What’s a good way to gain weight if you’re underweight?
Although being lean can often be healthy, being underweight can be a concern if it’s the result of poor nutrition or if you are pregnant or have other health concerns. So, if you’re underweight, see your doctor or dietitian for an evaluation. Together, you can plan how to meet your goal weight.
Here are some healthy ways to gain weight when you’re underweight:
- Eat more frequently. When you’re underweight, you may feel full faster. Eat five to six smaller meals during the day rather than two or three large meals.
- Choose nutrient-rich foods. As part of an overall healthy diet, choose whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals; fruits and vegetables; dairy products; lean protein sources; and nuts and seeds.
- Try smoothies and shakes. Don’t fill up on diet soda, coffee and other drinks with few calories and little nutritional value. Instead, drink smoothies or healthy shakes made with milk and fresh or frozen fruit, and sprinkle in some ground flaxseed. In some cases, a liquid meal replacement may be recommended.
- Watch when you drink. Some people find that drinking fluids before meals blunts their appetite. In that case, it may be better to sip higher calorie beverages along with a meal or snack. For others, drinking 30 minutes after a meal, not with it, may work.
- Make every bite count. Snack on nuts, peanut butter, cheese, dried fruits and avocados. Have a bedtime snack, such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a wrap sandwich with avocado, sliced vegetables, and lean meat or cheese.
- Top it off. Add extras to your dishes for more calories — such as cheese in casseroles and scrambled eggs, and fat-free dried milk in soups and stews.
- Have an occasional treat. Even when you’re underweight, be mindful of excess sugar and fat. An occasional slice of pie with ice cream is OK. But most treats should be healthy and provide nutrients in addition to calories. Bran muffins, yogurt and granola bars are good choices.
- Exercise. Exercise, especially strength training, can help you gain weight by building up your muscles. Exercise may also stimulate your appetite.
SOME CAUSES OF UNDERWEIGHT
Doctors usually recommend gaining weight to people who consistently weigh too little, which can cause a range of health problems. Bodybuilders and other athletes may also hope to gain weight by building muscle.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, the number of underweight adults aged 20 to 39 years in the country decreased from 3 percent to 1.9 percent between 1988 and 2008.
A person who is underweight is likely to experience health issues, including:
- developmental delays
- a weakened immune system
- an increased risk of complication during surgery
While gaining weight can be a struggle, the following foods may help. They can also increase muscle and boost overall health.
FOOD TO GAIN WEIGHT QUICKLY
The following nutrient-rich foods can help a person to gain weight safely and effectively.
Milk offers a mix of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins.
It is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including calcium.
The protein content of milk makes it a good choice for people trying to build muscle.
One study found that after a resistance training workout, drinking skim milk helped to build muscle more effectively than a soy-based product.
A similar study involving women in resistance training showed improved results in those who drank milk following a workout.
For anyone looking to gain weight, milk can be added to the diet throughout the day.
2. Protein shakes
Protein shakes can help a person to gain weight easily and efficiently. A shake is most effective at helping to build muscle if drunk shortly after a workout.
However, it is important to note that premade shakes often contain extra sugar and other additives that should be avoided. Check labels carefully.
A cup of rice contains about 200 calories, and it is also a good source of carbohydrates, which contribute to weight gain. Many people find it easy to incorporate rice into meals containing proteins and vegetables.
4. Red meat
Limiting the consumption of red meat has been shown to help with building muscle and gaining weight.
Steak contains both leucine and creatine, nutrients that play a significant role in boosting muscle mass. Steak and other red meats contain both protein and fat, which promote weight gain.
While a person is advised to limit their intake, leaner cuts of red meat are healthier for the heart than fattier cuts.
One study found that adding lean red meat to the diets of 100 women aged 60–90 helped them to gain weight and increase strength by 18 percent while undergoing resistance training.
5. Nuts and nut butter
Consuming nuts regularly can help a person to gain weight safely. Nuts are a great snack and can be added to many meals, including salads. Raw or dry roasted nuts have the most health benefits.
Nut butters made without added sugar or hydrogenated oils can also help. The only ingredient in these butters should be the nuts themselves.
6. Whole-grain breads
These breads contain complex carbohydrates, which can promote weight gain. Some also contain seeds, which provide added benefits.
7. Other starches
Starches help some of the foods already listed to boost muscle growth and weight gain. They add bulk to meals and boost the number of calories consumed.
8. Cereal bars
Cereal bars can offer the vitamin and mineral content of cereal in a more convenient form.
A person should look for bars that contain whole grains, nuts, and fruits.
9. Whole-grain cereals
Many cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals.
However, some contain a lot of sugar and few complex carbohydrates. These should be avoided.
Instead, select cereals that contain whole grains and nuts. These contain healthy levels of carbohydrates and calories, as well as nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants.
Eggs are a good source of protein, healthy fat, and other nutrients. Most nutrients are contained in the yolk.
11. Fats and oils
Oils, such as those derived from olives and avocados, contribute calories and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. A tablespoon of olive oil will contain about 120 calories.
Cheese is good source of fat, protein, calcium, and calories. A person looking to gain weight should select full-fat cheeses.
Full-fat yogurt can also provide protein and nutrients. Avoid flavored yogurts and those with lower fat contents, as they often contain added sugars.
A person may wish to flavor their yogurt with fruit or nuts.
Pasta can provide a calorically dense and carbohydrate-rich path to healthy weight gain.
Avoid bleached pastas, and opt for those made with whole grains.