I’ve had many clients who have come to me asking about tips for healthy weight gain with nutritious foods. For some people it can be difficult to put on weight healthfully. They’ve heard “just drink a milkshake” or “go eat a burger”. Well, I’m here to tell you there is so many options to increase your calorie intake with healthy foods!
Get on a Regular Eating Schedule
Try focusing on three meals a day with snacks in between, about every 3 hours. Finding a routine for frequent intake can help you stay on top of it!
Make sure that your snacks or “mini meals” are small enough that you’ll be able to eat again at your next meal.
Avoid high volume snacks that are going to fill you up too much. If you’re having a smoothie or protein shake, make it less fluid keeping it 6-8 ounces.
High-calorie protein shakes (made at home or bought at a store)
- If you buy a protein powder, read the label to look for products with more than 200 calories.
- If you make a protein drink at home, you can increase calories by adding protein ingredients such as low-fat milk, yogurt, nonfat milk powder, protein powder, collagen, or spirulina.
- Enjoy snacks such as smoothies, protein pudding or ice cream with nutrient dense foods mixed in with foods like nut buttes, oils, fruit, nuts/seeds, vegetables etc.
Choose Low-Volume, High-Calorie Foods
This means foods that have a lot of calories for a small amount.
- Fat provides a lot of calories in just a few bites. A tablespoon of oil or butter has about 100 calories.
- Add oil or butter to bread, potatoes, vegetables, and soup or while cooking.
- Use mayo, salad dressing, gravies and nut butter freely.
Some healthy calorie dense options:
Nuts and seeds. They’re high in fiber, healthy fats and protein. Most nuts have about 150 to 200 calories per ounce. They make a great snack. Sprinkle them on salads, oatmeal, soup, parfaits and anywhere else you can.
. A tablespoon of peanut butter or other nut butters has about 100 calories.
Dried fruit. You can get 147 calories from an ounce of banana chips. Don’t forget raisins, prunes, craisins, dates, and figs, too. Figs are my favorite!
Fresh, dense fruits. Some good choices are mangos, avocados and bananas.
Starchy vegetables. Peas, corn, potatoes, winter squashes, they’ve got more calories than other veggies.
Healthy oils and unsaturated fats. You can get 120 calories from a tablespoon of olive oil. Swirl it into oatmeal, mashed potatoes, smoothies, anything with a smooth consistency. It’s a great way to add calories without really noticing them.
Wheat germ and flax meal. You can also mix these into other foods to give them added calories. Flax meal which contains omega 3s has 30 calories per tablespoon. Wheat germ has 26 calories in a tablespoon and gives you important nutrients like fiber and folate.
Trail mix. It’s a higher-calorie snack that brings together dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and any other goodies you want to add.
Try Nutrient Dense Drinks
If you’d rather drink vs. eat snacks make sure they contain some nutrition. Liquid can make you feel full, even if it’s a glass of water, tea or coffee. Make every sip count.
Smoothies are a chance to toss in all those calorie-dense fruits, vegetables, nuts, and liquids. Here’s how to make a balanced smoothie.
At meal times, on the other hand, try to limit how much liquid you take in so that you can save room for solid food. If soup’s on the menu, go for thick, creamy ones rather than clear broths.
High-Protein Food Ideas
- Enjoy milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fish, poultry, and beans. Consider trying protein powders and meal replacement shakes and bars if needing as a convenience option in between meals.
- Consider whole milk or higher fat nut milks instead of low-fat or skim milk.
- Eat high-fat cheeses instead of low-fat or nonfat cheeses.
