Eating more ice cream, milkshakes and cookies sure sounds like a good way to put on a few pounds, but it's not the healthiest way to go. These foods may be high in carbs, but they're not the healthy kind. Nutritionally, a diet to gain weight isn't all that different from a diet to lose weight -- but you're allowed to eat more when you're trying to gain weight. Upping your intake of carbs can help, but it's important to eat a balanced diet. Consult your doctor or dietitian to help find a diet that fits your specific needs.
High-Carb Diet for Weight Gain
Most of the calories in your diet should come from carbs, says the McKinley Health Center; this should be from 45 to as much as 65 percent of your calories. Carbs are the body's primary source of energy, and you need more calories when you're trying to gain weight. Eating 500 calories per day more than you usually do may help you gain one pound a week. It doesn't matter if those extra calories come from carbs, protein or fat, but it does matter if they come from healthy foods.
Healthy High-Calorie Carbs
A healthy high-calorie carbohydrate food is not only calorie dense, but nutrient dense as well. Grains are good, high-calorie choices for your high-carb, weight-gain diet. A cup of cooked quinoa has 222 calories, while a cup of cooked brown rice has 218 calories. Barley, amaranth and buckwheat are also good choices. Dried fruits, such as apricots, raisins, figs and dates, are also nutrient-dense and rich in calories. A 1/2-cup serving of raisins has 217 calories and the same serving of dates has 208 calories.
Adding starchy vegetables to your plate can also boost your calorie and carb intake. A medium, baked russet potato has 168 calories, while a cup of corn cut from the cob has 143 calories. Beans, including garbanzo beans, black beans and kidney beans, are a good source of protein and carbs, and can help add calories to salad, soup or grain dishes. A 1-cup serving of canned kidney beans has 215 calories.
Balanced Nutrition for Healthy Weight Gain
Focusing on carbs can help you add the calories you need to gain weight, but don't forget the other important nutrients in your diet -- protein and fat. Protein is important for building muscle, especially if you're working out to gain muscle weight. Healthy high-cal sources of protein include fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, eggs, milk, yogurt and cheese. Fat is a concentrated source of calories, which makes it beneficial for weight gain. Olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocados are healthy fats to include in your weight-gain diet.
Sample Meal Plan
Start your day with a high-calorie, energy-filled breakfast, such as 1 cup of oatmeal made with 1 cup of low-fat milk and topped with 1/2 cup of raisins and 12 chopped almonds. For lunch, up your calories and carb intake with lo-mein made with 2 cups of lo-mein noodles mixed with 1 cup of mixed veggies such as snow peas, carrots and celery with 1/2 cup of tofu and 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil and served with a large banana. At dinner, 4 ounces of grilled tuna with 1 cup of corn and 1 cup of baked sweet potato makes a good choice.
Snacks are an important part of your high-carb, weight-gain diet. Ten whole-grain crackers with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter makes a good choice for a mid-afternoon snack. After dinner, make a smoothie with a 6-ounce container of vanilla yogurt, a small banana, 1 cup of strawberries and 1 tablespoon of almond butter.
This meal plan has 2500 calories, with about 55 percent of the calories coming from carbohydrates.