The best 19 high calorie foods for babies/toddlers, tips for baby weight gain, and high calorie baby food recipes and easy add-ins. Everything you need in one spot!
There are two reasons parents are often looking for high calorie foods for their babies. The most common reason is for peace of mind. As parents, we love to know that our babies are getting lots of nutrition and calories so they can grow big and healthy. And, truth be told, while it’s totally fine, many baby foods are very low in calories.
The second reason that you may be looking for high calorie foods is because you either feel, or have been told, that your baby is small and maybe even needs to put on weight. While in some cases, weight gain can be a very important goal, more often, those extra calories are simply a nice buffer. For those of you that are in a dire weight situation, I’ll have some extra tips for you at the end of this post.
As an OT working with babies, I’ve talked with families that very much did need or want to focus on high calorie foods for babies with weight gain in mind. This list has all of the foods and tricks I’ve used over the years to get those extra calories in! Make sure you don’t miss the free printable of this list at the end of the post.
Also, this list of foods that are higher calorie will work perfectly for toddlers too!
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High Calorie Foods for Babies
This list is for babies that are at least 5-6 months old and are totally appropriate through toddler age and beyond. If your baby is under 4 months old, breast milk and formula is the best and only option, and your pediatrician should be giving you guidance if weight gain is a concern at this point. If you’re concerned about a sensitive gag reflex or your baby has difficulty eating, head to this baby gagging guide.
Most of the foods you’ll find on the list below can be pureed to either add into or create baby food. I’ll share some specific recipes at the end for high calorie baby food blends! Otherwise, if your baby is already eating finger foods, these high calorie foods can be served in diced or stick-shaped pieces.
- Perfect finger foods and easy to mash or puree, not to mention super healthy brain food!
- Incredibly easy to add to many foods because of it’s mild taste and creamy mashed texture when its ripe. If avocado’s are new to you, read how to cut and prepare one here.
Whole Fat Yogurt
- At 6 months of age, babies can have yogurt, which they often love! Make sure it’s whole fat, not 2% or skim, which many yogurts are.
- Classic baby food perfect for dicing, slicing, and pureeing. Babies often love this super sweet fruit that packs a big calorie punch!
- Scrambled or omelet style eggs are often best for calories because baby is sure to get the yolk. Don’t offer hard boiled eggs too often if your baby always skips out on the high calorie yolk.
- A super versatile brain food that can be offered diced, mashed, or as fries. Think about adding in some butter and even a little syrup if you really need those extra calories.
- Easy to puree these and add into other baby foods. Or, mix with noodles, rice, or spread on toast.
Vegetable and Fruit Breads (zucchini/banana/pumpkin, etc.)
- So many different variations you can make, all of which are higher in calories. My favorite recipe is this banana, pumpkin, sweet potato bread. It’s a triple threat and filled with lots of “extra” but healthy calories.
- Full of healthy fats and calories, salmon flakes apart easily for baby to feed themselves and it’s easily added to other foods, even baby food when blended up together. Or, make it one of my favorite ways and turn it into salmon patties that can be easily diced.
- Not just for your grandma! Grab the full fat to dish up to your baby.
Nut Butters (peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter)
Ground Meats (beef, lamb, pork, dark chicken)
- The high protein and calories are a big score here. Make sure you’re also buying the highest fat content possible. Think meatloaf, meatballs, hamburgers, crumbles, etc.
- Keep checking those labels, not all breads are created equal. Go for whole grains and whole wheat to get the most calories and nutrition. Of course, croissants and cinnamon swirl breads will bring a load of calories, too!
- Another high hitting calorie winner that can be served diced, sliced, or shredded. Cheese is also easily added into baby food, casseroles, or other purees to up calories even more.
- Often on a baby’s favorite list, take opportunities to maximize these with calories, even if you’re making from a box. You can easily add flax seed, almond flour, chia seeds, and/or oat bran to make pancakes and waffles heavy in calories. We regularly make these pumpkin waffles in my house, adding in a quarter to a half cup of any of the above ingredients will work!
- Be generous in adding butter on toast and rolls. Think outside the box and stick up to a tablespoon in any of their pureed or casserole like foods, too! You can easily do this for just their serving so the whole family isn’t eating calorie heavy.
Added oil (coconut/olive oil)
- In the same way, add olive oil after cooking or coconut oil while heating and cooking foods.
Added sour cream
- You aren’t going to give your baby a bowl of sour cream, but a tablespoon or two of full fat sour cream can really add a lot of calories quickly. Whole fat Greek yogurt works the same way!
Tips for Using High Calorie Foods for Baby Weight Gain
I’m a mom, too, I get the worry. It can be suffocating sometimes how much I worry about my children, and when I think back to when they were babies, it can just take your breath your away. If your baby isn’t gaining weight well, it can downright consume you, understandably so.
There is hope though, and as a feeding therapist, I can tell you there are solutions, truly even for the most severe babes. Let’s walk through a few steps I’d suggest if you are in this not-so-fun place:
1.Check this guide on normal weight gain for babies to make sure your concerns are justified. I’m not saying to ignore your concerns one way or the other, but having a reference point can be helpful, of course, all babies are unique. And, no matter what the situation, talk to your child’s pediatrician, if you haven’t already.
2. Whenever you’re feeding your baby any food at all, ask yourself if you’re maximizing the calories. Sometimes you won’t be able to, when it’s a puff (which are very low calorie by the way), but often you’ll be able to add something to the food you’re already giving them.
The end of this list focused on those add ins, use one every time you are feeding a puree or casserole. Just watch that you haven’t made it unpalatable.
If you suddenly add a lot of something that is foreign, they might refuse to eat it.
3. Take it a step further if you are in a desperate weight situation and even use maple syrup or honey (if they are over the age of 1). For now, you have to focus on the calories and can scale back on the sugar in the future. As much as possible, rotate in other add-ins like yogurt, butter, and oils. Don’t forget about adding these types of food to breads and toasts as well!
4. If your baby isn’t eating well, check in to make sure it isn’t because of sensory processing related difficulties with eating. Some babies that are sensitive to the way textures feel will refuse baby food right out the gate. Other babies might have a really hard time moving to table foods. Read my complete guide on how to transition to finger foods here (lots of tips for babies that are having a hard time with it.)
You can also grab a seat in free workshop: 5 Big Feeding Mistakes That Are Stopping Your Child From Learning to Eat Table Foods.
5. Plan ahead. Sounds simple, but it can have a really big impact. Pick one day out of the week and make sure you have all the ingredients you want to include in your baby’s meals so you have them when you need them. Also, write out their meals and even their snacks. When you step back and look at it, you’ll be able make sure you’re maximizing every opportunity.
High Calorie Baby Food Recipes
As I mentioned earlier, you can use most of the high calorie foods listed to stick in a blender and hit puree. Don’t forget to add in some oil, butter, nut butter, yogurt, or sour cream to up the calories (if you’re going for big calories). In the pic above, I had blueberries (not high calorie) and added yogurt and flax seed. If not, these combo’s below stand as high calorie on their own.
If you want more inspiration, this is my favorite baby food book and it has lots of table food recipes too. Did I mention it’s written by a dietitian, so healthy weight gain is kept in mind throughout! And, click this link if you want my tutorial making your own high calorie baby food. Remember that any of these foods can be hand mashed or pureed and added to store bought foods as well. For mashing, I used this hand mill with a little crank, super quick. But, when my babies were smaller and I needed purees super smooth, I loved using a bullet blender like this one.
Want a Free Printable?
I have a free High Calorie Baby Food list you can print out. You can get it here and I’ll send it to your inbox.
More Food Ideas for Babies
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Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 14 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.