How to Gain Weight With Dates & Tahini as a Vegan

Close up of medjool dates on chopping board
Stuff Medjool dates with tahini for a quick snack. (Image: Rachel Husband/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images)

To gain weight, you must consistently consume more calories than your body burns. To keep healthy, weight gain should come from nutrient-rich foods rather than empty calories. Dates and tahini can help you meet your weight-loss goals, and they’re both naturally vegan choices. Be sure to add strength training to your routine so that you can increase lean muscle rather than gaining weight by storing excess fat.

Gain Weight the Healthy Way

To gain 1 pound, you have to consume 3,500 calories more than you burn for energy. If your activity level stays steady and you add 500 calories to your current daily intake, you’ll gain 1 pound per week. As your daily exercise increases, you'll also need to determine the number of calories used by each activity and increase daily 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, such as those available from Wake Forest Baptist Health, Health Status and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s SuperTracker, to calculate your needs, 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 gain weight for health reasons, take it slow and easy. Those involved in intense physical training who want to build muscles 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 your physician first to be sure your approach is the best for your health.

Boost Daily Calories With 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; one Medjool, 66 calories. If you eat three Deglet Noor dates, you’ll get nearly the same calories and macronutrients 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, yet in a concentrated form because it takes 1 cup of sesame seeds to produce about 1/2 cup of tahini. One tablespoon of tahini supplies 89 calories, reports the USDA.

If you eat one Medjool date -- or three Deglet Noor dates -- and a tablespoon of tahini, you’ll add 155 calories to your daily diet. Eat the same combination three times daily as snacks, and they’ll contribute nearly 500 calories. Spread 2 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 contribute significant calories.

Combine Vegan Dates and Tahini

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 1 tablespoon of tahini. Both ingredients have nearly equal amounts of fiber, for a total of 3 grams of dietary fiber, which slows down sugar absorption to help keep blood sugar balanced. Dates are naturally fat-free, but 1 tablespoon of tahini supplies 8 grams of total fat, which consists mostly of healthy unsaturated fats.

Gain extra calories with a tahini-date milk shake 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 a banana, 2 tablespoons of tahini and three Medjool dates for each serving, you’ll get about 500 calories from the banana, tahini and dates, plus whatever the milk alternative contains.

You can create a 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 antioxidants. 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 for Weight Gain in a Vegan Diet

Even if you don’t plan to train for the purpose of bulking your muscles, it’s still important to synthesize new muscle as you gain weight to maintain muscle health. To accomplish this goal, you need sufficient calories plus muscle-building protein. One way to maximize muscle protein synthesis is to spread protein consumption out over the day rather than getting a large percentage of protein at one meal in the evening, reported 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 barely has a trace of protein. But tahini is a different story. Two tablespoons of tahini has 5 grams of protein. The recommended dietary allowance for women is 46 grams of protein daily, while men should get 56 grams, according to the Institute of Medicine. That means women get nearly 11 percent of their daily protein, and men get 9 percent, from just 2 tablespoons of tahini. You can effectively use tahini to add protein and promote weight gain by including it at meals and snacks throughout the day.

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