For some people, gaining weight or adding muscle can be just as difficult as losing weight is for others. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight as it affects other systems in our bodies. If we are either under or overweight, there are certain functions our bodies won’t be able to appropriately execute. If your care team has encouraged you to gain weight, there could be a few reasons for this such as:
- They have a serious illness such as cancer, COPD, or cystic fibrosis.
- They’ve been recently discharged from a long hospital stay.
- They are underweight, due to either being malnourished or through an eating disorder.
- They have experienced unintentional weight loss.
Here are a few tips to increase your caloric intake:
- Eat More Frequently: When you are underweight, you may get full faster, especially if your appetite isn’t at its strongest. Try eating five to six small meals during the day, rather than two or three larger meals. By eating more frequently, you’ll allow your body time to digest before it’s hungry again, which ultimately leads to eating more calories.
- Choose Nutrient-Rich Foods: As a part of an overall healthy diet, choose whole-grain bread, pasta, and cereals; fruits and vegetables; dairy products; lean protein sources; and nuts and seeds. These nutrient-rich foods provide you with healthy calories that will benefit you in your weight gain journey and keep your body full, instead of empty calories that provide no nutritional value and contribute to feelings of hunger more frequently.
- Watch When You Drink: Some people find that drinking fluids before meals suppresses their appetite. In that case, it might be better to drink your fluids between meals rather than right before or during the meal.
- Make Every Bite Count: Snack on nuts, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or a wrap sandwich with some healthy fats like avocado, lean meat, or cheese. These foods contain heart-healthy fats found mainly in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, and are known to keep you fuller longer.
- Top it Off: Add extras to your dishes for more calories. Try adding cheese and scrambled eggs in casseroles, and fat-free dried milk in soups and stews. Add avocados to your salads, tacos, dips, and toast. Mix dried fruit with your nuts or add them to your salads, yogurt, and cereals. Top salads and foods with concentrated calories such as shredded cheese, nuts, and seeds. Make sure to add condiments to food whenever you can!
For those who need to, gaining weight can lead to overall better health and functionality. Be sure to consult your Health Advisor or care team before making any changes to your diet.
If you’re someone who’s been instructed by their doctor to put on weight, know that we’re here for you. Finding ways to increase your caloric intake doesn’t have to be scary and we’re here to help you out along the way.