Whether you’re underweight, want to put on muscle or need to gain weight after an illness or injury, it’s important to eat and drink nutrient-dense food. Doughnuts and fries might pack on the pounds, but they won’t do your mental and physical health any favors. Fruit smoothies, however, are packed with essential nutrients and can help you healthfully add calories to your daily diet.
The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois specifically recommends fruit smoothies for healthy weight gain. Both fruits and vegetables make up a significant portion of a balanced diet because of their high nutrient densities, but fruits have more calories per serving and so they're a better choice for weight gain. Dried fruits, such as dates, have higher energy density levels and more calories per serving, so they also make smart additions to weight gain smoothies. In some cases, dried fruits even have higher antioxidant contents than their fresh counterparts.
Blending any type of fresh or frozen fruit into your smoothies will add vitamins, minerals and calories, but higher calorie fruits will make more of a difference in encouraging steady weight gain. Per fruit, some of the highest-calorie options are avocados, with 250 calories per 5-ounce serving; mangoes, with 135 calories per medium fruit; papayas, with 120 calories per medium fruit; bananas, with 105 calories per medium fruit; and dried dates, with 228 calories per 10 fruits.
Smoothies that contain only blended fruits offer plenty of health benefits, but they’re not optimal for weight gain because they have relatively few calories and little protein. Protein, in conjunction with regular strength training, is necessary for building lean muscle mass rather than putting on solely body fat as you gain. High-protein additions to your smoothie that will add calories but keep saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar amounts in check include protein powder, natural nut butters, plain, low-fat Greek yogurt, low-fat milk or silken tofu.
What to Avoid
Making your own fruit smoothies is often the healthiest choice because you can control what goes into your drink as well as the total calorie count per serving. If you’re out and ordering a smoothie at a juice bar or coffee shop, find an ingredients list or ask questions about what’s in your smoothie. Often, prepared smoothies contain generous amounts of added sugar or ice cream, which make them more like decadent desserts than healthy snacks for weight gain. Fruit by itself is almost always enough to sweeten a smoothie, so avoid added sugars, artificial sweeteners and any ingredients that are high in saturated fat or cholesterol.
Drinking high-calorie fruit smoothies with your meals may cause you to fill up too quickly on the liquid calories to eat much food, especially if you struggle to maintain a healthy appetite. Instead, FitnessBlender.com personal trainers Daniel and Kelli Segars recommend drinking smoothies between meals so you end up taking in more total calories.