Many of us are interested in learning how to shed pounds, not add them. But for some, being underweight is a concern and gaining weight can be a struggle. Packing on pounds is not always as easy as just “eating more.”
Here are a few healthy ways to gain weight*:
Choose nutrient-rich, calorie dense foods. To gain weight you do need to eat more, but the quality of your calories still counts. Look for high-calorie foods that are also packed with nutrients. These include nuts and nut butters, seeds, avocados, dried fruit, oats, olives, and heart healthy oils.
Exercise. You may think that exercise is mainly for weight loss and maintenance, however working out – especially strength training – can also be helpful for boosting your appetite and building muscle. After your workout, be sure to refuel with a mix of healthy carbs and protein. Tuna on whole-wheat toast or an almond butter and banana sandwich are ideal post-workout snacks.
Eat more frequently. If you tend to feel full quickly, you may be able to eat more calories by having 5-6 smaller meals per day rather than 3 larger ones. It’s best to stick with foods you like and make sure you’re opting for higher-calorie versions of everything. For instance, if you’re having a sandwich, choose a bread that has at least 110 calories per slice. Make liberal use of calorie-rich condiments, such as olive oil, mayonnaise, and avocado.
Try a high-calorie smoothie. If you’re on the go or want a between meal snack, a high-calorie smoothie can be a delicious way to boost calories. Start with fresh or frozen fruit, your favorite greens and yogurt, silken tofu, or milk (dairy, soy or nut milk). Add in calorie-dense ingredients like nut butters, seeds, avocado, flax oil/flax meal, whey protein powder, oats, dried fruit, and honey.
Skip colas and other empty calorie beverages. Sometimes beverages can dampen your appetite, so it’s best to avoid filling up on empty-calorie colas, energy drinks, and coffees. Instead, opt for food and nutrient-rich beverages (like milk) or smoothies.
Treat yourself. While you should keep the focus on nutritious foods even if you’re underweight, for most people looking to add pounds it’s okay to have occasional treats like ice cream or cake.
*Note: Some health conditions may require dietary restrictions and/or supplementation. Check with your physician and/or a registered dietitian to create a weight gain plan that meets your dietary needs.