Healthy weight gain relies on a few factors: getting enough calories to add pounds, exercising enough to gain lean mass and eating enough protein to support muscle growth. To gain weight, every day you need to take in 250 to 500 calories above and beyond the calories you burn, because these extra calories add weight to your frame. Carbs can play a key role in a weight-gain diet, as they're a great source of energy that fuels your active lifestyle. Although lots of carb-rich "junk" foods -- such as candy and sweets -- also add weight, it's better to stick with minimally processed, healthy sources of carbs because they give you fiber and other important nutrients.
Healthy Whole Grains for Weight Gain
Enjoy healthy whole grains as a rich source of nutrient-dense carbohydrates. Whole grains come packed with starch -- a potent source of carbs -- along with dietary fiber, a type of carbohydrate that promotes healthy digestion and keeps you "regular." The fiber in whole grains also helps stabilize your blood sugar levels because the fiber slows the release of sugar into your bloodstream after a meal, thereby preventing blood-sugar spikes.
A good choice for nutrient-dense carbohydrates includes one cup of cooked quinoa, which supplies about 222 calories, 40 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fiber. Or, choose one cup of cooked brown rice, which offers 216 calories, 45 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fiber. Eat a cup of whole-wheat pasta, such as spaghetti, and you'll get 174 calories, 38 grams of carbs and 6 grams of fiber.
Starchy Veggies for Energy
Although most vegetables are very low in calories and are relatively low in carbs, starchy veggies are an exception. As the name implies, starchy vegetables offer lots of starch, so they can significantly boost your carb intake for the day. For example, a medium, baked sweet potato has 103 calories, 24 grams of carbohydrate, with 4 grams of fiber; a medium, baked russet potato has 37 and 4 grams of carbohydrate and fiber, respectively, along with 168 calories. Eat a cup of boiled corn kernels and you'll get 143 calories, 31 grams of carbohydrate and 4 grams of fiber. Lima beans and green peas also count toward your starchy veggie intake for the day.
Beans and Lentils for Healthy Carbohydrates
Incorporating beans and lentils into your diet is a great way to gain weight. Not only are these foods high in quality carbohydrates to fuel your active lifestyle, they also supply plant-based protein, and when you eat them as part of a diet balanced with other protein sources, they support muscle growth. For example, a cup of cooked mature lentils has 230 calories, 40 grams of carbohydrate and 18 grams of protein, while the same-sized serving of garbanzo beans has 269 calories, 45 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein. Black beans have a respectable 227 calories and 41 grams of carbohydrate, as well as 15 grams of protein.
Reach for Fiber-Rich Fruits
Making fruit a regular part of your diet also boosts your carb intake, and can supply some of the additional calories you need for weight gain. For example, a cup of mango chunks, has 99 calories and about 25 grams of carbohydrate, which includes 3 grams of fiber. A cup of pineapple supplies 22 grams of carbs, with 2 grams from fiber, along with 83 calories. Eat a cup of diced watermelon, and you'll take in 46 calories, 12 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber.