While you may hear more often about the challenges of weight loss, weight gain can be a struggle, too. To gain weight, you need to alter your caloric intake so you're eating more than your body burns. Fried chicken and candy bars may add those extra calories, but they won't make you feel healthy and energized. Fill your diet with the right high-calorie foods from all the food groups, and you'll not only gain the weight you desire, but feel better too.
High-Calorie Grains for Weight Gain
Grains provide your body with energy in the form of calories, along with B vitamins and iron. Many women of childbearing age have a difficult time meeting their iron needs, which is necessary for the production of red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body.
At breakfast, choose higher-calorie cereals such as raisin bran, which has 190 calories and 60 percent of the daily value for iron per cup, or, even better, Grape Nuts, which has about 420 calories and 90 percent of the daily value for iron per cup. Cooked quinoa, brown rice and barley all have about 200 calories per cup. With 15 percent of the daily value per cup, quinoa is a good source of iron, compared to 5 percent in the same serving of brown rice and 12 percent in barley.
Protein for Putting on Pounds
Weight gain should involve gaining some muscle, not just fat, and protein might help. An adequate intake of protein is necessary to preserve muscle and promote gain, since protein supplies amino acids needed for muscle growth. Eat a minimum of 46 grams a day, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Adding a little weight training, such as body-resistance exercises, a couple of days a week also helps ensure muscle gain and not fat gain.
Serve large hard-boiled eggs, which have 80 calories and 6 grams of protein each. A 3-ounce portion of salmon has 120 calories and 17 grams of protein. The fatty fish is also a source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which women need for heart health. Hummus is also a good source of protein and calories with 200 calories and 10 grams of protein per half cup serving. Nuts and nut butters also up your calories and protein intake.
Milk for Women's Bones: Calcium and Calories
Women do not get enough calcium, according to ODS. Adding milk and other dairy foods to your high-calorie diet promotes weight gain and bone health. Instead of non-fat dairy, serve low-fat or full-fat dairy to take in more calories per serving. A cup of low-fat milk or a 6-ounce container of low-fat yogurt has 120 calories and approximately 30 percent of the daily value for calcium. Cheese is also high in calories, with 10 percent of the daily value per ounce, and it can help you meet your needs for healthy weight gain. If you can't tolerate dairy, look for high-calorie fortified plant-milk alternatives to obtain the calories and calcium, such as soy milk with 100 calories and 20 to 40 percent of the daily value for calcium per cup.
Don't Skip the Fruits and Veggies
Many fruits and veggies are low in calories, but they're also packed with nutrients that promote good health such as folate and fiber, so you don't want to skip them. With 110 calories per 1/4-cup serving, raisins pack a high-calorie punch with nutrients you need. Add slices of avocado to your salad or sandwich to bump up the calories; half of a Florida avocado has 180 calories. Starchy vegetables, including sweet potatoes, peas, corn and lima beans, also add a few more calories than non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli and carrots, with 80 calories per 1/2-cup serving.
Foods to Add Calories Here and There
Calorie boosters add a lot of calories to your food without much bulk. Vegetable oil has 45 calories per teaspoon and can be added to salad, vegetables, grains and meats to add a few extra calories for weight gain. Nonfat dried milk powder also makes a good calorie and calcium booster. One tablespoon has 27 calories and can be added to your milk, yogurt, hot cereal, soup, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese.
- McKinley Health Center: Gaining Weight the Healthy Way
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Eat Right for Life
- Great Ormond Street Hospital: Food Group Fun
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Quinoa, Brown Rice and Barley
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Raisin Bran, Grape Nuts and Granola
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: 4 Keys to Strength Building and Muscle Mass
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Hard-Boiled Eggs, Atlantic Salmon, Hummus
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium
- University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture: The Exchange List System for Diabetic Meal Planning