If you think the only way to gain weight is by eating junk, freeze – there are so many healthy ways to gain weight! Many people have to gain weight for various reasons, like a fast metabolism, eating disorder, or illness. There are also people (my past self included) who are wondering how they are going to gain weight when they are allergic to so many different foods. I actually found out I had food allergies right when I needed to gain weight, so I know from experience that it can be challenging to find healthy ways to gain weight. That’s why I have gathered my tips to gain weight on a restricted diet while staying healthy.
1. Up Your Protein Intake
Building muscle is one of the many healthy ways to gain weight. Of course, if you are seriously malnourished, you are going to need to gain at least some fat in order to get your period back (if you are a woman). To supplement weight lifting, increasing your protein intake will help you put on necessary weight from muscle. If you have special dietary needs, this can be hard to do. Try these healthy protein sources: nutritional yeast, beans, nuts, seeds, quinoa, fish, sprouts, tempeh, and tofu. Protein powders can be tricky, as many of them are loaded with added sugar, but I like Sun Warrior Raw Protein Blend sweetened with stevia.
2. Eat More Healthy Fats
Fats contain more calories per gram than the other two macronutrients (protein and carbohydrates). That means it will take longer for you to get full if you eat them, as the calories are more concentrated. If you load up on carbohydrates, you may get full quickly and therefore eat less than you would if you ate healthy fat, like nut butter. Of course, if you can eat both go right ahead, but I’m just saying if you are going to choose between the two, pick the more calorie dense. Increasing your healthy fat consumption will get your calories up and will provide nourishment to your hair and skin, while restoring your healthy glow. There are many healthy fats to choose from if you have food allergies: nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, durian, fish oil, and olives.
3. Drink Smoothies
Typically thought of as a weight loss food, a smoothie can actually be a helpful tool in gaining weight. The great thing about smoothies is that they are so versatile, you can add pretty much anything to them. You can make them a weight gaining tool by adding higher calorie, healthy foods to them like nut butter (or seed butter if you are allergic to nuts), avocados, ground nuts or seeds, coconut oil, protein powder, and raw coconut meat. All of these foods are packed full of nutrition and healthy fats that will help you feel great and give you the calories you need. Not to mention all of these foods are so delicious!
4. Nosh on Dried Fruit
The great thing about eating dried fruit is that it’s not very filling. You can snack on it on the go in between work or classes for an extra calorie boost without it spoiling your appetite. It is also fairly calorie dense – about 150 calories per quarter cup. If you aren’t allergic to nuts, making fruit and nut bars (you could always use seeds) is a delicious way to get in calories. To make sure you are getting the healthiest possible snack, choose dried fruit without any added sugar.
5. Snack Often
While I think everyone is different and you should find what works for you, I think snacking is a great way to get in extra nutrition. This is especially helpful if you get full easily and don’t like eating full meals. If you break your meals up throughout the day, you will be able to digest them with ease and with less of a concentrated calorie load. Every three hours or so should do it, but make sure you don’t spoil your appetite for other meals. Some great high-calories snacks include gluten-free crackers with hummus, nut/seed butter with fruit, trail mix, smoothies, and gluten-free chips with guacamole.
6. Get Those Vegetables in Too!
You may be thinking you don’t need to eat your vegetables if you need to gain weight, but that’s not true. If you’ve lost weight from an eating disorder or illness, vegetables will provide nutrients to help restore your digestion, nails, and much more! The only thing you want to look out for is eating so many that you don’t eat enough of your other food. To make vegetables higher in calories, add avocados to your salad, roast them in olive or coconut oil, or dip them in a nut/seed-based dip. For the most part, vegetables are not very allergenic. This makes them great for those with food allergies, but of course don’t consume vegetables that make you sick.
7. Let Yourself Indulge
I used to get so caught up in trying to be perfect in gaining healthy weight that I would never allow myself anything unhealthy. Now I know that having a shake, cookie, chips, or whatever will not destroy your health. To balance, eating eighty percent healthy and twenty percent whatever you want is about optimal. I would almost argue that indulging is necessary for those recovering from eating disorders in order to challenge their “fear” foods. You can still let yourself indulge in healthy, allergy-friendly junk food like dark chocolate, gluten-free cookies, coconut milkshakes, or whatever you want! You may wonder why this is a healthy way to gain weight, but I think mental health is as important as physical health, and treating yourself helps conquer the “I have to be perfect” mentality.
When I needed to gain weight, I had trouble finding articles on ways to do so healthily with food allergies. There were plenty of articles about losing weight, but very few about gaining. I hope this article helps you with some of the struggles you may face trying to gain weight on a restricted diet. Do you have any tips that have helped you gain weight?