Okay, okay… please don’t throw rotten tomatoes and raw eggs at me, but it’s true… there are some people out there who would like to gain weight, but want to do it in a healthy way. If that’s you, read on for some useful tips to help you reach your goals.
There are several factors for why people may want to gain weight:
- People who are underweight based on genetics and eating behaviors
- Athletes who are trying to bulk up for sports performance
- People with a recent medical procedure, like having your jaw wired shut, or having your tonsils removed (ouch!)
Whatever the reason, gaining weight should be done in a healthy way with nutrient-dense foods instead of junk foods that are consumed just for the sake of adding calories. (See dieters, it’s not all about stuffing your face in order to gain weight).
How Weight Gain Happens
You gain weight when you eat more food (calories/energy) than the body needs to maintain life-sustaining processes or move you around in day-to-day activities. To gain weight at a healthy rate, a surplus of 250-750 calories depending on each individual, should be added each day (If you’re having trouble figuring out what number is right for you, visit with a dietitian).
Healthy Weight Gain Swaps
A healthy way to add calories could be to change your milk or yogurt to 2% instead of skim. Take a look at other foods that populate your kitchen and pantry. Any “diet” foods you’re mistaking as a health food? Do they have labels that read “fat free” or “light”? A low-calorie bread could be keeping you from gaining weight, while a non-diet variety could be double the calories. Snacks for an on-the-go lifestyle can also be your secret weapon. Keep a small, Altoid-sized tin of almonds, trail mix or a natural bar (Clif, Kind, Lara, Pro Bar to name a few) in your bag whenever hunger strikes.
Liquid calories in smoothies can be good, but make sure you get a healthy dose of protein by using Greek yogurt and use naturally sweet fruit. Add some honey or chocolate sauce to bump up calories and sweetness.
When it comes time for meals, aim to fill your plate with larger servings and portions. While a big salad may be your usual fancy, veggies are generally low in calories, meaning you’ll get fuller more quickly without the calories you need for weight gain. Vegetables and fruit are crucial to a healthy diet, but try to fill the plate only 1/3 full of these options. Fill the rest of your plate with protein and quality starches like brown rice and lean proteins like chicken, fish, and lean beef.
Use foods like slivered almonds mixed into a side of green beans, or slices of avocado with a taco to boost calories without adding too much volume (you don’t want to feel stuffed every mealtime). Nuts and avocados are sources of healthy fats which are good for your heart and full of important vitamins and minerals.
Plan on eating all three meals and two to three snacks a day. Don’t skip meals, no matter what. You don’t have to go on a junk food/restaurant binge to gain weight. And why would you want to? The scale may go up but your health on the inside will go way down. Make little changes to healthy meals to get the pounds on your body in a healthy way. If you can’t gain weight after a month of trying on your own seek advice from a dietitian or your physician.