Energy Boosting For Teens and Kids Over 1 Year Old

What is energy boosting?

Children and teens who are not eating well, or who need a lot of calories, may have problems such as the following:

  • losing weight
  • failing to gain weight
  • getting tired more easily

To gain weight and have more energy, these children need to get more calories from food and drink. It can be hard to get a child to eat more. However, you can choose or serve foods that are higher in calories.

This page is full of suggestions you can use to boost calories and gain weight and energy.

How to get more calories in your diet

Here are the 3 basic things you can do to help your child get more calories from food:

  • Only eat during regular meals and snacks.
  • Choose foods that are highest in calories first and lowest in calories last.
  • Add extra calories to your foods.

This page will give you the guidelines to help you with each of these recommendations. There are also other ideas and recipes to help add more calories to a daily diet.

Only eat during regular meals and snacks

Have your child eat 3 meals and no more than 3 snacks per day. Nibbling in between meals can reduce your child's appetite at meal times.

Drinks can do the same thing: they may fill your child up and lower appetite. Try to avoid giving drinks between meals as well.

Choose foods that are high in calories first

Get Adobe Flash player

The more calories a food has, the higher in energy it is. See the image list of different types of foods. They are listed in order: the highest in calories are at the top and the lowest in calories are at the bottom.

You will find more information on how to use these foods to boost calories further on in this pamphlet.

Add extra calories to your food

Adding fat

An easy way to add calories to foods is to add or cook with fats. This will also make the food taste better. Here are a few examples of fats you can add to all kinds of foods:

Oils, creams, and sauces

  • Cheese sauce
  • Gravy
  • Oil such as corn, canola, olive, or safflower oil
  • Salad dressings
  • Sour cream
  • Table cream or liquid whipping cream


  • Non-hydrogenated margarine
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sour cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Peanut butter -- if age appropriate and your child has no allergies
  • Butter
  • Chocolate spread

Adding powdered carbohydrate

Powdered carbohydrate can add extra calories to your food. Here are some ways you can use them in your foods:

  • Sprinkle the powder on cereal, fruit, or desserts.
  • Mix the powder with Jell-O and homemade popsicles.
  • Add the powder to drinks such as juice and fruit drinks.
  • Stir the powder into soups, mashed potatoes, and casseroles.

Your dietitian may also suggest:



More calorie boosting ideas

Taking this pamphlet with you to the grocery store may be helpful. Make a note of the food items listed that you would like to try and buy them on your next shopping trip.

Energy boosting ideas for meats and meat alternatives

Meat, poultry, fish, and tofu

  • Make sandwiches with 2 slices of meat and cheese and lots of spreads on both pieces of bread.
  • Add small pieces of any cooked meat, chicken, fish, or tofu to meals. Strained or ground meat works well for younger children.
  • Wrap cooked and cut-up meat or meat substitute in pie crusts or biscuit dough. Then bake to make pie or turnovers.


Add a raw scrambled egg to soup while the soup is cooking. The soup will cook the egg.

Peanut butter

  • Spread peanut butter on sandwiches, desserts, or hot breakfasts.
  • Swirl peanut butter into soft ice cream or yogurt.
  • Use peanut butter as a dip for raw vegetables or fruit slices.

Nuts and seeds (only for children over 4 years old)

  • Serve nuts or seeds as snacks.
  • Add chopped or ground nuts to breakfast foods, salads, or desserts.
  • Try rolling a banana in chopped nuts.

Write down other energy boosting ideas for meat and alternatives here:



Energy boosting ideas for milk and milk alternatives

Look for products with a high percentage of milk fat

When you shop, look for milk and milk products with a high percentage (%) of butter or milk fat. If you or your child are not used to cream, it is best to raise the percentage of fat little by little.

  • Start with a product that has the words "10% cream" or "half and half" on the carton.
  • Keep using the 10% cream for a couple of days. Make sure your child's stomach can tolerate it without getting upset.
  • If there is no stomach upset from the change to 10%, you can switch to 18% cream. Look for the words "18% m.f." or "table cream" on the carton. Keep using the 18% for a couple of days.
  • If there is still no stomach upset, you can switch to 35% cream. Look for the words "35% m.f." or "whipping cream" on the carton.
  • If there is no stomach upset, continue using 35% cream any time you add milk to meals.
  • Try adding milk that comes in a can, called evaporated milk, to foods. Always look for whole evaporated milk. It will be labelled "3.25% m.f."
  • Mix evaporated milk or cream with the same amount of whole homogenized milk. This will supply more calories and energy than whole milk alone.
  • Add 2 to 4 teaspoons (tsp) of whole milk powder to 1 cup of whole milk before you give it to your child to drink. Or, add the powder to your regular milk before you pour the milk into other foods.

Here are other ideas to boost energy with dairy products:


  • In recipes that call for water, use milk or cream instead.
  • Try adding Carnation Instant Breakfast or Resource Instant Breakfast to a glass of milk.

Whipped or sour cream

  • Add sweetened whipped cream to sweet breakfasts, desserts, and hot or cold drinks.
  • Use unsweetened whipped cream in soups, cereals, or mashed potatoes.
  • Use 3% sour cream as a dip, or mix it with recipes or cooked foods.


  • Spread cream cheese or Cheez Whiz on sandwiches, crackers, fruit, or vegetables.
  • Melt cheese on meat dishes, vegetables, or nachos.
  • Add grated cheese to main meals, sauces, or baked goods.


  • Choose higher-fat yogurts, at least 4% m.f.
  • Spoon plain or sweet yogurt onto fruits, desserts, and breakfasts.
  • Mix yogurt into milk drinks and Jell-O.

Ice cream

  • Add ice cream to drinks such as sodas, milkshakes, or other milk drinks.
  • Add ice cream to desserts.
  • Try an ice cream sandwich. You can make one with cake slices, cookies, waffles, or graham crackers.

Write down other energy boosting ideas for milk and dairy products here:




Try this milkshake recipe!

Mix these items together in a jug or blender:

  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons (tbsp) 35% cream
  • 1 pudding cup, any flavour
  • 1 scoop of ice cream

You can also add chocolate syrup or powder, or a breakfast mix such as Carnation Instant Breakfast or Resource Instant Breakfast.

Pour into a large glass and enjoy!

Energy boosting ideas for grain products


  • Choose fancier kinds of breads, rolls, crackers, and cookies. For example, try croissants, cheese bread, or fried bread.
  • Look for bread and other baked goods with raisins, fillings, or icing.


  • Choose sweetened cereals or granola, or look for cereals with dried fruit or coconut.
  • Use granola in cookie, muffin, and bread mixes.
  • Sprinkle granola on fruit or desserts.
  • Make hot cereal with whole milk instead of water.

Write down other energy boosting ideas for grain products here:




Energy boosting ideas for vegetables and fruits


  • Mix dried fruit with granola for a snack.
  • Add dried fruit to puddings.
  • Stir dried fruits into your recipes for baked goods.
  • Instead of using water, make Jell-O desserts with juice, fruit drinks, or the syrup from canned fruits.


  • Serve raw vegetables with dip.
  • Serve cooked vegetables with butter and cream sauce.

Write down other energy boosting ideas for fruits and vegetables here:




Jennifer Buccino, MEd, RD, CDE

Kellie Welch, RD