Weight-loss programs always feature prominently in the media. But did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate roughly 1.5 percent of U.S. adults age 20 and over are struggling with a different problem? They're underweight and need to gain weight.
Strategies for Safe Weight Gain
If you're underweight, see a doctor or dietitian for an evaluation to determine the cause. As the Mayo Clinic notes, being underweight can be of particular concern if you're pregnant, if your condition is the result of poor nutrition or if you have other medical issues.
If you're cleared to gain weight through diet alone, you must boost your calorie intake higher than the quantity of calories you burn during the day. But you should still place quality of nutrition before quantity, with nutrient-rich foods — including fruits — figuring prominently in your meal plans. As the Mayo Clinic notes, even when you're underweight, you should still be mindful of taking in too much sugar and fat.
Together, the Mayo Clinic and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offer a smorgasbord of tricks that can help you pack more high-quality nutrition into your diet. Those include:
- Eat multiple small meals spaced throughout the day.
- Drink fluids after meals; this leaves more space for food during your meals.
- Add calorie-rich toppings like nuts, seeds, nut butter and grated cheese to foods like salads, soups and oatmeal.
- Use milk instead of water to prepare foods like cereal, and sneak dry milk powder into soups, casseroles, mashed potatoes and other savory foods.
Depending on why you're underweight, exercise might be part of the remedy. In particular, strength training is useful for putting on muscle weight, and the Mayo Clinic notes that exercise can also stimulate your appetite.
Fruits for Weight Gain
So how do fruits figure into your weight-gain efforts? If you're struggling with medical conditions or medications that suppress your appetite, the varied flavors — and even the attractive appearance — of fruits might entice you to eat. You can add any fruit to oatmeal, cereal, salads, smoothies, and protein or weight-gain shakes, or add it as an attractive side dish.
However, when it comes to eating fruits for weight gain, not all varieties are created equal — and fruits and vegetables, in general, aren't very calorie-dense foods. So instead of building an entire diet around fruit, use fruits as an add-on to increase calorie count, flavor and nutrition in your other meals — or pack fruit as an easy-to-eat snack.
Here are the calorie values of some common fruits, courtesy of the USDA. Unless otherwise noted, all values given are per 1 cup of sliced fruit.
- Avocados (234 calories)
- Green olives (193 calories)
- Black olives (142 calories)
- Bananas (134 calories)
- Grapes (104 calories, 1 cup whole)
- Mangoes (100 calories)
- Oranges (85 calories, 1 cup in sections)
- Blueberries (84 calories, 1 cup whole)
- Pineapples (83 calories)
- Peaches (60 calories)
- Apples (57 calories)
- Cantaloupe (53 calories)
- Strawberries (53 calories)
- Watermelon (46 calories)
Obviously, calorie-dense fruits like avocados, olives, bananas, grapes and mangoes will help you gain weight more easily than watery, fibrous fruits such as apples, cantaloupe and watermelon, which are usually low in calories. But wait: Some of those watery fruits, such as apples, make great vehicles for consuming calorie-rich dips like nut butter.
Here's another trick: Dried fruit is a mess-free way to snack on the go or enrich your favorite foods. And dried fruit is usually much more calorie-dense, cup for cup, than its fresh equivalent. For example, a cup of raisins contains 429 calories, versus the 104 calories for a cup of grapes.
However, there's one thing you should watch for as you use fruits for weight gain — try to steer clear, or at least limit, any prepared fruit (think juices and fruit cups) that contain added sugar. Technically, yes, the sugar does increase the calorie count. But remember, you're looking not just for quantity of nutrients but quality too.
Read more: Home Remedies to Gain Weight in One Week
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Healthy Weight Gain"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Prevalence of Underweight Among Adults Aged 20 and Over"
- Mayo Clinic: "What's a Good Way to Gain Weight if You're Underweight?"
- USDA: "Avocado, Raw"
- USDA: "Banana, Raw"
- USDA: "Apple, Raw"
- USDA: "Mango, Raw"
- USDA: "Pineapple, Raw"
- USDA: "Olives, Green"
- USDA: "Olives, Black"
- USDA: "Orange, Raw"
- USDA: "Blueberries, Raw"
- USDA: "Strawberries, Raw"
- USDA: "Grapes, Raw, NS as to Type"
- USDA: "Watermelon, Raw"
- USDA: "Peach, Raw"
- USDA: "Cantaloupe (Muskmelon), Raw"
- USDA: "Raisins, Seeded"