If you’re underweight and trying to put on pounds, choosing to eat more nutrient-dense, high-calorie foods is the best strategy. Nuts and dried fruits, like raisins, fall into the category of foods that support weight gain. But plenty of other healthful foods can also assist your efforts, so make sure you opt for a varied diet to get all the nutrients you need as you’re gaining weight.
Principles of Healthy Weight Gain
A combination of diet and exercise will help you gain weight in a healthy manner. Aim for a modest 1/2 to 1 pound a week by adding 250 to 500 calories to your daily meal plan. If you aren’t a big eater, this amount may seem daunting, but spread the extra calories out over the course of the day. Take larger portions of nutrient-dense foods at meals and add several snacks to your diet. Nutrient-dense foods give you the highest calorie count for the most nutrition. Instead of trying to gain weight with nutrient-poor junk foods like burgers and fries, boost your intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy, nuts and seeds.
You’ll want to combine your nutrient-dense diet with a program of regular strength training to build muscle, not fat, as you put on weight. Work all your muscle groups, and reduce the amount of cardio you do, so you don’t burn off your extra calories.
Nuts for Weight Gain
Nuts are a perfect nutrient-dense addition to your weight-gain diet, providing healthy unsaturated fats, protein and carbs. Have an ounce of nuts as a snack at anytime of day; some of the highest-calorie nuts include macadamia nuts, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts and pistachios. A quarter-cup of macadamia nuts yields 240 calories, while the same serving of almonds offers 206 calories.
You can also add chopped nuts to breakfast foods like yogurt and oatmeal, or sprinkle nuts onto your lunch salad. Dishes made from brown rice or whole-wheat couscous also benefit from the addition of nuts. Pesto – a paste made with basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil – ups the calorie count of your pasta dishes.
Choose raw or dry roasted nuts and avoid added salt. Too much sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, but it can also make you retain water so you feel bloated and are less interested in eating.
Nut butters can contribute to your weight-gain diet, too. Have 2 tablespoons of almond butter on a piece of fruit or a slice of whole-wheat toast; the nut butter alone adds 196 calories to your daily count. Choose brands without added salt or sugar for the healthiest spreads, or make your own in a food processor.
Raisins for Weight Gain
Dried fruits of all types, including raisins, are good choices for a weight-gain diet. Pair them with nuts and seeds for a high-calorie, nutrient-packed snack. Raisins top the list of dried fruits with the highest calorie count, providing 125 in a quarter-cup. Prunes, dates, apricots and figs are other nutritious dried fruits to add to your healthy weight-gain repertoire.
Like nuts, you can incorporate raisins into other foods besides snacks. Have a serving in your morning oatmeal or whole-grain cereal, or sprinkle raisins into a fruit salad. Add them to whole-grain baked goods, like muffins or bread. Raisins go well in savory dishes, too; try them in curried soups and stews, or in salads and pilafs made with whole grains like bulgur or quinoa.
Cautions About Nuts and Raisins
Allergies to tree nuts are common, reports the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; a tree nut allergy may also include a reaction to peanuts, which are technically legumes and not nuts. Symptoms of an allergy to nuts include cramps, diarrhea, itching, congestion, nausea, shortness of breath and anaphylaxis. Consult a medical professional if you suspect you have an allergy to nuts.
All fruits contain natural sugar, and dried fruits, which have most of their water removed, are a more concentrated source of it, especially fructose. Raisins are 59 percent sugar; other dried fruits are 38 to 66 percent sugar, reports Authority Nutrition. This is important information for people with diabetes because dried fruits may have a big impact on their blood sugar levels.
Some food manufacturers add sulfites to raisins to preserve their color, and these substances can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people, such as cramps, rashes and breathing difficulty. Look for untreated raisins to avoid these symptoms.
- McKinley Health Center: Gaining Weight the Healthy Way
- USDA Nutrient Database: Energy: Nut and Seed Products
- Columbia University Health: Bloating or Water Retention?
- USDA Nutrient Database: Nuts, Almond Butter, Plain
- USDA Nutrient Database: Energy: Fruits and Fruit Juices
- ACAAI: Tree Nut Allergy
- Authority Nutrition: Dried Fruit: Good or Bad?