When you're underweight, people will give you all kinds of advice as to how to add pounds. People may tell you to eat a banana after every meal, drink a mango shake twice daily or to eat almonds, dried figs and dates boiled in almond milk. These old home remedies may seem gimmicky, but they offer ideas for adding calories so you can attain a healthy body weight. Most home remedies for weight gain don't differ much from those your doctor or dietitian recommends. Both home remedies and medical remedies call on you to eat more nutrient-dense, high-calorie foods, and to exercise to help build muscle and stimulate your appetite.
A Calorie Surplus for Weight Gain
To gain weight to improve your health or to gain muscle to improve your sports performance, add calories to add pounds. A calorie surplus of 250 to 500 calories per day helps you put on 1/2 to 1 pound per week, a rate considered manageable and healthy. Gaining weight too quickly means you'll put on a significant amount of body fat, which doesn't promote good health.
Old-fashioned approaches to weight gain may have you nap at midday so you won't use too much energy. But being thin doesn't mean you should avoid all healthy movement. Strength training helps you put on lean muscle mass, which is a far healthier type of tissue than fat. Muscle improves daily function, builds stamina and helps you look healthier.
Light cardio activity will also increase your appetite. You might feel hungrier and you might be able to eat more calories after 10 to 30 minutes of walking, dancing or swimming than you otherwise would. Replace any calories you burn through exercise with a post-workout snack that includes protein and quality carbohydrates. For example, put a scoop of whey protein in the mango milkshake your grandma insists will help you gain weight.
Nutrient-Dense, High-Calorie Foods
Lore has it that eating a baked potato with a banana every day after meals or munching on raisins every day will help you gain weight. Often, these strategies are successful because they help you create a calorie surplus. One large, baked potato provides 290 calories; 1/4 cup of raisins has about 110 calories and a medium banana has 105 calories.
Dried fruits are a source of concentrated calories because most of the water has been removed, so they're portable and convenient as weight-gain snacks. Raisins, figs and dates are quality choices. Usually, they don't have added sugar. Nuts are another easy, calorie-dense choice, and they offer healthy fats and protein. Add these to cereals or salads, or you can snack on them right from the can. At meal time, choose starchy vegetables and dense fruits to boost your calorie intake. Examples of these are sweet potatoes, winter squash and pineapple.
Sneak Calories Into Your Regular Meals
Downing a tablespoon of clarified butter -- also known as ghee -- with a tablespoon of sugar between meals is another old-fashioned way to put on pounds. With about 150 calories per serving, eating this combination twice a day pads your diet by about 300 calories, which can help you gain more than 1/2 pound a week.
Ghee boosts your caloric intake and, in moderate amounts, is a healthy dietary addition. An alternative to ghee is olive oil, which is equally calorie dense and provides unsaturated fats. Drizzle olive oil or ghee over salad, roasted vegetables, bread or pasta.
If you're a picky eater or have a small appetite, it is helpful to add calories to other foods. Add dried milk powder, which has 159 calories per 1/4 cup, to casseroles, smoothies and cream soups. Spread nut butter, which has191 calories per 2 tablespoons, on your morning toast, or add cashews -- which has 155 calories per ounce -- to stir fries. Sprinkle cheese over scrambled eggs or add a slice of cheese to sandwiches. Make canned soups and oatmeal using whole milk instead of water. Between meals, instead of choosing water as your drink, drink milk or 100-percent juice.
Increase the Desire to Eat
Old-fashioned remedies that tell you to eat eggs for breakfast every day or to eat a peanut butter sandwich every day as a snack may backfire, if you've grown tired of eating the same food. To increase your desire to eat, add variety and amp up the flavor of foods. Add spices, onions, flavored vinegar, garlic and herbs to make plain foods more appealing. If you find yourself skipping breakfast because you don't like typical "breakfast" foods, have a sandwich or a taco, instead. Invite friends or family to your place to try new recipes or attend a pot luck to make mealtime more diverse and exciting.
A Schedule for Weight Gain
Home remedies often call for you to eat a specific food at a certain time such as two dried figs soaked in milk overnight as a pre-breakfast snack. The strategy is effective because it's a routine that reminds you to eat extra calories.
Set a timer to remind you to eat a calorie-dense snack between meals if you often forget to eat because you've become distracted. Throughout the day, try small servings of foods, such as low-fat cheese, whole-grain crackers, hard-boiled eggs, hummus and granola, every few hours. Alternatively, give in to old-fashioned ways and turn a pre-bedtime snack into a nightly ritual. Have a cup of cottage cheese with raisins or a smoothie made with fruit, yogurt and milk.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Healthy Weight Gain
- McKinley Health Center: Gaining Weight the Healthy Way
- Ask the Dietitian: Underweight
- Aya: The Effect of Ghee (Clarified Butter) on Serum Lipid Levels and Microsomal Lipid Peroxidation
- United HealthCare: Don't Feel Like Eating? How to Get Your Appetite Back on Track
- Healthaliciousness: Cashews, Peanut Butter, Dry Milk
- Healthaliciousness: Banana, Potato, Raisins
- Healthaliciousness: Butter, Sugar