Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight may not be easy, but it can improve a person's health and should be a goal for people with diabetes.
Some of the benefits include:
- better cholesterol levels
- improved blood pressure
- more stable blood sugar levels
- lower risk of long-term health problems
In this article, we consider how people with diabetes can safely gain weight without any health complications.
How can people gain weight with diabetes?
People with diabetes should always consult a doctor before making any changes to their diet.
In general, people who want to put on weight need to eat foods that are high in calories instead of following a restrictive diet where calorie consumption is kept low.
They will need to consume more calories than they expend.
However, people with diabetes will need to choose their foods more carefully as some may cause a peak in blood sugar levels, which could lead to health complications.
It is best to speak to a doctor or a certified diabetes educator before making significant changes to the diet. They may recommend consulting a dietitian who can suggest adjustments that result in weight gain but do not damage health.
Strategies to gain weight with diabetes
There are several strategies that people can use for gaining weight healthfully, as long as they consider the effect of any dietary changes on their diabetes and continue to keep their blood sugar under control.
These strategies include:
Keeping track of calorie intake
Several apps and online calorie calculators are available, which can help people estimate how many calories they need a day, according to their:
- activity level
A dietitian can help to create a meal plan that focuses on adding calories but remains conscious of the need to manage diabetes.
Eating full-fat dairy products
These include foods such as whole milk, full-fat yogurt, and cheese. People can also add full-fat milk or cream to soups and mashed potato to increase their calorie content.
Although full-fat dairy can aid weight gain, a person should be mindful of their daily saturated fat intake and total carbohydrates to manage their blood sugar.
Limiting caffeine and avoiding low-calorie foods and beverages
It is best to exclude diet products, tea, and black coffee from the diet where possible. Caffeine may mask hunger and act as an appetite suppressant.
A high-calorie, nutrient-dense snack is a better choice for someone trying to manage their blood sugar and gain weight.
Examples of suitable snacks include:
- full-fat Greek yogurt with granola
- apple with peanut butter
- banana and walnuts
- whole-grain toast with avocado and chia seeds
Adding an oil, such as olive or avocado oil, to vegetables and greens
This allows people to have healthful foods while still getting a calorie boost.
Eating healthful higher-calorie foods
Seeds and nuts are nutrient-rich foods that are high in calories.
Eating calorie-rich foods will help with weight gain.
The key is to choose nutrient-rich foods instead of sugary and fatty foods to avoid damaging health.
Higher-calorie foods that are also rich in nutrients include:
- nut butter
These should accompany nutrient-dense carbohydrates such as beans, quinoa, brown rice, and granola.
Healthful fats are calorie-rich and can assist people in gaining weight, but they also offer health benefits as they control blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Heart-healthy fats include:
- seeds (such as pumpkin or flax)
- nuts, spreads, and oils (including olive, canola, sunflower, rapeseed, and peanut)
- fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and tuna)
- nut butter (for example almond or cashew butter)
Eating smaller portions more frequently
Eating more often during the day will help to increase the appetite and, for some people, it is easier than eating a more substantial meal.
So, rather than eating three large meals, people could try eating six smaller meals a day.
Increasing protein intake
It is possible to increase the amount of lean protein in the diet by eating chicken, turkey, boiled eggs, and fish. Plant-based sources of protein include lentils, beans, quinoa, and soy, but it is important to be mindful of total carbohydrate intake when incorporating lots of these foods into the diet.
Including resistance training as part of a workout routine
Exercise can help to add muscle to the body, which should lead to weight gain. Strength training is the best way to transform calories into muscle.
Using hand weights, resistance bands, kettlebells, and weight machines at the gym can help people build lean muscle and healthfully increase their weight, instead of putting on weight by storing excess fat.
Exercise can also increase appetite.
Adding nutritional supplements to the diet
These may include food or beverage supplements, which can increase appetite and help people to gain weight.
Casein and whey protein are examples of supplements that people often take to build muscle mass and gain weight. It is possible to add them to milk, hot beverages, yogurt, muffins, or puddings.
All supplements are different, so it is best to ask a doctor or dietitian for specific recommendations.
Although most people associate diabetes with weight gain, the condition can also lead to weight loss.
This happens because the levels of insulin in the body are below the normal range, so the cells are not able to store glucose. This forces them to break down and consume fat and muscle in the body to get energy, which leads to weight loss.
By adding specific foods to the diet and exercising to build muscle, people with diabetes can safely gain weight. However, it is vital to discuss any significant dietary or lifestyle changes with a doctor before implementing them.