There’s no shortage of advice out there on how to best or most quickly lose weight and drop inches – but many Americans, whether it’s because of recent trauma or stress, increased physical activity, genetics, medical interventions, or illness, are actually looking to gain weight. While chowing down on cheeseburgers and cheesecake might sound delightful, there are ways you can put on weight healthfully. By increasing your intake of certain foods, you can help boost your body’s natural defense mechanisms to keep you feeling better in the long-run.
Below are some simple tips for healthfully gaining weight.
Focus on high-calorie, nutrient-dense foods. Rather than focusing on quantity or how much food you can eat at one sitting, focus on the quality or nutrient density of your meals. High-calorie foods that are also nutrient-packed include healthy fats like nuts and nut butters, avocados, plant-based oils, such as olive oil, and seeds including flax seeds and chia seeds. Dried fruit and protein powders are additional foods that can up your caloric intake for the day while also offering nutritional benefits.
Eat small, frequent meals. For many people trying to gain weight, it’s easier to tolerate small frequent meals throughout the day rather than trying to find the stomach room for three square meals. This especially applies to the aging population or individuals that may have a reduced appetite (from chemotherapy, psychological stress, or other reasons). Keep grab-and-go foods on-hand at all times so when hunger does strike, you’ll be ready-to-go with a nourishing snack. Some favorites include trail mixes, energy bites (recipe idea listed below!), or peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
Try liquid meals. Calorie-dense and protein-rich smoothies are particularly good options as each sip can make a difference and add nutrients to the day. For athletes or especially busy folks, smoothies offer a convenient option as they only take minutes to whip up and can be enjoyed on the way to practice or during an executive meeting.
Skip the “diet” versions. Now is not the time to focus on reduced-calorie or fat-free options. Enjoy the full-fat variety – and enjoy them with intention.
Utilize the “extras.” Take advantage of all the goodness that garnishes and condiments have to offer! Incorporate raisins and flax seeds into your morning bowl of oatmeal; throw in a scoop of protein powder to your favorite smoothie; add shredded cheese and mashed avocado to your bowl of chili; stir in almond butter to your cup of yogurt; sprinkle sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds atop your casserole – you get the idea!
If you or your loved one is having a difficult time keeping weight on, you may benefit from an appointment with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian. They can help to uncover any potential reasons and also provide personalized strategies to help you feel your best.
Below are a few calorie-dense and nutrient-rich (not to mention, delicious!) recipe ideas:
No Bake Trail Mix Bites: Made with so much of the good stuff, like almonds and almond butter, apricots, and dates, these little bite-sized snacks are packed with some serious nutrition! Make a batch at the beginning of the week so you have them on hand for when the hunger hits.
Rock n Roll Ginger: If you’ve never added avocado to your smoothie before, now’s the time to give it a chance! Not only do avocados provide a dose of heart-healthy fats and a plethora of vitamins and minerals, but they also add an irresistibly creamy texture. Paired with protein powder and cacao powder, this hearty smoothie offers nutrition in every slurp.
Chocolate Avocado Pudding: Like your typical chocolate pudding, but better, thanks to the avocado, peanut butter, and banana! Trust us – this nutritious, wholesome dessert is too good to pass up.