Wondering how to eat healthy but still gain weight? While the focus of most diets is to lose weight, there’s also a time and place for gaining weight, too. Foods to gain healthy weight are not only higher in calories but nutrient-rich.
Read on to discover the best healthy foods to help gain weight, as well as how to eat healthy to gain weight.
Who Should Eat Healthy to Gain Weight?
Whether your aim is gaining or losing weight, eating healthy is at the root. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “gaining weight can lead to overall better health and functionality.”
Weight gain is often warranted for those wishing to build muscle mass or maintain a healthy weight or bone mass. Your health care team may recommend weight gain in the case of:
• Older adults
• Unintended weight loss (i.e. cancer, gastrointestinal disorders)
Additionally, physical activity shouldn’t be stopped. Moving your body through exercise can actually help you gain healthy weight in the form of muscle and bone mass. Healthy meals and regular exercise can help you meet your weight gain goals.
Best Foods to Gain Weight
If your goal is weight gain, it is important to do so in a healthy way. This is often achieved through eating nutrient-rich foods. In other words, the foods you eat should not only be high in calories but also high in vitamins and minerals.
Instead of being obsessed with calories per day, introduce these nutrient-rich options into your everyday diet.
One easy way to add more full-fat dairy to your diet is to top your usual meals with grated cheese. Chili, soup, and salads can be easily topped with grated or crumbled cheese for a tasty tip.
Even breakfast meals can be beefed up! Replace water with milk in your oatmeal. You can also add dry milk powder to dinnertime favorites, like mashed potatoes or casseroles.
Rather than consuming foods rich in saturated and trans fats, focus on sources of healthy fats. Plant oils are a great place to start. Oils such as olive oil add healthy fats to the diet while also contributing to the feeling of fullness you get after a meal.
Healthy fats can also make fruits and vegetables more satiating. Use vegetable oils in fruit salsas, sautéed dishes, stir-fry, and more to make your meals more filling.
Other sources of healthy fats include:
• Nuts & seeds (i.e. sunflower seeds, flax seeds)
• Whole olives
Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are known for being low in calories but not very helpful in “bulking up.” However, options like dried fruit make a nutrient-dense healthy snack. Try incorporating dried fruit into your snacks, homemade trail mix, or foods like muffins.
Protein Shakes & Nut Butters
Protein shakes are a great way to consume a concentrated source of calories and nutrients. Many are even fortified with vitamins and minerals to help you meet your nutrient needs. Those fortified with plant protein can also help you meet your vegetable, fruit, or whole grain requirements for the day.
Nut and seed blends can also provide concentrated forms of nutrient-rich calories. Almond butter and peanut butter are common favorites. They can easily be added atop a muffin, parfait, or other food without altering the flavor too much.
Sample Menu For Weight Gain
One tip for gaining weight is to eat smaller, more frequent meals. Instead of three main meals, try eating five to six smaller, yet filling, meals. Be sure your meals are filled with nutrient-dense foods and that your snacks in between are also full of vitamins and minerals.
Also, don’t forget to consume your drinks before or after meals. Fluids during mealtime can leave less room for food in the body.
1 cup steel-cut oatmeal
• Make with ½ cup reduced milk (or powdered milk added according to instructions)
• Top with ½ cup mixed fruit (or ¼ cup dried fruit)
1 cup orange juice
1 piece of fruit (i.e apple, banana)
¼ cup mixed nuts
8 oz glass of water
• Made with whole grain bread, 4 slices lean turkey, lettuce, and mustard
10 oz glass reduced-fat milk
Baked sweet potato
• Topped with 1 Tbsp butter (or 1/2 oz grated cheese)
Protein shake (or protein bar with an 8 oz glass of water)
• Top with 3 Tbsp oil-based salad dressing
6 oz salmon filet
1 cup cooked vegetable of choice (i.e. asparagus)
½ mashed potatoes
• Top with 1 Tbsp butter
1 dinner roll
• Spread 1 Tbsp butter
6 oz plain Greek yogurt
• Add ½ cup berries of choice
• Top with ¼ cup granola
Even though bistroMD is a weight loss meal delivery service, members can achieve a variety of health goals (including weight gain) while participating in our programs.
While bistroMD is a convenient option for gaining weight with balanced meals, supplementation may be necessary. For example, adding olive oil to meals or complex carbohydrates to mealtimes or snacks can help supplement your diet with the extra nutrients you need for gaining weight.
The Bottom Line On Eating For Weight Gain
Small changes to your diet can help contribute to healthy weight gain. Foods like healthy fats, dairy, and nut butters can be subtly added to foods you already eat. Try this sample diet today to see how filling and supportive healthy foods can be when it comes to your weight gain goals.
Ellis E. Healthy Weight Gain. Eat Right. Published January 2020. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/your-overall-health/healthy-weight-gain.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight. National Institute on Aging. Published April 2022. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/maintaining-healthy-weight.
Zeratsky K. What’s a good way to gain weight if you’re underweight? Mayo Clinic. Published August 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/underweight/faq-20058429.