For most Americans, “envious” is the word that comes to mind for anyone who needs to gain weight. Most people are on the other end of the scale, desperately trying to lose weight.

Believe it or not, there are people who struggle to maintain a healthy weight or trying to gain weight. Reasons for needing to gain weight include health issues, lack of appetite, fueling sports, building muscle, or just trying to overcome skinny genes.

Being a little underweight is not necessarily a health problem. Many people have been at a low body weight all their life, and still feel comfortable, able to function and exercise. Actually, weighing a little less than your ideal body weight is associated with good health outcomes.

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However, if you want or need to gain weight, there still are healthy eating rules just like trying to lose weight. Gaining weight does not mean eating all the junk food you can.

Calories Count, But So Do Nutrients

Focus on healthy foods to gain weight, because even though you may be searching for more calorie dense foods, good nutrition still rules. The terms to remember is calorie/nutrient dense vs. empty calories.

Empty calories means high calorie foods with little or no vitamins, minerals or protein. Examples of empty calorie foods would be cake, cookies, donuts, candy, etc. Pretty much just sugar and fat.

The goal is to choose foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and calories so each bite is loaded with good nutrition.

Start with nutritious foods and then wherever you can, enrich the foods with additional ingredients like yogurt, fruit, nuts, and health fats.

The weight losers will be looking for fat free salad dressings, but the weight gainers should use dressing oils with canola or olive oil, high calorie because it’s fat, but unsaturated, meaning not artery clogging.

Eat Often to Gain Weight

Regardless of why you want to gain weight, eating meals or substantial snacks, like mini-meals, is a good way to pack more calories into the day without feeling like you have to overeat at 3 meals per day.

Try to eat six times a day, with each meal and mini-meal containing protein, starch, fuits and/or vegetables, and fat. For example, a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread with mayonnaise and tomatoes and a fruit smoothie.

The fruit smoothie could have fresh fruit and yogurt, or avocado or peanut butter.

Eat often and choose wisely, and you can expect to gain an average of half a pound to 1 pound per week.

Athletes who want to bulk up need to add sufficient calories and protein along with proper strength training to make sure they gain weight in the right places.

Athletes need to eat protein-rich snacks such as a high-protein energy bar, low-fat chocolate milk, or a protein shake immediately after weight training to give muscles the necessary post-workout fuel.

Athletes need to snack on high-calorie, high-protein foods and beverages, such as a protein shake with two scoops of whey protein before bedtime.

Avid exercisers who are not trying to build muscle mass also need frequent healthy snacks to fuel their physical activity and to maintain or gain weight.

foods to eat to gain weight fast_3Gaining Weight After an Illness

Weight loss is often associated with illness because of a lack of appetite or certain disease conditions.

During illness, a person may have decreased appetite, side effects from meds, nausea and vomiting which results in unplanned weight loss.

Their diets may be inadequate in calories, protein, ,vitamins and minerals – all the nutrients you need to get back to good nutritional status.

Drinking smoothies or meal replacement drinks, eating egg dishes, and choosing bland, mild foods is usually the best diet prescription while transitioning back to a healthy diet. These foods are easy to digest, loaded with good nutrition, and simple to prepare.

In addition to all the other important nutrients, focus on getting enough protein, which is very important in recovery after illness.

Aim for about 5 ounces of lean meat, fish, or poultry and a few servings of dairy, whole grains, eggs, and legumes to make sure your diet has enough protein. Avoid raw fish if your immune system is compromised.

Tips for Decreased Appetite

When eating just doesn’t appeal to you, there are some tricks of the trade that can help stimulate your appetite.

Taking a little walk before eating is one of the many ways to help fire up your appetite. When you are not hungry, choosing your favorite comfort foods may help. So can jazzing up foods with spices and herbs to enhance flavor.

Liquids, including water, can fill you up. So drink liquids separately to help make room for nourishing foods.

The sweet taste of fruit can rouse your appetite, especially when blended into an easy-to-tolerate smoothie.

