Don't take a need for weight gain as an opportunity to eat anything -- use nutritious foods to gain weight to encourage healthy muscle growth. Emphasize foods that offer calories from healthy fats, proteins and quality carbohydrates, rather than from added sugars and trans or saturated fats. To put on 1 lb. of weight per week, you need an extra 500 calories more than your daily maintenance needs per day. If you're suffering unexplained weight loss, make sure you check with your doctor to rule out an underlying medical condition.
Nuts contain between 160 and 200 calories for a small serving. For example, 23 almonds provide 160 calories and 14 walnut halves provide 190 calories. Use nuts on cereal, as a quick portable snack or mix into pancake batter. Spread nut butter -- with about 200 calories per 2-tablespoon serving -- on toast. Nuts contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, which can lower your cholesterol and fight cardiovascular disease. Walnuts, in particular, are a source of omega-3 fatty acids which protect heart health and support brain function.
Dried fruit concentrates the calories and nutrition of fresh fruit, creating a healthy and calorie-dense snack. Look for dried fruit without added sugar, such as raisins, dates and dried apricots. Consume a quarter-cup of these fruits, and you'll add about 140 calories to your diet, along with fiber, iron, vitamin A and potassium. Add the fruits to your handful of nuts or include with cereal or salads. Mix dried fruit into yogurt or puree dates into smoothies for natural sweetness.
Pasta serves as a dense source of calories, with about 200 calories in 1 cup. White pasta is made with refined flour, which offers little fiber and nutrition. Choose whole-grain pastas instead, such as those made with whole-wheat flour, quinoa or amaranth. You can prepare and serve these pastas in the same way you would white pasta, but you'll benefit from additional fiber and mineral content. Add low-fat cheese or one tablespoon of heart-healthy olive oil to your pasta before adding sauce for a 120-calorie boost.
Use low-fat milk to add calories and bone-building calcium. Whole milk contains more calories than low-fat, but it also contains saturated fat. Too much saturated fat in your diet can increase your risk of developing heart disease, even if you are underweight. Cook hot cereal and soup with low-fat milk instead of water to add about 100 calories per cup. Use low-fat milk as a drink between meals instead of diet soda or unsweetened tea. Add a quarter-cup of dry milk powder to your liquid milk to boost calories by another 60 calories per cup.
- Modesto Junior College: Weight Management: Overweight, Obesity, and Underweight
- Ask the Dietitian; Underweight; Joanne Larsen M.S., R.D., L.D.
- "Today's Dietitian" magazine; Underweight, A Heavy Concern; Meghan A.T.B. Reese; January 2008
- "Food Reflections" newsletter; Nuts for Nutrition; Alice Henneman, M.S., R.D.; March 2004
- "The New York Times"; Fruit, Cut and Dried; C. Clairborne Ray; July 1, 2008
- USDA: National Nutrient Database
- mixed nuts image by Joyce Wilkes from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.