Whether you're a vegan or a meat-eater, you must consistently consume more calories than your body burns in order to gain weight. Your daily calories should come from nutrient-rich foods. Dates and tahini can help you meet your weight-loss goals, and they're both naturally vegan choices.
Exercise matters, too. Add strength training to your routine so that you can increase lean muscle rather than gain weight by storing fat.
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Dates and tahini are a delicious addition to your daily meals. Enjoy them as a snack, add them to smoothies and milkshakes, or combine them with high-protein foods to gain weight the healthy way.
Gain Weight the Healthy Way
To gain one pound, you have to consume 3,500 calories more than you burn for energy, as the Mayo Clinic notes. If your activity level stays steady and you add 500 calories to your current daily intake, you'll gain one pound per week.
As your daily exercise increases, you'll need to determine the number of calories used by each activity and take in more calories to make up for those burned. You can do your own calculations of calories in and out, but an easier alternative is to use online calculators. Figure out your energy requirements for weight maintenance and then add the calories required for weight gain.
Your reason for gaining weight is also an important factor. If you're underweight and want to put on a few pounds for health reasons, do it in a gradual manner.
Those involved in intense physical training who want to build muscle need enough calories to prevent protein from being used for energy, which may demand more than 500 extra calories daily. If you need to offset undesired weight loss caused by a medical condition, talk to a registered dietitian or a physician first.
Eat Dates and Tahini
You'll find many varieties of dates in the grocery store, but two favorites are Deglet Noor and Medjool dates. Deglet Noor dates are smaller, chewier and drier compared to the larger Medjool dates, which are moist and soft.
One Deglet Noor has 20 calories, and one Medjool has 66 calories. If you eat three Deglet Noor dates, you'll get nearly the same calories as one Medjool.
Tahini, or sesame butter, is made by grinding sesame seeds until they form a paste. A small amount of vegetable oil is often added to create a thinner and creamier sesame butter. Because it consists almost entirely of sesame seeds, tahini has all the calories and nutrients from the seeds, but in a concentrated form. One tablespoon provides 89 calories.
If you eat one Medjool date or three Deglet Noor dates and a tablespoon of tahini, you'll add around 155 calories to your daily diet. Eat the same combination three times daily as a snack, and they'll contribute nearly 500 calories.
Spread two tablespoons of tahini on a slice of whole wheat bread, then top it with two sliced Medjool dates, and you end up with a 386-calorie snack. Two of those each day can significantly increase your calorie intake.
Experiment in the Kitchen
The combination of dates and tahini creates a complementary mix of macronutrients. One Medjool has 18 grams of carbs and 16 grams of sugar, which is good for energy because you'll only get 3 grams of carbs and no sugar from one tablespoon of tahini.
Both ingredients have nearly equal amounts of fiber, for a total of 3 grams, which slows down sugar absorption to help keep your blood sugar balanced. Dates are naturally fat-free, but one tablespoon of tahini supplies 8 grams of total fat, which consists mostly of healthy unsaturated fats.
Get extra calories with a tahini-date milkshake that includes tahini, dates, bananas and coconut or soy milk. It may take some experimentation to come up with the proportion of ingredients you prefer, but if you begin with one banana, two tablespoons of tahini and three Medjool dates for each serving, you'll get about 500 calories from the banana, tahini and dates, plus whatever milk alternative it contains.
You can also make a healthy snack by blending tahini paste, Medjool dates and cashews, then roll the mix into bite-sized balls. Replace cashews with any of your favorite nuts or seeds, then add cocoa powder to boost your antioxidant intake. Cocoa is an excellent source of flavonoids and other bioactive compounds that support metabolic health and improve insulin response, according to a review published in Antioxidants in October 2017.
Read more: 10 Healthy Snacks You Can Make at the Office
If the mixture is too dry to hold together, add more dates. Make a savory version with tahini, dates, nuts and sun-dried tomatoes or other vegetables. Drizzle in olive oil to create the right consistency to form the mix into balls.
Protein on a Vegan Diet
Even if you don't plan to train to build mass, it's still important to preserve muscle as you gain weight. To accomplish this goal, you need sufficient calories plus quality protein.
One way to maximize muscle protein synthesis is to spread protein consumption out over the day. That's more effective than getting a large percentage of protein at one meal in the evening, as reported in a review featured in the Journal of Nutrition in June 2014.
You may not think of dates and tahini as high-protein foods — and that's true for dates, as one Medjool has less than 1 gram of protein. Tahini is a different story, though, offering 5 grams of protein per two tablespoons.
Soy, tofu, beans, chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and nuts are all high in protein and calories. Include them in your daily menu to gain weight the healthy way.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Dates, Deglet Noor"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Dates, Medjool"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Seeds, Sesame Butter, Tahini, From Roasted and Toasted Kernels"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Bread, Whole-Wheat, Commercially Prepared, Toasted"
- Journal of Nutrition: "Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-Hour Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Joslin Diabetes Center: "How Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?"
- USDA: "Raw Bananas"
- MDPI: "Effects of Cocoa Antioxidants in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus"
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Bananas, Raw