I have discussed in previous posts that even though childhood obesity is a worldwide epidemic a lot of special needs families have to worry about their child gaining enough weight.

Not being able to consume enough calories due to feeding issues or even trying to keep up with your child’s increased calorie needs due to certain metabolic issues can be a source of stress for many parents. 

Our family is constantly trying to get Makenzie, our 3 year old with quadriplegic spastic cerebral palsy, to consume enough calories to keep up with not only her growing body, but her increased metabolic needs due to her spasticity.

I wanted to share some tips on healthy weight gain that work well with our family and other special needs families I have worked with.

I realize every child is different when it comes to their food preferences and ability to tolerate certain foods but hopefully some of these tips will prove useful to you if you are trying to get your child to gain weight.

I also realize that when you are desperate to try to get your child to gain weight you will feed them whatever they are willing to eat, whether or not it is a healthy food. 

I have done it and still do it to this day.

Makenzie LOVES chocolate and I let her have it because even though it is not what I would consider a healthy food, it will at least provide her with some additional calories.

However, I always try to balance her chocolate addiction by using it is in a way where I am also giving her a lot nutrient-rich, high-calorie foods.

Makenzie can tire easily so sometimes I don’t have the luxury of providing her with food after food at meal times.

I discovered the best way for Makenzie to get a lot of calories at once was to make smoothies.

She loves them and the possibilities are endless when it comes to different combinations.

We have even been able to sneak green vegetables in these smoothies without any complaints! 

Below is my smoothie combination guide.

I have dairy-free options listed for those on a dairy-free diet.

Pick items from each column to create a high calorie, nutrient dense smoothie that most kids with love!

Column A (Smoothie base)

Column B (fruits)

Column C -optional (Greens)

Column D -add as many as you want! (nutrient-rich additions)

1 cup whole, cows milk

Any fruit combination works here. 1 cup of fruit or 1 piece of fruit depending on what you choose.

1 cup spinach

1-2 tablespoons natural peanut butter or other nut butter

1 cup soymilk

1 cup kale

2 tablespoons chia, flaxseed or hemp seeds

1 cup plain, greek yogurt (full fat)-may need to add additional liquid


½ avocado



1 cup 100% fruit and or/vegetable juice

2 tablespoons oats

1 cup almond coconut, or flax milk*

1-2 tablespoons of sunflower butter (if child has a nut allergy)




1-2 tablespoons coconut oil




2 tablespoons wheat germ

*These have significantly fewer calories than cows milk, soymilk, and yogurt but you can make up for these calories in other columns.

The possibilities are endless and these are just some suggestions.  

For example, one of Makenzie’s favorite smoothies is 1 cup soymilk , 1 small banana, ½ avocado, 1 cup spinach, 1 tablespoons of peanut butter and 2 tablespoons chia seeds.

It really tastes like a chocolate peanut butter shake!  

Stay tuned for more tips on gaining weight the healthy way!  

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