Although obesity is a nationwide epidemic, some people need to gain weight to reach a healthy size. Weight gain may be required after illness or surgery. An older adult may unintentionally lose weight due to diminished appetite and food intake, subsequently experiencing poor health and frailty. Or, perhaps you're just naturally thin and want to put on pounds to reach a healthy weight. Increasing your body mass index to at least 18.5 takes you out of the category of underweight and can help support a healthy immune system and boost your overall energy. Regardless of why you want to put on pounds, add them in a healthy way with a nutritionally balanced diet.
Healthy Ways to Put on Weight
You gain weight by eating more calories than you burn. A healthy rate of gain is about 0.5 to 1 pound per week, which requires you eat 250 to 500 calories more per day than is needed to maintain your current weight. Usually exercise, specifically weight training, is recommended with increased calorie consumption to promote the growth of muscle, which is a healthier tissue than fat.
If you're recovering from a health issue, an eating disorder or are an older person whose underweight status is compromising immunity, though, you doctor may direct you to increase body fat to improve your health. If you don't do concerted exercise when increasing calories, about two-thirds of every pound you gain will be from fat.
Tips for Increasing Calories in Meals
Simply adding an extra serving of protein, whole grains or unsaturated fat at meal time ups your calorie intake. A 100-calorie addition at each meal -- approximately the amount in one banana, an ounce of cheese, 1/2 cup of brown rice or quinoa or 1/2 of an avocado -- totals a 300-calorie increase per day, yielding a little more than 1/2 pound gain per week.
A weak appetite can making eating more at meals challenging. Add calories to the food you do eat as an alternative way to boost calories. Spread peanut butter on toast for an extra 190 calories per 2 tablespoons, cook oatmeal in a cup of milk for another 149 calories or add 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds to your salad for 170 calories. Other ways to boost calories without increasing the volume of what you eat is adding cheese to casseroles, stirring dry milk into liquid milk or tossing pasta in olive oil before adding other toppings.
Daily Strategies for Gaining Body Fat
Eating several small meals per day helps you fit in more calories without feeling stuffed. Make these small meals calorie dense -- a handful of nuts or dried fruit, half of a peanut-butter sandwich on whole-what bread, cheese with woven wheat crackers, a smoothie made with strawberries, banana and yogurt or a sweet potato with olive oil and a few ounces of roast chicken are examples.
Avoid drinking fluids with meals as this can fill you up before you eat all the solid food. The liquids you do drink between meals should have calories, too. Milk and 100-percent juice make nutritionally-rich options especially when whole food isn't an option.
Processed snacks, fast food and sweets do have calories, but can still make you vulnerable to the health consequences of consuming too much sugar and refined grains, even if you're underweight.
Some Exercise Is Important
Even if you're trying to create a calorie surplus and not burn too many calories, light activity promotes heart health, good mood and energy. Even a light walk can stimulate your appetite so you're able to take in more calories when you do sit down to a meal.
Once you've reached a weight that is healthy and bolsters your energy, consider performing mild strength training, too. You don't have to heave heavy weights to create a body-builder physique. Just two sessions per week can help you develop some muscle, that adds weight, but that also improves your daily function. Do eight to 12 repetitions of one exercise for every muscle group at each of these two workouts. Your own body weight, resistance tubing or weight machines are all possible ways to challenge your joints and muscles.
- Today's Dietitian: Underweight: A Heavy Concern
- IDEA Health and Fitness Association: Gaining Weight the Right Way
- McKinley Health Center: Gaining Weight the Healthy Way
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Healthy Weight Gain
- Healthaliciousness: Avocado, Cheese, Brown Rice
- Healthaliciousness: Sunflower Seeds, Peanut Butter, Milk
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Assessing Your Weight