Nutritious Ways to Boost Your Toddler's Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for someone with cystic fibrosis. A low BMI is a risk factor in lung function decline and a normal BMI may help reduce the risk of lung infections.1,2 However, because many with CF struggle with pancreatic insufficiency, gaining or maintaining weight is a challenge.
The importance of weight gain when living with CF
We all know a few easy tips and tricks to gain weight, such as pigging out on chips and ice cream while binge-watching your favorite show from the couch. However, weight gain with CF is not so simple.
When you are living with cystic fibrosis, you have to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to better manage your disease, so being sedentary and eating dozens of donuts is not really a great long-term option, even if the result is a high BMI.
Now that my daughter is 3, I have gone through a lot of trial and error over the past few years seeking out ways to keep her weight gain options nutritionally rich. Here are a few nutritious ways to boost or maintain your toddler's weight and BMI that have worked for us!
Cystic fibrosis diet ideas for my toddler
Just two tablespoons of hemp seeds have 110 calories, 6 grams of protein, and nearly 10 grams of fat. In addition to being a great calorie booster for puree, yogurt and smoothies, hemp seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, folate, and potassium. Hemp seeds are also rich in omega 3s, which can reduce inflammation within the body.3 They are also fantastic for keeping the digestive system healthy because of the high fiber content.
Coconut and almond yogurts
There are many dairy-free yogurts on the market that contain healthy probiotics for good digestion, healthy fats, and are a good source of protein. A few of our favorites tend to be coconut and almond yogurts marketed towards adults. Looking outside of the baby and toddler section for snacks for my daughter has been one of my keys to success in healthy weight gain. Many popular children’s yogurts can contain several tablespoons of added sugar.
To get the benefits of full fat, high protein yogurts without the sugar, we buy plain yogurt and sweeten it with a touch of maple syrup at home. Now, maple syrup is no superfood, but as an alternative to table sugar, it’s definitely a winner. It has a lower glycemic index and even has some antioxidants.
Yogurt is also a great way to sneak in additional calorie boosters like chia seeds, hemp seeds, or ground flax seeds. Sometimes we take plain vanilla yogurt and add chocolate chips and crumbled graham crackers for a yummy dessert.
We love the Silk unsweetened, vanilla almond yogurt.
Homemade french toast and pancakes
Pancakes and french toast are two meals I turn to when my daughter needs to gain weight. To make it a nutritionally-minded meal, we choose one slice of Ezekiel Sprouted Bread and soak it in one egg, with ½ tsp vanilla extract. Occasionally I will add 1-2 tablespoons of plant-based protein powder to the french toast mixture before soaking the break. Our favorite is by the brand Tone It Up and it’s the Vanilla Protein.4 After soaking the bread, we fry it in virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil has the most benefits when it is virgin and unrefined. It has several medium-chain fatty acids. And one research study suggests it may even help protect the liver from damage, which is an added bonus for our little ones with CF.5
At home, we make pancakes by mixing ½ of a banana with one pasture-raised egg then add ¼ cup of almond flour with ½ tbsp of maple syrup. This makes a great combination of protein, fat, and healthy carbs for nutritious weight gain for a toddler with cystic fibrosis.
Remember to add a pinch of salt and a drizzle of maple syrup to both of these nutritious meals!
You are probably already using butter in your home on toast, mixed with eggs, or just on its own as a snack (yep, we’ve done that before) so consider switching to grass-fed butter. One study found grass-fed butter has around 26% more omega-3 content per serving than non-grass-fed butter on average.6 Omega 3 is a great essential fatty acid that can aid in reducing inflammation in the body. Not only is grass-fed butter a higher source of unsaturated healthy fats than regular butter but it also is a rich source of vitamin A, one of those pesky vitamins people with CF have a hard time getting enough of.7
Weight gain and nutritional shakes or supplements are also an option for toddlers struggling to gain weight. Your clinic nutritionist can help you find one that best suits your child’s needs. Many people, toddlers included, in the CF community rely daily on nutritional shakes to help them maintain or gain weight. A few options that tend to lean on the nutritionally minded side as far as ingredients go are Kate Farms and Orgain.
If you are interested in trying either of those products, ask your clinic nutritionist if they have any samples available. You can also request free samples of these products through the Creon Care Forward program if your toddler uses Creon for pancreatic enzyme replacement.
There are so many healthy ways to boost your toddler's weight gain, however, sometimes weight gain and what your toddler chooses to eat is truly out of your control. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by weight gain and providing healthy diet options to your toddler with cystic fibrosis, reach out to a fellow CF parent for support and encouragement. This part of caregiving for a child with CF is not always easy and we need each other for advice and encouragement.
What are your favorite tips and tricks for managing a diet for a toddler with cystic fibrosis? Share them in the comments below!
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