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It’s a problem everyone thinks they would love to have. Yet gaining weight can be a real challenge for those who find it hard to pack on the pounds. Their reasons range from athletic pursuits to achieving a healthful weight because of a genetic tendency toward slimness to weight loss from a health problem.
The key is to not start chowing down on high-calorie goodies such as cakes, cookies, ice cream and chips to gain weight. Instead, choose healthful, calorie-rich, nutrient-dense foods and alter eating habits to take in more of these items during the day.
Fork into nutritious weight-gain foods in one of two ways. First, choose the most calorie-rich nutrient-dense foods – both single and prepared foods — in each food group. Secondly, fortify everyday dishes with pound-producing ingredients.
On the food group front, choose granola, dense whole-grain breads (especially those made with nuts and seeds), wheat germ, whole-grain pasta, rice and barley when it comes to breads and cereals.
For fruits and vegetables, try bananas, dried fruits, figs, avocados, corn, peas, lima beans, sweet potato or yams, and root vegetables such as parsnips, beets and rutabaga.
Select full-fat milk and milk products such as yogurt and cheese in the dairy group.
As for protein foods, choose beans, nuts, seeds, tofu and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, swordfish and sardines.
There are many simple ways to fortify everyday dishes. This doesn’t mean going out and buying an expensive protein powder or nutritional supplement. Nonfat dry milk powder is an excellent choice for adding extra muscle-building protein along with needed nutrients such as calcium. Stir the milk powder into mashed potatoes, cream soups, breakfast cereals, smoothies and even a glass of milk to make a fortified beverage.
Smoothies are a great way to boost consumption. In addition, liquids usually digest more quickly than solids and therefore are less likely to cause an uncomfortable full feeling. Think outside the box with smoothie ingredients. Add avocado, Greek yogurt, wheat germ, flax, nuts and seeds, and nut butters in addition to fruits and vegetables.
Dried fruits and nuts are small dynamos that can add a heaping helping of vitamins, minerals and calories to dishes when sprinkled on or stirred into salads, soups, hot and cold cereals, rice, pasta, couscous and sweet potatoes.
Beans are another fortifying choice. Stir into rice, pasta, soups, stews and casseroles, and snack on bean-based foods such as hummus.
Avocados are rich in calories due to a rich content of healthy monounsaturated fat as well as many body-building nutrients. Make guacamole and eat on whole-grain chips or crackers, add slices of avocados to sandwiches, use as a soup topper or smoothie ingredient.
To gain weight, eat small meals through the day, as long as food choices are calorie rich and nutrient dense. Have snacks and meal fixings handy so there are no missed eating opportunities throughout the day.
Carol Bareuther is a registered dietitian and freelance health and nutrition writer. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.