High energy eating (children) factsheet


This factsheet provides information about high energy eating 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, is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute SCHN endorsement of any particular branded food product. 

 Things to consider

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

Below are some suggestions for increasing the energy and protein content of your child’s diet: 

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 vegetable 
Margarine (Olive, Canola)
  • spread thickly on sandwiches, toast, crackers and biscuits. 
  • use as a spread on sandwiches and crackers 
  • mash with sour cream/Greek yoghurt and use as a dip with vegetables or crackers. 
Cream/Greek yoghurt/Sour cream
  • 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 (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. 

High protein

Meat and alternatives 
  • 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. 
  • 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 (Milk, yoghurt)
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
Nuts & seeds (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. 
High Protein Milk
  • 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 
You can also try:
  • nut butters, avocado, cream cheese for spreads 
  • milk or fruit juice over water 
  • adding Milo™ or flavoured toppings to ice-cream and milk drinks. 


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 

Helpful Tips

  • 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. 

Lactose intolerance

  • 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.
Last updated Friday 9th February 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024