How to Gain Weight

Eliza Martinez
Woman eating a muffin

Underweight people face many health risks and it can be just as hard to put on pounds as it is to take them off, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you need to put on some weight, it's important to do so in a healthy way. There are several healthy tactics you can add to your routine to help you safely gain weight and protect your health.

Add Meals to Your Routine

Instead of having three large meals each day, have five or six spread out every three or four hours, recommends the American Dietetic Association. This will allow you to add extra calories to your meal plans without having to stuff yourself each time you sit down to eat.

Try the following small meal ideas, courtesy of the University of California at Los Angeles.

  • A smoothie made with fruit, wheat germ, yogurt, fruit juice, nonfat milk powder and oat bran
  • Yogurt with raisins and nuts on top served with fruit juice
  • A whole wheat bagel with peanut butter, honey or jam
  • A grilled cheese, tuna or turkey sandwich
  • A baked potato topped with chopped vegetables, chili and shredded cheese
  • Beans, cheese and salsa rolled in a flour tortilla

Increase Snack Consumption

Nutrient dense snacks are a simple way to add extra calories to your day. Nutrient dense means that a snack is heavy on nutrition so you get more health benefit bang for your calorie buck. Add a couple of snacks between meals each day to keep hunger at bay and make sure you're getting enough calories to add healthy weight to your frame.

Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. in an interview with Huffington Post suggests these delicious snacks:

  • Nuts
  • Cheese
  • Avocados
  • Dried fruit

Each of these options contains plenty of the nutrients you need for good overall health and energy, so the calories they contain are beneficial. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is another great choice, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Embellish Favorite Foods with Extras

Adding calorie-dense extras to your favorite foods is an easy way to gain some weight without having to eat huge amounts of food that might make you uncomfortable. These concentrated calories help you gain muscle and keep your bones strong, says the ADA. Take a look at these simple strategies for beefing up the calorie content of your meals.

  • Sprinkle shredded cheese on eggs and vegetables.
  • Stir dried milk into soups and stews.
  • Spread toast, muffins or crackers with peanut butter or other nut butters.
  • Add olives, avocados or nuts to your salad.
  • Slide avocado slices into a sandwich or on a burger.
  • Make oatmeal with milk instead of water.
  • Add nuts or dried fruits to cereal or yogurt.

Add Liquid Calories

All drinks are not created equal, so it's never a good idea to load up on soda and other beverages with empty calories, but healthy drinks can really make a difference in your overall weight gain plan. Look for beverages made with nutritious ingredients so the calories you get come from a healthy source. Try these ideas.

  • The Huffington Post recommends having a smoothie made with almond milk, bananas, berries and flaxseed.
  • Meal replacement beverages are another hefty, but healthy choice, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Drink your liquid about 30 minutes before or after a meal so it doesn't fill your stomach, leaving little room for whole foods that aid in weight gain.

Don't Forgo Healthy Desserts

Just like with drinks, this doesn't mean you should load up on cake, cookies, candy or brownies, which offer very little in the way of nutrient density. Instead, choose a healthy treat that allows you indulge in something you might otherwise skip for the benefit of adding some additional calories to your meal plan. The Mayo Clinic suggests the following items.

  • Muffins
  • Fruit pies
  • Granola bars

Strength Train

Even if you're underweight, your body still relies on a healthy dose of physical activity to stay healthy and prevent a range of health conditions. However, the type of exercise you choose can play a role in healthy weight gain.

According to Dr. Melina Jampolis, an expert at CNN Health, strength training is the way to go. This type of exercise builds lean muscle mass, which weighs more than fat and can help you increase your overall weight in a way that's healthy and beneficial for your overall health as well as your weight goals. The following types of exercise count as strength training, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Lifting weights
  • Body weight exercises such as push-ups, sit ups and squats
  • Using resistance bands
  • Yoga
  • Heavy gardening such as shoveling or digging

Gaining Weight Safely

As with trying to lose weight, attempting to add pounds can seem like it takes all your energy and focus. While that might be true at the outset of your program, it doesn't have to continue.

The ADA suggests talking to a registered dietician who can help you develop meal plans and provide recipes that free you from having to research and create them on your own. A dietician takes into account your food preferences and schedule to help you come up with a doable plan that won't take over every aspect of your life. With a bit of time and practice, you'll be a pro and gaining weight will simply become part of your daily habits.

How to Gain Weight