When gaining weight, it's crucial you do it in a healthy way. You will need to eat more and include higher-calorie foods, but your diet should still be composed of predominantly healthy, nutrient-dense foods.
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The Skinny on Fat
Fat plays an essential role in your diet whatever your goal, as it helps vitamin and mineral absorption, aids with cell function and supplies energy. When gaining weight, fat is of extra importance, though, because 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, compared to just 4 calories per gram in carbohydrates and protein. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests consuming mainly omega-3 fats from oily fish and monounsaturated fats from nuts and seeds. At dinner, try switching from a lean meat like chicken or turkey to mackerel or salmon. Swap your canned tuna for sardines and add olive oil to salads and vegetables.
Go Nuts for Snacks
Eating more snacks between meals is an easy way to get extra calories into your diet. Nuts are high in monounsaturated fats and therefore high in calories, with most types containing between 550 and 650 calories per 100 grams. To boost the calorie content further, throw some dried fruit into the mix. Dried fruit contains all the vitamins and minerals of fresh fruit but has had the water removed, making it far more calorie-dense.
While the general recommendation is to avoid calorie-containing beverages, if you're struggling to eat enough food to gain weight, drinks can be helpful. According to dietitian Karen Giles-Smith, milk has numerous health benefits and the fats contained in milk do not appear to increase your risk of heart disease, meaning you can drink the higher-calorie whole milk to help boost your calorie intake. Freshly squeezed fruit juices and homemade smoothies are also more calorically dense than water or plain tea or coffee, so try alternating each glass of water or cup of tea or coffee with a glass of milk or a smoothie.
Add in the Extras
Adding small amounts of high-calorie foods to your regular meals is another useful tip, as suggested by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This could be something as simple as sprinkling cheese on a chilli, using a little butter on potatoes, adding honey to oatmeal or spreading nut butter on a whole-grain muffin or cracker instead of eating it plain.