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15 High-Calorie Weight Gain Foods To Help You Gain Weight

15 High-Calorie Weight Gain Foods To Help You Gain Weight

I talk about weight loss a lot on this blog, but that’s not always going to be the goal.

Sometimes the goal is actually to gain weight.

There are many reasons why you might want to actually gain weight. Maybe you’re recovering from an eating disorder, or maybe you are trying to build muscle. Sometimes you may just be dealing with a loss of appetite and need to maximize your calories without needing to eat a ton of food.

Whatever the reason, sometimes more calories are the answer.

 

How does weight gain work?

Just like how losing weight requires being in a calorie deficit (consuming less calories than you are burning), gaining weight requires being in a calorie surplus (consuming more than you are burning).

No single food is ever going to cause you to gain weight – it’s always about total calories.

Many people operate under the misconception that too many carbs will cause weight gain, or eating extra sugar will cause unwanted body fat gain, but that’s simply not true. Too many calories overall are what will lead to weight gain.

And when we talk about a surplus of calories, please note that we are talking about a consistent period of time. If you happen to overeat one day (or even one week), it’s not going to lead to any kind of significant, lasting weight gain.

You can overeat and still be in a deficit

You will only gain weight if you are consistently eating in a calorie surplus over time. And if you do not want to gain weight, rest assured that eating in a surplus from time to time is not going to cause you to gain weight. Every day is not going to be perfect, and that’s okay!

 

Can you “clean bulk” to only add muscle and no fat?

There still seems to be a common misconception that if you eat “clean”, you won’t gain unwanted weight.

Unfortunately, it does not work like that.

If your goal is to build muscle, you need to be in a calorie surplus overall. That much is never going to change.

But a lot of people take that to mean that if they eat a ton of calories, but only eat “healthy” foods, that they won’t gain any fat. You know, since the calories are “clean.”

How clean eating can still cause you to gain weight

Too many calories is still too many calories, no matter what the food source.

If your body needs 2,500 daily calories, and you eat 5,000 calories worth of nothing but chicken, rice, and salad every day, you’re still going to gain unwanted body fat.

While it’s great to prioritize healthy food options, too many extra calories is still going to put you in too large of a calorie surplus, leading to extra weight gain.

Think about it this way: if you want to lose weight and you drastically cut your calories, you’re not going to see the results you want. Yes, you’ll lose weight, but you’ll also lose hard-earned muscle and the results will not be sustainable.

You need to take it slowly. And that same principle applies to healthy weight gain.

The key isn’t to eat a ton of “clean” food. The key is to increase your caloric intake slowly over time.

If you are reading this and your goal is to gain weight- take it slowly. Don’t jump from eating 1,600 calories per day to 3,500 calories per day. Even if you’re eating as healthy as possible, you’re not going to get the results you want.

Don’t rush it. Just like losing weight takes patience, so does gaining weight.

Don’t get me wrong- you can gain weight quickly if you really want to, but it’s going to be a lot of unwanted fat if you rush the process. Take it slowly. Your body will thank you.

This is where reverse dieting comes into play, which you can read all about in my post right here.

 

The best weight-gain foods

Okay, so we understand how weight gain works, so what foods can you utilize to help you reach that calorie surplus?

The following foods are great options for healthy weight gain because they are high in calories and lower in volume, allowing you to get as many calories as possible without filling up too much.

Unlike weight loss where eating high volume foods is recommended, we want to focus on less volume to maximize our calories.

There are plenty of food options out there, but let’s look at some of my favorites…

 

Nuts

Serving Size: 1/4 Cup

Calories Per Serving: 170 Calories

Why nuts are good for weight gain: Whether it’s peanuts, cashews, almonds, or anything in between, nuts are a great source of calories. A small 1/4 cup serving, which is about the palm of your hand, will get you almost 200 calories. Plus, they are packed with healthy fat, helping you to stay full with minimal food intake.

