cares if she only eats 1/8th of a teaspoon at a time? Every bite counts, right?
By the way, if you’re looking for a decadent breakfast treat for yourself that just might get your little one to love oatmeal, check out Meghan Telpner’s Chocolate Breakfast Porridge. My variation on this (basically making it without the herbs but with unsweetened cocoa powder, dried cherries snipped into tiny bits, and chia seeds, plus sweetened to taste) is what got Pixie excited about eating oatmeal for the first time, so I have a special place in my heart for this recipe. We also like them in this granola recipe (it’s supposedly a cookie recipe, but since the cookies always crumble into bite sized chunks, I call it granola). Chia seeds are so neutrally flavored and have such a pleasant, tiny crunch that they can easily be added to cookie, pancake, and even quick bread recipes without affecting the flavor and texture profiles too much. If you don’t like the poppy-seed color of regular chia seeds, look for the white variety.
Pixie is pretty sensitive to straight-up cow’s milk, so the recommendation to give 16 -20 ounces of whole milk per day wasn’t going to happen for us. There’s also so much controversy around cow’s milk:
- like the presence of antibiotics and growth hormones,
- allegations of cruel treatment of dairy cows on commercial dairy farms,
- and the dairy industry’s recent request to add sweeteners like aspartame to 17 milk products without having to list the sweeteners on the label
So, I felt very conflicted about giving this to Pixie as such a huge part of her caloric intake. Still, the protein and fat content in whole milk products is hard to beat, especially since Pixie will happily glug down 100 calories of milk in a matter of minutes.
However, I remembered hearing anecdotal evidence that people who can’t tolerate cow’s milk are frequently able to enjoy sheep or goat’s milk. I decided to try pasteurized, whole-fat goat’s milk, and Pixie thankfully loved it and tolerated it extremely well. Trader Joe’s recently started carrying “certified humanely produced” whole goat milk, and most grocery stores will carry whole goat milk if you request it–I’ve even seen it offered at some Walmart grocery centers. I’ve been giving Pixie around 14-20 oz of goat milk per day since she was about 22 months old, warmed up, in a bottle (yes, in a bottle–that’s a story for another post). The Trader Joe’s version that we use has 140 calories, 9 grams of protein (!!!) and 10 grams of fat per 8 oz serving. Most grocery store brands have 7 grams of fat per serving, 8 grams of protein, and 120-130 calories.
When we’re traveling, I take along this powdered goat milk, which she surprisingly loves just as much as the fresh stuff! It’s pricey, but it’s worth it to me to keep up her caloric intake while we’re traveling.
So there you have it, unrefined, cold pressed, virgin coconut oil, chia seeds, and goat milk are all amazingly high calorie, high nutrient foods that your preemie toddler just might love (or at least tolerate). Try ‘em out and let me know what you think!
**Full disclosure: all product links are amazon affiliate links. Each purchase contributes a few pennies to the Pixie and Panda’s education fund. **
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