Certain types of food may help a person to gain weight quickly and safely. These include foods rich in whole carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein.
A doctor may recommend that people with a low body weight try to gain weight. The most sustainable way to gain weight is to do so slowly. Methods of rapid weight gain may be hard to maintain.
People who wish to gain weight quickly should speak with a doctor first. In some cases, difficulty gaining weight or unexplained weight loss can signal a serious underlying health condition that needs medical treatment.
Read on to learn which foods can help a person gain weight safely.
Carbohydrates, or carbs, are a nutrient that the body
Rice is high in carbohydrates. For example, uncooked brown rice provides
While both white and brown rice have a certain amount of protein in them, a person can serve it with other foods, such as meat or beans, to get more protein and calories.
Whole grain bread
Whole grain bread contains complex carbohydrates and is higher in protein than white bread.
People can increase the caloric value of bread by topping it with a protein-rich food, such as nut butter or avocado. They can also prepare sandwiches containing nutrient-dense ingredients.
Whole grain cereals
Whole grain cereals include foods such as oats, wheat, barley, and rice. People can buy these whole grains individually and mix them at home to serve with milk or yogurt. Alternatively, they can buy premixed cereals or cereal bars.
Manufacturers may add extra vitamins and minerals to these cereals, but some also contain significant amounts of added sugar. For this reason, it is important always to read the label.
Dried fruits contain fructose, which is a sugar in fruit. They are useful as a natural sweetener and a way of increasing the calorie content of meals.
For example, people can sweeten cereals or oatmeal with dates, add dried apricots to yogurt, or blend dried fruits in a smoothie. Some dried fruits also work well in salads and certain cooked meals, such as tagines.
Chocolate comes from cocoa beans, which are high in carbohydrates. Compared with milk chocolate, dark chocolate usually contains less sugar and a higher cocoa content. This means that it has more of the antioxidants of the cocoa bean.
Products with a higher cacao content
A simple way to add extra flavor and calories to a dish is to top it with cacao powder or nibs.
People can add many other sources of carbohydrates to their diet, including:
Starches are rich in glucose, which the body stores as glycogen. Glycogen is an
Adequate protein intake is important for everyone, as it helps with muscle growth and maintenance. Some good sources include:
Protein shakes can be a convenient way to increase protein intake without eating more whole foods. They can also be useful for people who are vegetarian or vegan and those who need to gain weight but do not have a large appetite.
The amount of protein in protein shakes varies depending on the brand. People can check the label or speak with a dietitian to find one that is right for them. The dietitian will likely advise looking for one that is low in added sugars.
People can add protein supplements to their diet as a way of getting extra protein. Examples include protein bars and drinks.
These products may also help a person consume more calories or meet increased protein demands during pregnancy. Those wanting to track their protein and calorie content should check the nutritional labels of the available products to choose the one that is best for them.
Many dairy products are calorie-dense, and they may also contain beneficial nutrients, such as protein and calcium.
The protein content of milk makes it a good choice for people trying to build muscle, while the calcium makes it useful for people who are concerned about bone density or osteoporosis.
Cheese is another dairy product that is high in calories. It also contains protein and calcium. The exact nutritional content will depend on the type of cheese and how manufacturers make it.
For example, aged cheeses tend to have fewer carbohydrates, so more of the calories from these cheeses come from fat.
Cheese can be a high sodium food, so people should check the label to ensure that they are not getting too much each day.
A person can flavor yogurt naturally by adding honey, fruit, nuts, or unsweetened cocoa powder.
In moderation, unsaturated fats are beneficial to health, helping decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. They are also very high in calories, making them a good addition to any diet for weight gain.
Olive oil is calorie-dense and high in monounsaturated fats, which are a type of unsaturated fat.
A 15-milliliter serving of olive oil contains about
Olive oil does also contain some saturated fat, so it is important to consume it as part of a balanced diet.
Nuts and seeds
A person can significantly increase the calorie content of sandwiches, salads, and smoothies by adding some avocado.
People with a moderate body weight before becoming pregnant need 2,200–2,900 calories per day during pregnancy. For many, this amounts to a few hundred extra calories per day.
People also need to consume at least
Some options include:
- eating more meat and cooked fish
- drinking or eating full-fat dairy, as long as it is pasteurized
- trying protein shakes
- eating high protein dips, such as hummus
Parents and caregivers who are concerned about the weight of their child should speak with a pediatrician before making any major changes to their diet. If the pediatrician recommends efforts to increase weight gain, people can try:
- Whole-fat foods: Parents and caregivers can give toddlers whole milk, whole yogurt, or other whole-fat foods instead of reduced-fat substitutes.
- Energy-dense snacks: Foods such as avocado, banana, and cheese contain a lot of calories, even in small portions.
- Dips and sauces: High-calorie dips, such as guacamole, hummus, or bean dips, are simple to serve alongside vegetables or add to sandwiches.
- Smoothies and shakes: Drinks can be a good way to add extra calories to the diet without the need to eat more at mealtimes. Parents and caregivers can combine the child’s favorite fruits with yogurt, nut butter, or seeds.
Healthy weight gain requires a focus on nutrient-dense foods that support the body. It can take time to attain a higher weight, but eating a wide variety of foods can help a person achieve their goals.
Before making any major changes to the diet, it is best to talk with a doctor or dietitian to identify healthy goals and the best way to reach them. Not all weight gain strategies are appropriate for all people.
For more science-backed resources on nutrition, visit our dedicated hub.