Chia Seeds

Serving Size: 2.5 Tbsp

Calories Per Serving: 150 Calories

Why chia seeds are good for weight gain: Just 2 and a half spoonfuls of chia seeds will get you 150 calories, making it an easy addition to your food. Sprinkle chia seeds over a salad, bake into bread, add into smoothies, or anything else you want!

Nut Butters

Serving Size: 2 Tbsp

Calories Per Serving: 180-200 Calories

Why nut butter is good for weight gain: Whether it’s peanut butter or almond butter, nut butter is a great way to get in extra calories. 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is deceivingly small, and most people will use more than that (sometimes double) when they make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.

If sandwiches aren’t your thing, you can add a serving of peanut butter to smoothies, eat it plain, or use a dip for fruit or crackers.

Banana Chips

Serving Size: 1/2 Cup

Calories Per Serving: 150 Calories

Why banana chips are good for weight gain: You’ll often find banana chips in trail mix (which is also a great high-calorie option) because they’re nice and sweet. Unlike dried fruit like raisins (see below), banana chips are nice and crunchy and even sweeter than raw bananas. A 1/2 cup serving will be around 150 calories, and it’s easy to snack on even more than that if needed.

Raisins

Serving Size: 1/2 Cup

Calories Per Serving: 220 Calories

Why raisins are good for weight gain: Ah, raisins. Whereas grapes are a great low-calorie, high volume option, raisins are nearly the opposite. A 1/2 cup serving, which can easily be a normal handful, will be over 200 calories.

You can snack on raisins on their own, or enjoy them with peanut butter for the ultimate high-calorie snack.

Pasta

Serving Size: 2oz (This is uncooked weight- see more about that here)

Calories Per Serving: 200 Calories

Why pasta is good for weight gain: I don’t know about you, but my stomach is an endless pit for pasta. A single serving of pasta is about the size of your closed fist, and it’s very normal to eat well more than that. If you go out to a restaurant, you may very well be consuming 2-3 servings at once, which can end up being 400-600 calories in pasta alone. While pasta may not be packed ton of much else besides carbs, it can still be a great addition to your calorie intake.

Sprouted grain bread

Bread

Serving Size: 1oz Slice

Calories Per Serving: 120 Calories

Why bread is good for weight gain: There are many different types of bread, but a typical slice will be around 100 calories. 1oz is the weight for a thin slice of bread, and if you cut off a slice of your own loaf of bread, the odds are that you’ll be consuming more than 1oz. Calories aside, bread is a great source of many nutrients (depending on the type), making it a very healthy option overall.

Granola

Serving Size: 1/2 Cup

Calories Per Serving: 250 Calories

Why granola is good for weight gain: Granola can vary greatly depending on the ingredients, but a serving will generally be 200-250 calories for a 1/2 cup serving. It’s much more calorically dense than typical breakfast cereal due to the smaller pieces (generally using oats of some kind) and the addition of sweeteners such as honey or syrup.

Eggs

Serving Size: 1 Large Egg

Calories Per Serving: 70 Calories

Why eggs are good for weight gain: Eggs often get a bad rap, but they’re one of the best snacks out there, in my opinion. One egg is about 70 calories, and is loaded with healthy fat, protein, and a ton of vitamins. You can snack on hard-boiled eggs, or pair a few eggs with toast for a solid breakfast.

Coconut

Serving Size: 1/4 Cup

Calories Per Serving: 150 Calories

Why coconut is good for weight gain: Coconut comes in many shapes and sizes, but no matter which way you slice it, it’s a solid source of fat and calories. 1/4 cup can easily be sprinkled over your oats, cereal, smoothies, or anything else!

Olive Oil

Serving Size: 2 Tbsp

Calories Per Serving: 240 Calories

Why olive oil is good for weight gain: Olive oil is a very easy addition to your cooking, adding 120 calories per tablespoon. Add a single tablespoon (or two) to your pan when cooking for the simplest way to add calories without filling up. Olive oil can also be used to drizzle over food after it’s cooked, or to make a delicious salad dressing.

