With so many people struggling to lose weight, your friends may be surprised that you have a hard time gaining. But if you have lean genes or a very active lifestyle, it can be a challenge to add pounds to your frame. While the American diet, filled with fast food, frozen meals and soft drinks, might do the trick, it's not the healthiest way to gain weight. However, an Indian diet -- with its focus on beans, lentils, grains and vegetables -- can help you gain weight healthfully as long as you get enough calories. If you have any medical conditions that might affect your diet, consult your doctor or a dietitian to discuss the best foods to eat to help you gain weight.
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Know Your Weight-Gain Calories
The starting point for any kind of weight management plan is calories. To gain pounds, you need to eat more calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight. You can use an online calculator to figure out how many calories you need. To that number, add an extra 500 to 1,000 calories a day to gain at a slow, but steady rate of 1 to 2 pounds a week. For example, if you need 2,000 calories a day to maintain your weight, eating 2,500 to 3,000 calories a day is necessary to gain. Due to many variables, such as your genes or your daily activity, you may need to adjust your weight-gain calories to keep putting on pounds at a continuous rate.
High-Calorie Indian Foods
Even though the vegetarian-focused Indian diet may be filled with low-calorie fare, it can still help you gain weight. There are a number of individual foods, as well as dishes, that are not only nutrient-rich but high in calories, too. Rice, one of the diet staples, has 240 calories per cup, but choose brown rice to get more fiber, vitamins and minerals. Flatbreads served with Indian dishes can boost your calories -- a 8- by 2-inch piece of naan has 240 calories and a roti, 6 inches in diameter, has 120 calories. Potatoes, both white and sweet, beans, peas and lentils have about 160 calories per cup. Don't skip the fruits and veggies, assuming they're low-cal. High-calorie options include figs, pears, dates, pineapple, lima beans and 100-percent fruit juice.
Dairy foods can help you up your calorie intake, too, especially if you use full-fat yogurt and whole milk. Also, tofu with 90 calories per 1/2 cup and soy milk with 100 calories per cup make good choices. If you're not a vegetarian, you can include higher-calorie meats such as dark-meat poultry, prime grade beef or pork or fatty fish such as salmon or sardines.
Many Indian dishes are also rich in calories. Curries, for example can pack 350 to 700 calories into an entrée-sized serving. Chicken tandoori, which is a spicy roasted chicken leg, has about 300 calories per leg. And a samosa pastry filled with peas and potatoes will add 130 to 160 calories to your meal.
Calorie Boosters for Indian Dishes
If you get full too fast, use calorie boosters to bump up your intake in just a small volume of extra food. Vegetable oil, ghee, cream cheese, coconut, peanuts, tahini and half and half are good options for adding calories. One teaspoon of vegetable oil or ghee has 45 calories and can be mixed with rice or used to sauté vegetables and beans. Sprinkle shredded coconut on both savory and sweet dishes to add an extra 30 calories per tablespoon, along with a bit of texture and flavor. Tahini paste, which has 90 calories per tablespoon, can be mixed into curries or spread on a piece of naan for a little calorie boost.
Sample Meal Plan
To give yourself more opportunities to get the calories you need to gain weight, aim to eat three meals and two to three snacks a day. For breakfast, enjoy a generous serving of rice and beans drizzled with vegetable oil and a cup of tea with a splash of whole milk. In the midmorning, make yourself a cup of falooda with whole milk, ice cream, psyllium, tapioca pearls and fresh strawberries. A bowl of curry garnished with peanuts, served alongside a slice of naan and a cup of tea made with milk. makes a good high-calorie lunch. Tandoori chicken with potatoes and cauliflower serves up well for dinner. And end the day with a treat such as dates and figs stirred into full-fat yogurt.
- Today's Dietitian: Underweight: A Heavy Concern
- Weightlossresources.co.uk: Indian Food Calorie Count
- American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists: Indian Foods: AAPI's Guide to Nutrition, Health and Diabetes
- IndiaTimes: 20 High-Calorie Indian Dishes to Avoid
- National Institute of Nutrition: Dietary Guidelines for Indians
- University of Texas: Tips for Gaining Weight ... the Healthy Way
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Tofu, Soymilk and Hard-boiled Egg
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Dried Coconut, Tahini
- Bob's Red Mill: Shredded Unsweetened Coconut