- Add extra egg to one or more meals
- Include Greek yogurt or cottage cheese for snack or part of a meal
- Increase portion size of protein entrée and decrease portion of starch/bread
- Mix protein powder, nut butter, almond/nut milk, non-fat dry milk, or Greek yogurt to shakes and smoothies
- Use these ingredients also in baked goods or other recipes
- Use double the amount of sandwich or wrap filling
- Add protein foods to all snacks including cheese, nut butters, milk, meats and yogurt
|Food||Tips for Including Protein|
|Beans, Lentils or Tofu||Add to casseroles, soups, pastas, and grain dishes that also contain cheese or meat |
Tofu can be used in smoothies
Beans can be used in baking
|Protein Powder||Can be added to shakes, smoothies, puddings, yogurt, baked goods, pancakes and waffles |
Example of Types: Whey, Casein, Egg, Beef, Pea, Hemp
|Cottage Cheese or Ricotta Cheese||Mix with or use to stuff fruits and vegetables |
Add to casseroles, spaghetti, noodles, or egg dishes such as omelets, scrambled eggs, and frittatas
Use to stuff crepes or Italian pastas
Puree and use as a substitute for sour cream
|Eggs, Egg Whites, and Egg Yolks||Add chopped, hard-cooked eggs to salads and dressings, vegetables, casseroles, and creamed meats |
Add extra egg-whites to quiches, scrambled eggs, custards, puddings, pancake batter, or French toast batter
Add extra hard-cooked yolks to deviled egg filling and sandwich spreads
|Hard or Semi-Soft Cheese||Melt on sandwiches, bread, muffins, tortillas, burgers, other meats or fish, vegetables, eggs |
Add shredded cheeses to soups, sauces, casseroles, vegetable dishes, potatoes, rice noodles, or meatloaf
Serve as a snack
|Yogurt||Blend or whip with soft or cooked fruits |
Use seasoned yogurt as a dip for fruits, vegetables, or chips Use yogurt in place of sour cream in casseroles, tuna or chicken salad
|Meat and Fish||Add chopped, cooked meat or fish to vegetables, salads, casseroles, soups, sauces, and biscuit dough |
Use in omelets, quiches, and sandwich fillings Add chicken and turkey to stuffing
Add to stuffed baked potatoes or squashes
|Milk||Use in beverages and in cooking |
Use in preparing foods, such as hot cereal, soups, cocoa, or pudding
Add cream sauces to vegetable and other dishes
|Nuts, Seeds, and Wheat Germ||Add to casseroles, breads, muffins, pancakes, cookies, and waffles |
Sprinkle on fruit, cereal, ice cream, yogurt, vegetables, salads, and toast as a crunchy topping
Use in place of breadcrumbs
Blend with parsley or spinach, herbs, and cream for a noodle, pasta, or vegetable sauce
Roll banana or apples in chopped nuts
|Nut Butter||Spread on sandwiches, toast, muffins, crackers, waffles, pancakes, and fruit slices |
Use as a dip for raw vegetables, such as carrots, cauliflower, and celery
Blend with milk drinks, smoothies, and other beverages Swirl through soft ice cream or yogurt
Spread on a banana then roll in crushed, dry cereal or chopped nuts
High-Calorie Food Ideas
|Food Sources||Serving Size + Calorie Content||Suggestions for Use in Meals and Snacks|
|Avocado||1/3 = 80 calories||Slice for sandwiches and salads |
Make guacamole and serve with chips
Stir into dips
|Butter or Ghee||1 teaspoon= 45 calories||Add to soups, mashed and baked potatoes, hot cereals, grits, rice, noodles and cooked vegetables, top muffins, crackers|
Stir into cream soups, sauces, and gravies Combine with herbs and seasonings and spread on cooked meats, hamburgers and fish, and egg dishes
Use melted butter on vegetables or with seafood
|Cream Cheese||1 ounce= 100 calories||Spread on breads, muffins, fruit slices, and crackers |
Add to vegetables Soften and season as dip for fruits
|Dried Fruits||½ cup= 100-200 calories||Cook and serve for breakfast or as a dessert or snack |
Add to muffins, cookies, breads, cakes, rice and grain dishes, cereals, puddings, and stuffing
Bake in pies and turnovers Combine with cooked vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, acorn squash, and butternut squash
Combine with nuts or granola for snacks
|Granola||½ cup= 300 calories||Use in cookie, muffin, and bread batters Sprinkle on yogurt, ice cream, pudding, custard, and fruit |
Layer with fruit and bake Mix with dry fruits and nuts for a snack
|Greek Yogurt||ounces = 150 calories||Use in place of regular yogurt in recipes Serve with fruit for snack |
Make dips and sauces
Add to shakes and smoothies
|Half-and-Half Cream||1 tablespoon= 30-50 calories||Use on hot or cold cereal |
Use in place of milk for cream soup and sauces Mix with pasta, rice, and mashed potatoes Pour on chicken and fish while baking Substitute for milk in recipes
|Nut Butter||2 Tablespoon= 190 calories||Add to shakes, smoothies, yogurt |
Stir in oatmeal Spread on muffins, waffles, pancakes, and French toast
Spread on favorite bread and crackers for snacks
|Oils||1 tablespoon= 100 calories||Roast veggies in Use to pan fry ingredients|
|Salad Dressings||1 tablespoon= 60-120 calories||Combine with meat, fish, egg, or vegetable salads|
Top baked potato