Honey

Serving Size: 2 Tbsp

Calories Per Serving: 120 Calories

Why honey is good for weight gain: Honey is nature’s sweetener, and it’s a great condiment to use for some extra calories. Honey is incredibly versatile and can be added to virtually any dish (even savory dishes) to add some extra calories. While it’s high in sugar, there is no reason to fear that extra sugar!

Avocado

Serving Size: Medium Avocado

Calories Per Serving: 240 Calories

Why avocado is good for weight gain: If you look up “healthy fat” in the dictionary, avocado will probably pop right up (although don’t fact-check me on that one). One avocado is nearly 250 calories and is loaded up with all the good fats you need to keep you satisfied. Make avocado toast, blend it up into a dressing, add it to a sandwich, or virtually anything else you can think of.

Dark Chocolate

Serving Size: 1.5oz

Calories Per Serving: 230 Calories

Why dark chocolate is good for weight gain: Milk chocolate is also a great source if you prefer sweet, but many people opt for dark chocolate in an effort to be a bit “healthier”. Most candy bars will use milk chocolate, but just 1.5oz serving of dark chocolate is going to give you 230 calories a ton of antioxidants.

Fruit Smoothies

Serving Size: 8oz Cup

Calories Per Serving: 130 Calories (from Bolthouse brand)

Why fruit smoothies are good for weight gain: Fruit smoothies will vary greatly in calories, because they can be comprised of any number of fruit combinations. But no matter how they’re made, one thing is certain: the calories can add up. Some may be 100 calories, and others may be 200+. Made by blending up fruit, fruit juice, and in some cases, additional sweetener, fruit smoothies are one of the easiest ways to add calories to your diet.

By drinking your extra calories, it allows you to increase your overall intake without filling up. In most cases, juices/shakes are one of the easiest ways to consume extra calories, since there is no actual eating required!

 

How does “junk food” fit into weight gain?

When people think of typical junk food (things like donuts, cookies, ice cream, etc) they associate it with unwanted weight gain.

But as we touched on earlier, overall calories is what matters for weight gain or weight loss.

If you consume more calories than your body needs over a long period of time, you’re going to gain weight.

It doesn’t matter if those calories come from fruit or Oreos- weight gain will happen.

Junk food” has its place in weight gain, because it should have a place in ANY diet.

No matter what your goals are, I am a firm believer in being flexible with your diet and eating the foods you enjoy.

Even if you’re trying to lose weight, I encourage you to keep ice cream in your diet if you love it. No, you shouldn’t eat ice cream every single day, because that will make your goals slightly more difficult, but that doesn’t mean it is totally off limits!

When weight gain is the goal, and you have extra calories to play with, there is more room in your diet for the less-healthy options. It’ll likely be easier to fit donuts and cookies into your caloric goals when you’re aiming for a surplus.

But they should never be the staple of your diet.

Regardless of your goals, you should still try to eat a well-balanced diet and focus on whole, nourishing foods. But it doesn’t need to be like that 100% of the time- eat the foods you enjoy, too!

Remember, I’m all about that 80/20 rule when it comes to eating.

 

Do you need “weight gainer” protein shakes?

As we speak, there are millions of skinny teenagers out there drinking weight gainers to pack on muscle.

I’ll keep my thoughts on “weight gainers” brief.

They are completely unnecessary, but they can certainly help.

Just as protein supplements aren’t necessary to consume if you eat enough protein in your diet, weight gainers (or mass gainers) are not necessary in your diet if you’re eating enough calories.

There is no secret formula to these products that will allow you to pack on lean muscle mass– they are simply a convenient way to get in extra calories and protein.

If you struggle to eat enough calories for your weight gain goals, then by all means, turn to these products to help you. But just know that they are not always necessary.

Focus on consuming your calories through quality food, and you won’t need to rely on any extra supplements to reach your goals.

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