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Calorie Boosters

These instructions are for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) patients who will benefit from increasing calorie intake.

Important information about preparing high-calorie meals:

One way to improve your child's weight gain is to increase the calories in their food. Choose foods that are "calorie dense." This means that the foods have a lot of calories in a small amount of food. To increase the calories that your child eats, offer high-calorie foods instead of large portions.

Calorie boosting examples:

Dairy products

  • Drink whole milk several times a day. Try flavored milk with chocolate or strawberry syrup. Add whole milk to cereal and oatmeal.

  • Choose whole fat yogurt and top with granola, fruit, nuts, chocolate, and candy pieces.

  • Make smoothies and milkshakes with whole fat yogurt, high-calorie ice cream, whole milk, or heavy cream. Mix in flavored syrups, nut butters, cookies, candy, honey or instant breakfast powder.

  • Add butter, whole milk, heavy cream and shredded cheese to pasta dishes, sauces, and casseroles.

Meat and meat alternatives

  • Cook meat, poultry and fish in oil or try breading chicken, shrimp, fish, or pork chops.

  • Use high-calorie sauces and marinades.

  • Choose higher fat meats (80/20 beef cuts, New York strip or T-bone).

  • Try hummus and nut butters as a dip or spread for breads, crackers, fruit and veggies.

  • Add beans to side dishes, entrée, soups or salads. Try kidney, garbanzo and edamame beans.

  • Use whole eggs rather than egg substitute. Scramble with heavy cream or melt cheese on top.

Fruits and vegetables

  • Dip vegetables in salad dressing, hummus, guacamole, nut butters, cream cheese or dips.

  • Cook vegetables in butter or olive oil.

  • Dip fruit into nut butters, chocolate hazelnut spread, cookie butter, caramel or fruit dip.

  • Add dried fruits to trail mix, oatmeal, and cereal.

  • Try chocolate or yogurt covered fruits or canned fruits in heavy syrup.

Starches and grains

  • No bread product should be dry. Spread nut butters, butter, cream cheese, chocolate hazelnut spread, cookie butter, jelly or jam, mayo, pesto, aioli, hummus, or guacamole on top.

  • Serve pasta with high-calorie sauces like pesto, Alfredo or Rosa sauce. Butter pasta before adding sauce.

  • Try ravioli, manicotti, stuffed shells, tortellini, lasagna, and ziti.

  • Offer dessert like brownies, cake, pie, cheesecake, cookies, and cupcakes with dinner.


  • Cook with butter, ghee, and a variety of oils (olive, vegetable, coconut, peanut, corn, and canola).

Sample menu:


  • Scrambled eggs made with heavy cream and topped with cheese

  • Whole wheat toast topped with butter and jelly

  • Whole milk

Morning snack

  • Whole fat yogurt topped with granola, honey and fresh berries

  • Cranberry juice


  • Turkey sandwich with bacon, cheese and mayonnaise

  • Carrots dipped in ranch or hummus

  • Sliced apples dipped in nut butter or sunflower butter

  • Whole milk

Afternoon snack

  • Tortilla chips with melted cheese dipped in guacamole

  • Apple juice

Evening meal

  • Breaded chicken tenders

  • Broccoli topped with melted cheese or sautéed in oil/butter

  • Mashed potatoes made with heavy cream and sour cream

  • Whole milk

Evening snack

  • Milkshake made with whole milk/heavy cream and high-calorie ice cream. Try add-ins like chocolate syrup, nut butters, cookies/brownies/candy, or instant breakfast powder.

Reviewed on July 1, 2022

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