Starchy foods have a reputation as weight-gainers, thanks in part to the low-carb diet craze at the beginning of the 21st century. While these foods may help you gain a few pounds, it's not the starch -- a type of carbohydrate -- that causes the weight gain but the overall calories. Use starchy foods to boost your calorie intake, but make sure you're also getting enough calories -- from carbs, protein and fat -- to reach your weight-gain goals.
How to Gain Weight
Your friends may be envious, but you know that gaining weight isn't as easy as it sounds. Eating more calories to gain may be as hard for you as it is for those who need to eat fewer calories to lose. To gain 1/2 to 1 pound a week you need to eat an additional 250 to 500 calories a day. For example, if you currently eat 2,200 calories a day to maintain weight, eating 2,450 to 2,700 calories may help you gain. If you're very active or have a fast metabolism, however, you may need to eat even more to gain weight.
Starchy foods can serve as a source of extra calories to help you gain weight. Choose high-calorie, nutrient-rich starches to get fiber, B vitamins and iron, along with the extra calories. Healthy options include dense whole-grain bread, oats, brown rice, quinoa, beans, potatoes and whole-wheat pasta.
For example, 1 cup of cooked brown rice or quinoa has more than 200 calories, kidney beans pack 225 calories per cup and a baked sweet potato or whole-wheat pasta has about 180 calories in a 1-cup serving.
Maintaining a Balanced Diet
While starches are an important part of your diet, it's not the only food group you should focus on when you want to gain weight. Healthy weight gain requires a balanced intake from all the groups, including fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy. Add dried fruit and nuts to your hot cereal at breakfast. Top lunchtime sandwiches with slices of avocado or melt cheese on your baked potatoes. Include higher-calorie proteins, such as salmon, lean red meat or tofu, and veggies, such as peas and winter squash, at dinner.
Although it may be tempting to fill your diet with french fries and soda to get the calories you need, these types of foods do not offer the same nutritional value as high-calorie whole foods. If you want to gain weight the healthy way, stick to nutrient-dense foods for your extra calories.
Sample Meal Plan
Plan on eating about five times a day on your weight-gain meal plan. Include a variety of food groups at each meal, along with your high-calorie starches, for balance and nutrition.
A cheese omelet served with sauteed diced sweet potatoes and onions and a glass of 100-percent orange juice makes a good breakfast meal. For a midmorning snack, whole-wheat bread with peanut butter and low-fat milk is high in calories and nutrition.
At lunch, you might enjoy a tuna sandwich made with albacore tuna, mayonnaise and diced celery stuffed into whole-wheat pita with a container of low-fat yogurt and an orange. Whole-grain ready-to-eat cereal with low-fat milk and a banana makes a good afternoon snack.
Finish the day with a corn tortilla filled with pureed black beans served with brown rice, corn and mixed greens topped with salad dressing. Depending on portion size, this sample menu may have as much as 2,500 calories.