Power Packing

Power Packing for Children, excerpts from the Primary Children's Medical Center Handout
Power packing may be useful in the following situations:
  • An underweight child needs to gain weight.
  • A child's appetite is poor and weight loss is noted.
  • The ability to eat normal amounts of food is compromised.
  • Additional calories and protein are needed because of increased demands on the child's body.
What is power packing?
Power packing increases calorie and protein content of food without increasing the amount. The easiest way to power pack foods is to add fat and carbohydrate to increase calories while including more high-protein foods. While feeding your child, always be aware of your child's ability to safely swallow different consistencies, textures, and temperatures.

Boosting calories:

Add 1 teaspoon liquid margarine to each 4-ounce jar of baby cereals, meats, combination dinners, or vegetables.
Add 1 teaspoon table sugar, light Karo syrup, or polycose (a powdered carbohydrate supplement available in drug stores) to each 4-ounce jar of baby fruits. (Honey is not recommended for infants under 1 year of age.)
Use custard-style yogurt. Compare the labels for calories.
If your child drinks milk instead of formula, use whole milk, not 2% or skim milk. Add 1 of the following to each 8 ounces of whole milk:
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat powdered milk
  • 2 or more tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1 package "instant breakfast" type powder
Mix any dry infant cereal with high-calorie milk or infant formula rather than water or juice. Use your blender to adapt the texture of the high-calorie foods.
Use your imagination and your knowledge of your own child to develop additional ideas for power packing. Some of the very best ideas have come from the parents who are using these power packing principles and thinking of other ways to increase calories.
"Dress" your child's foods with gravies, sauces, dips, and toppings; don't serve foods plain.
Increasing calories
  • Melt on sandwiches, meats, fish, vegetables, eggs.
  • Grate into sauces, casseroles, mashed/baked potatoes, rice, noodles.
  • Add an extra slice to grilled cheese sandwiches.
Cottage cheese
  • Stuff fruits or vegetables.
  • Add to casseroles.
  • Use as a dip.
  • Top baked potatoes.
Cream cheese
  • Spread on sandwiches, fruit slices, toast, bagels, crackers, muffins, cookies.
  • Add to egg dishes or vegetables.
  • Use in sauces.
Whole milk or cream
  • Use in place of water in soups, hot cereals, instant puddings.
  • Serve cream sauce with vegetables.
  • Add powdered milk to regular milk, eggnog, milk shakes, soups, casseroles, meatloafs, cookie dough, cakes, muffins, and bread batters.
  • Add cream to sauces.
  • Use whole milk instead of 2% or skim milk.
  • Use evaporated milk in a sauce or in cooking.
Ice cream
  • Use in beverages such as sodas, milk shakes, or fruit whips.
  • Add to fruits, gelatin desserts, pies.
  • Sandwich between cookies, cake, or graham crackers..
  • Compare labels to choose higher calorie products.
  • Add chopped, hard-cooked eggs to salads, dressings, vegetables, casseroles, creamed meats.
  • Add extra egg to cooked foods such as custards, French toast, muffin and pancake batter, and bread dough.
  • CAUTION: Raw eggs are NOT recommended because of potential contamination.
Peanut butter
  • Spread generously on sandwiches, toast, muffins, French toast, pancakes, fruit slices, crackers, carrot and celery sticks.
  • Add to sauces, milk shakes, cookie and muffin batter, bread dough.
  • Swirl through ice cream, yogurt, or pudding.
Meat and fish
  • Add cooked meat to vegetables, salads, casseroles, soups, omelets, scrambled eggs, sandwiches, stuffing, and baked potatoes.
Margarine or butter
  • Melt into hot cereals, soups, casseroles, mashed/baked potatoes, rice noodles, pasta, cooked vegetables, pancakes, sauces, gravies.
  • Spread extra on toast, rolls, bread (best done when the toast, bread, rolls are hot).
  • Butter both slices of bread in sandwiches.
  • Add to salad dressing.
  • Spread on sandwiches and crackers.
  • Make vegetable dips.
  • Use to make meat, fish, or vegetable salads.
Honey, jams, jellies, or sugar
  • Add to cereals, milk shakes, fruit, desserts, yogurt, toast, muffins, French toast, pancakes and cookies. (Honey is not recommended for infants under 1 year of age or immunosuppressed children.)
Other favorites
  • Olives, peanuts, nuts, seeds, raisins and other dried fruits. (These are not recommended for infants under 1 year of age.)


Ready to use
A variety of ready-to-use supplements are available in most large grocery or drug stores. Examples include: PediaSure, Kindercal, Boost, Ensure, Resource. These products are complete meals by themselves. They can be used for snacks or to supplement mealtime. They are nutritious, a good source of calories and convenient to use.
Add to other foods
  • Carnation Instant Breakfast: Mix with whole milk or add to shakes.
  • Polycose (a tasteless carbohydrate source, available in liquid or powder form): Mix in juices, cereal, beverages or other liquid.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: September 2008; last update/revision: February 2016
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Reviewer: Meghan S Candee, MD, MSc