Your girlfriends may be envious, but struggling to put on weight may be as difficult for you as it is for them to lose it. If you want to gain weight healthfully, you need to follow the same healthy diet principles as those trying to lose. That means filling your diet with nutrient-rich foods from all the food groups so that you gain muscle and not fat.
Weight Gain Diet Basics
Eating an extra 500 to 1,000 calories a day can help you gain 1 to 2 pounds a week, according to dietitian Elena Blanco-Schumacher, which is considered a healthy and reasonable rate of weight gain. Most adult women need 1,600 to 2,400 calories a day to maintain their weight, so a weight gain meal plan for women should contain 2,100 to 3,400 calories a day. Keeping a food diary to track your usual intake before starting can help you determine your individual calorie needs for weight gain. To prevent feeling too full on your weight gain meal plan, eat six meals a day instead of the usual three. Try to include as many food groups as possible at each meal to make sure you meet your nutrient needs.
Wake up your appetite with a healthful breakfast. A high-calorie weight gain breakfast might include 1 cup of oatmeal made with 1 cup of low-fat milk and mix-ins that include 12 sliced almonds and 3 tablespoons of raisins for 460 calories. A nutritious mid-morning meal might include 1 cup of calcium-fortified orange juice and one slice of whole-wheat bread topped with 1 tablespoon each of peanut butter and 100 percent all-fruit jelly for 450 calories.
Lunch and Mid-Day: Calorie Up
Make sure you eat your fruits and veggies. They may be low in calories, but they're rich in nutrients that keep you healthy. A weight-gain lunch meal might include 3 ounces of grilled chicken on a whole wheat bun topped with a 1-ounce slice of Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and onions served with 1 cup of mixed greens tossed with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for 475 calories. A few hours later, enjoy a high-calorie mid-afternoon meal such as one large fresh pear with 1 cup of low-fat yogurt and 10 whole-grain crackers for 440 calories.
Dinner and Later
To prevent meal boredom, eat a variety of different foods throughout the week, especially protein foods such as eggs, beans, cheese or seafood. For dinner, enjoy 4 ounces of broiled tuna steak with 1 1/2 cups of baked sweet potato and 1 cup of roasted Brussel sprouts tossed with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 520 calories. Finally, finish your day with a healthful, high-calorie evening snack such as 1/2 cup of raw pistachio nuts with 1 cup of low-fat milk for 460 calories.