Food - High Energy Eating for Children

Disclaimer: This fact sheet is for education purposes only. Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for your child.

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High Energy Eating for Children

This information is for children who have difficulty gaining weight. If you are concerned about your child’s growth you should speak to your GP, Paediatrician or Early Childhood Nurse. A dietitian can provide advice on feeding your child.

This information with its food examples, does not constitute SCHN/JHCH endorsement of any particular branded food product.

Some children need added protein and energy to assist with their weight gain and growth.

The table below provides some suggestions for increasing the energy and protein content of your child’s diet:

Foods/fluids used to boost energy and protein


Uses to boost energy and protein


= high energy

Use for frying or baking meat and vegetables

Add into mashed vegetables (e.g. mashed potato)

Drizzle over the top of rice, noodles, pasta and vegetables

Margarine (Olive, Canola)

= high energy

As above with oil; plus

Spread thickly on sandwiches, toast, crackers and biscuits

Meat and alternatives

= high protein

Examples include beef, chicken, lamb, pork and fish

Fry with oil, bake, crumb or batter

Try making meatballs or patties using beef mince, chicken mince or cooked fish.

Baked beans, lentils and legumes are meat alternatives. To boost the energy content add margarine, grated cheese or oil.

Double up protein in a sandwich by including meat and cheese together, or use 2 layers of meat.


= high energy

Use as a spread on sandwiches and crackers

Mash with sour cream/Greek yoghurt and use as a dip with vegetables or crackers.


= high protein

Can be used as a binder in foods such as meatballs.

Use to dip toast “soldiers” into egg yolk

Use eggs to make French toast and add maple syrup and fruit for extra energy

Make high energy scrambled eggs using cream, cheese, oil. Add ham or bacon if desired.

Mash egg with mayonnaise to use as a sandwich filling


Dairy products

= high protein

Full fat dairy products are recommended for children under the age of 2 years.

If your child is having difficulty gaining weight, full fat dairy products are recommended.

Examples include milk, yoghurt, cheese, cream cheese, custard, ice cream, sour cream.

Include dairy-based snacks regularly through the day e.g. yoghurt/custard with fruit pieces to dip, cream cheese as a dip or spread on crackers/sandwiches, cheese cubes or cheese sticks

See recipe for high protein milk on next page


= high protein

Grate into vegetables, pasta, rice, bolognaise sauce, casseroles, baked beans or tinned spaghetti on toast

Add to sandwiches

Make a cheese sauce to serve on vegetables

Cream/Greek yoghurt/Sour cream

= high energy

Add cream to yoghurt & custard

Mix into mashed potato and other mashed vegetables

Add to soups or casseroles

Mix into cereals e.g. Weetbix, porridge

Nuts & seeds

= high protein, high energy

** Note - whole nuts are a choking hazard for children under 5 years

Use smooth peanut butter or other nut spreads on sandwiches, toast, biscuits, crackers

Add nuts or nut pastes to smoothies

Use hummus as a spread on sandwiches, crackers or as a dip

Other high energy options

Choose nut butters, avocado, cream cheese for spreads

Choose milk or fruit juice over water

Add MiloTM or flavoured toppings to ice-cream and milk drinks


 Tips to increase your child’s intake

  • Replace “low fat” or “diet” foods with full cream/full calorie options

  • Choose foods that need less chewing and are easier to eat (e.g. minced meat/meatballs are easier to chew than a steak/chops)

  • Include high energy and high protein foods at each meal and snack through the day

  • Aim to include 3 meals and 2-3 snacks through the day

  • Don’t let your child drink a lot of fluid before mealtimes – this can fill them up

  • Add sauces, gravies, dressings to food

  • Always serve fruit/vegetables with a dip e.g. yoghurt, custard, hummus, cream cheese, avocado

  • Be prepared: take ready-to-eat high energy snacks when going out, e.g. tub of yoghurt/custard, cheese & crackers, crackers/biscuits with a spread, mini container with dip and pre-cut vegies, nut spread on crackers.

 Meal Ideas


Porridge made on milk with added cream, sugar/honey

Egg on toast with melted cheese and avocado spread

Cereal with milk, cream and added sugar/honey/dried fruit

Baked beans with melted cheese on toast spread with margarine

Peanut butter on toast or French toast with syrup


Toasted cheese sandwich with ham, tomato, margarine spread on both sides of the bread

Sandwich with: egg & mayonnaise, chicken & avocado, sliced meat (e.g. ham, turkey, beef) & cheese

Mini pizzas

Leftovers from last night’s dinner


Crumbed chicken pieces or fish fingers served with vegetables drizzled with oil or topped with white sauce

Risotto made with cream, parmesan cheese and bacon

Casserole with added oil or margarine, served with mashed potato and grated cheese

Quiche or omelette with cheese, ham, tomato

Macaroni cheese or tuna mornay

Nachos with mince meat, cheese, sour cream, avocado

Potato bake with creamy sauce & cheese


Full fat yoghurt, custard

Hardboiled eggs

Creamy rice pudding

Crackers with cheese or spread with hummus/avocado

Tinned fruit or fruit pieces with custard, ice-cream, yoghurt

Flavoured milk or a smoothie made with high protein milk, added ice-cream, honey, malt, cream, yoghurt, smooth peanut butter, Milo™

Cereal with high protein milk

Nuts (* not for children under 5 years due to choking risk) with yoghurt and dried fruit OR peanut butter on crackers

 High protein milk recipe

To every 1 cup of milk, add 1-2 heaped tablespoons of milk powder (either full cream or skim milk powder)

Make up 1 litre by adding 4 heaped tablespoons, keep in the fridge, and use as needed.

Use this milk on cereal, for cooking, in desserts, and wherever else you would usually use milk.

 Your dietitian may give you a special recipe for high energy milk

 If your child is lactose intolerant

  • Cheese is still suitable to include as it contains very little lactose
  • Low lactose milk or calcium-fortified soy milk can be used in place of milk
  • Some children will still tolerate yoghurt if they are lactose intolerant. There are also low lactose yoghurts available
The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network
Hunter New England Kids Health

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