Oatmeal is more commonly thought of as a "diet food," but it can help you gain weight, too. In fact, making healthy "diet" foods -- like oatmeal and milk -- part of your meal plan as you gain weight ensures you're getting lots of nutritional value, instead of packing on the pounds by eating junk food. Gain weight by opting for higher-calorie milks and using calorie-rich toppings to boost the energy content of your oatmeal.
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Choose Whole or Chocolate Milk
When you're trying to gain weight, relatively high-calorie drinks like milk are a great way to reach your goals. Sugary beverages, like chocolate milk, don't trigger feelings of fullness, explains the Harvard School of Public Health. That's a downside when you're trying to shed pounds, but a bonus when you're trying to gain.
For the most weight-gain benefits, go for whole milk or whole chocolate milk -- they contain 149 or 208 calories per cup, respectively. Drinking an extra glass of milk or two throughout the day can provide 300 to 420 extra calories -- enough to gain roughly three-quarters of a pound per week.
Enjoy your milk on its own for weight gain, or cook your oatmeal in milk for a higher-calorie breakfast. A cup of cooked oatmeal made with water has just 159 calories -- make it with whole milk, and you'll almost double your calorie intake.
Add Protein to Your Oatmeal
Gain weight with oatmeal by adding high-protein mix-ins. Getting enough protein is especially important if you're trying to gain muscle mass because the amino acids abundant in protein-rich foods get reused to make new muscle tissue. The extra calories and protein, paired with a strength-training routine, will add new muscle to your frame. Protein also aids in oxygen transport, which is key for healthy muscle function and for feeling alert.
Making your oatmeal with milk -- or simply drinking milk with your oatmeal -- already boosts your protein intake by 8 grams. Stir 2 egg whites or 1 whole large egg into your oatmeal as it cooks -- whisking continuously to avoid getting large pieces of egg; this adds 7 or 6 grams of protein, respectively, along with 34 or 72 calories. Or stir a flavored protein powder into your oatmeal for protein oats, or "proats." The exact calorie and protein counts vary from powder to powder, but a two-scoop serving of one commercially available brand adds 150 calories and 26 grams of protein to your oatmeal.
Mix in Other High-Calorie Toppings
Fat is high in calories, so it can help you hit the calorie target you need to gain weight. Chop a small, 2-inch square of coconut meat into your oatmeal for 159 extra calories, or use 2 tablespoons of peanut butter to add 188 calories to your meal. Chopped almonds, pecans and other nuts add healthy fat and calories, too. For example, an ounce of pecans adds 193 calories.
Up your calorie intake with fruit for weight gain. An extra-large banana, for example, adds 135 calories to your oatmeal. Dried fruits -- raisins, mango, banana chips, dehydrated apples and dried cranberries -- also serve as concentrated sources of calories to help you gain weight. Eat 1/4 cup of raisins to get 109 calories, or enjoy 1/2 cup of dehydrated apples to get 105 calories.
Healthy Weight-Gain Serving Suggestions
In general, you only need 250 to 500 extra calories daily for safe weight gain. A 1-cup serving of oatmeal topped with a tablespoon of peanut butter or 1/2 cup of mashed banana supplies roughly 250 calories, so eating this as a snack in addition to your regular diet might be enough to help you reach your goals. Experiment with adding other fruits -- like a cup of berries or mango chunks -- to your oatmeal for weight gain, and serve your oats with a glass of whole chocolate milk on the side to add more calories.
You can flavor your own milk to avoid monotony on your weight-gain diet. Add a chai teabag to your milk to steep in the fridge overnight for an iced chai latte, or blend a spoonful of cacao powder and a pinch of cinnamon into whole milk for a creamy spiced chocolate milk.