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What To Eat (and Avoid) If You’re Trying to Gain Weight


When it comes to losing weight, there is so much information and so many diet plans available to help, but what if you need to gain weight? We spoke to nutritionist Jenna Hope to find out more.

What does being underweight really mean?

Currently being underweight is classified by having a BMI of less than 40. There are questions surrounding the use of BMI as a marker of weight. However, this method is currently used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Check your BMI here.

What are the health consequences of being underweight?

Being underweight can contribute to a range of health issues such as nutrient deficiencies and the inability to support normal physiological function, reduced immune function, impaired sleep, risk of muscle and bone weakness over a long period of time, and amenorrhea in women (the loss of periods).

It’s important to note that weight loss and being underweight can occur for a number of reasons including stress, disordered eating, food accessibility, nutrition education, and more. Anyone who is concerned about their weight loss or their current weight status should seek personalized advice from their doctor.

How to Gain Weight the Health Way

It’s common to think that gaining weight requires you to eat a lot of unhealthy foods. However, this is not the case and weight gain should be slowly conducted over a long period of time through consuming nutrient dense foods.

Since being underweight can be associated with nutrient deficiencies, eating too many ultra-processed, high sugar foods may increase weight but will not reverse nutrient deficiencies, which can cause malnutrition.

As a result, it’s recommended to consume foods rich in healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates. Nuts, seeds, meat, oily fish, oats, vegetables, and olive oil are a few foods to try. 

Some people find it easier to consume smaller meals more frequently while others prefer to eat larger meals. Also, adding nuts to salads, nut butter, or unrefined oils to dressings and opting for fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are all great ways to support weight gain.

Furthermore, a well-balanced smoothie can be a brilliant method to aid weight gain as you can increase the amount of energy in the smoothie without drastically increasing the volume. Try blending peanut butter, oats, Greek yogurt, milk, and cinnamon together for a nutrient-dense smoothie.

What are the best foods to gain weight?

Foods rich in energy and micronutrients are optimal for supporting weight gain. Such foods include avocados, olives, olive oil, almonds, peanut butter, salmon, and full-fat dairy.

What should I avoid when trying to gain weight?

Where possible, avoid low fat or diet products as these often contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. Be aware to stay hydrated and ensure you’re eating regularly to maintain blood sugar balance. Also, it can be tempting to load up on higher energy foods and while this is important, don’t forget to pack in the veggies which are rich in micronutrients and fiber too!

This article originally appeared on our sister site, Yours.

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