Foods That Pack a Punch

Foods highest in calories and nutrients are foods with fats, especially plant fats. Plant fats such as nuts, peanuts, seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, avocados, hummus, and oils are great sources of healthy fats loaded with nutrients and calories.

Animal fats provide nutrients and the same amount of calories as plant fats, but they also contain saturated fats, which can increase LDL (bad) cholesterol.

First choose plant fats and smaller amounts of lower-fat dairy and lean meat animal fats, so your weight gain efforts don’t increase risk of heart disease.

If you have a normal cholesterol level, you can enjoy extra calories by choosing full-fat dairy products. For instance, pair cheese with fruit and whole-grain crackers for a boost of protein, calories, calcium, and vitamin D.

Drink high-calorie juices instead of water and choose high-calorie condiments such as mayonnaise, ranch, thousand island, and Caesar salad dressings.

Meal replacement drinks and smoothies are very convenient. To pump up their calories, add fruits, powdered milk, or soft silken tofu.

Eat nuts by the handful or sprinkle them on top of soups, salads, cereal, desserts, and casseroles for added protein, fiber, healthy fat, and calories.

Granola, loaded with nuts and dried fruits, is a concentrated source of nutritious calories, especially when eaten with full-fat Greek-style yogurt, which is higher in protein.

Dried fruits are a concentrated source of calories that can be tossed on salads, yogurts, cereals, desserts, and trail mixes — or eaten alone.

Potatoes are a great vehicle for toppings. Also, when you cook potatoes, add in flavored oils, milk, cheese, chili, vegetables, and beans.

Fried foods are fine on occasion, but a better choice than deep-fried foods would be stir-fried foods in healthy oils.

Another easy way to add calories is to drizzle olive or canola oil on vegetables, salads, whole grains, soups, casseroles, and stews.

High Calorie, Protein Smoothies

Healthiest foods to eat to gain weight fast_2

Strawberry Avocado Smoothie

Ingredients

¼ Cup milk
¾ Cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1 Whole banana
1 ½ Cup frozen strawberries
¼ avocado
¼ tsp Vanilla extract

Nutrition Information 

Calories: 404
Total Fat: 12.5 g
Saturated Fat: 3.5 g
Cholesterol: 16 mg
Sodium: 161 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 63 g
Dietary Fiber: 10 g
Sugars: 41 g
Protein: 15 g

Strawberry, Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Ingredients
3/4 Cup Plain Yogurt
5 large frozen Strawberries
1 Banana
2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
2 Tbsp Milk (a splash

Nutrition Information 

Calories: 432
Total Fat: 19 g
Saturated Fat: 5.3 g
Cholesterol: 11 mg
Sodium: 277 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 52 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.4 g
Sugars: 34 g
Protein 19.5 g

Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie

Ingredients

3/4 Cup plain or vanilla yogurt
2 Tbs Peanut Butter
1 Banana
1/8 Cup milk
3/4 Cup ice

Nutrition Information 

Calories: 433
Total Fat: 20 g
Saturated Fat: 5.9 g
Cholesterol: 15mg
Sodium: 297mg
Total Carbohydrates: 48 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.0g
Sugars: 32 g
Protein: 21 g

Chocolate, Banana Smoothie

Ingredients
¼ Cup milk
¾ Cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1 Banana
3 Dove Chocolates (dark) or roughly 2-3 Tbsp Chips
1 Cup ice

Nutrition Information 

Calories: 380
Total Fat: 11 g
Saturated Fat: 7.5 g
Cholesterol: 21 mg
Sodium: 181 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 57 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Sugars: 42 g
Protein: 15 g

foods to eat to gain weight fast_4Chocolate, Peanut Butter Smoothies

Ingredients

¼ Cup milk
¾ Cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1 Banana
2-3 Tbsp Dark Chocolate Chips
1 Cup ice
2 Tbsp Peanut Butter

Nutrition Information 

Calories: 568
Total Fat: 27 g
Saturated Fat: 11 g
Cholesterol: 21 mg
Sodium: 324mg
Total Carbohydrates: 63 g
Dietary Fiber: 6 g
Sugars 45 g
Protein 23 g

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