person cracking an egg

Need to gain weight? Here are some healthy ways to add calories to your diet

With patience, consistency and a focus on balanced nutrition, you can achieve healthy weight gain and improve your overall well-being.

Healthy weight gain doesn’t mean you have to indulge in highly processed foods that are often high in saturated fat, salt or added sugar. Prioritize your health by gaining weight in a balanced and nutritious way. Remember that it’s important to keep your heart healthy while safely gaining weight.

“Before starting a weight gain journey, consult with a registered dietitian or an appropriate health care provider,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator. “They can assess your individual needs and guide you in developing a plan tailored to your specific requirements.”

Here’s what you should know:

  1. Increase your serving size. If you are trying to gain weight due to a medical condition, cancer diagnosis or disability, consider increasing portion sizes of food at meals and snacks. Focus on increasing your calorie intake through nutritious, whole foods that provide the necessary nutrients for a healthy body. Double portion sizes of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to ensure you are still getting a variety of nutrients from healthy foods.
  2. Eat frequently. Try eating 3 meals and 3 snacks each day. Incorporate high calorie, nutrient dense foods between meals for slow weight gain. Gradually work towards this goal if you have a poor appetite or feel nauseous. Listen to your body while you continue to make small changes.
  3. Snack smart. Avoid heavily processed foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar and sodium. Opt for snacks that have a balance of carbs, fat and protein that are also rich in fiber and nutrients. Snack on items like trail mix, nut butter, Greek yogurt with fruit, protein bars or whole-grain toast with avocado.
  4. More calories without extra food: It’s possible to boost calories without adding extra portion sizes. Consider adding an extra dab of butter or tablespoon of olive oil to vegetables when cooking. Top foods with sour cream or cheese to add extra calories. When making a sandwich, add an extra slice of cheese for an additional 100 calories. A tablespoon of heavy whipping cream to oatmeal, cereal, smoothies, or potatoes adds 50 calories. Add mayo and avocado to tuna or chicken salad.
  5. Incorporating healthy fats into your diet is essential for weight gain. Choose avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil and fatty fish like salmon. These fats provide essential fatty acids, support brain function and contribute to a healthy heart while contributing to calories for weight gain.

High calorie, nutrient dense foods:

  • Full fat dairy
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Rice (white, brown, wild rice)
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes (sweet or white)
  • Peas, beans (even refried), lentils
  • Meat
  • Salmon, tuna
  • Eggs
  • Nut butter
  • Nut
  • Hummus
  • Avocado or guacamole
  • Chia, flax or wheat germ
  • Heavy whipping cream