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HealthInfo Aoraki-South Canterbury

Underweight children

Ngā tamariki iti iho

doctor-weighing-girlIf your child is underweight, it may be tempting to give them high-energy (high-kilojoule) foods such as sweets, cakes, chocolate and sugary drinks. These foods may help them gain a little weight but they won't provide the nutrients your child needs to build strong bones and a healthy body.

It's important that your child gains weight in a healthy way. This means eating a variety of foods from the following four food groups every day:

For more information about the four food groups and how many servings your child should have every day see the Ministry of Health's document Eating for healthy children aged 2 to 12 (Ngā kai tōtika mō te hunga kōhungahunga).

If your child is eating a variety of foods but they aren't gaining weight, they may need extra energy and nutrients such as protein and fat.

For tips to boost your child's energy and nutrient intake see Healthy high energy high protein eating for children written by Canterbury DHB dietitians.

Sometimes children who are fussy eaters may not eat enough food. If this happens regularly, they may lose weight or not gain weight as they should. For information about fussy eating and tips for creating positive, normal, healthy eating patterns see Fussy eating.

If you're concerned about your child's weight, make an appointment to see your doctor or practice nurse. They'll check your child for any underlying health issues. They'll also weigh and measure your child and talk to you about what your child is eating.

If your child isn't getting enough energy (kilojoules) or nutrients such as protein, your doctor or nurse will give you advice or refer you to a dietitian.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2021.

See also:

Finding out if my child is a healthy weight

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Review key: HIHEC-62690