Don’t take weight gain lightly: Healthy foods to help you put on the pounds and boost your strength

Don’t take weight gain lightly: Healthy foods to help you put on the pounds and boost your strength

My elderly father’s most recent directive from his trusted physician was quite simply, “Gain weight, Ed!,” but for all the woes we hear about the trails of trying to lose weight, we don’t often realize that for some, gaining weight can be a real struggle.

Being too thin, especially for senior citizens, or anyone battling an illness, can put further strain on our system and make us feel weak, tired, cold, or frail. Weight loss can also impact our muscle mass, and maintaining some muscle in general, and particularly as we age, is instrumental in maintaining our mobility, strength, and in turn, our health.

While the road to weight gain is quite logical – we need to take in more daily calories than we burn – the practice can be challenging, especially if it involves changing our diet or eating patterns. Still, it can be done, it can be fun, and foods must be healthy to be truly effective.

Here is a list of foods for healthy, happy weight gain, along with some snack ideas and meal recipes.



  1. Eat three full meals a day
  2. Snack during the in-between hours, and have a snack before bed
  3. Increase portion sizes


Caprese salad with mozzarella, tomatoes

Snack ideas:

  • Half a whole grain bagel with peanut or almond butter (add banana for additional texture and flavor)
  • Half a whole grain bagel with smoked salmon, or smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Unsalted nuts mixed with dried fruits such as apricot, mango, and raisins
  • Wholemilk yogurt with flax seeds, hemp seeds, nuts or granola (be mindful of the sugar content of granolas, as they can be high)
  • Guacamole and flax seed chips (or just slices of avocado by themselves)
  • Cheese and wholegrain crackers
  • A bowl of small mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes drizzled with olive oil
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • One-egg omelet with grated parmesan
  • Cornbread or banana bread (these can easily be made from store-bought mixes, or from scratch)
  • Unsalted or lightly salted popcorn with or without real butter (throw a tab in and mix it up)


avocado toast


Recipe ideas

1. Avocado Open Sandwich on Toast

Prep time: 3 minutes
Ingredients: Two slices of multigrain bread, one avocado and a little lime juice.
Recipe: Toast the bread. Peel and stone the avocado. Coarsely slice it and in a small bowl crush it down with a squeeze of lime juice, sea salt and mayo. Don’t try and form a puree as this should still be coarse and chunky.


2. Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Use this recipe, but swap in ground turkey for beef, and sweet potatoes or yams for regular potatoes.

Recipe: Simply Recipes


3. Stir-fry Chicken (and shrimp) with Cashews (or Peanuts) over Brown Rice

Recipe: Belly Full


4. Chocolate, Banana, Peanut Butter Protein Shake

Scroll down in the link for the recipe and directions, and add shredded coconut if you like

Recipe: A Sweet Peach


sardines are nutritious and full of calories to help gain and maintain weight

Foods to buy and eat

  1. Salmon (steaks, fillets, cured)
  2. Tuna steaks or fillets
  3. Fresh sardines (Whole Foods sometimes has the whole fish at the fish counter for pretty cheap and you can cook them and I think even eat the bones).
  4. Lean chicken meat or ground turkey without additives
  5. Any fish, but fishes high in omega-3 such as salmon, lake trout and mackerel are best.
  6. Unsalted nuts
  7. Avocado/guacamole
  8. Oatmeal (adding ground flaxseed or chia seeds to oatmeal, yogurt, shakes or whatever is great)
  9. Sweet potatoes or yams
  10. Peanut or almond butter
  11. Olive oil or some butter
  12. Dried figs or apricots (without added sugar)
  13. Brown rice/quinoa with beans (black/kidney/pinto/lentil) or some kind of protein mixed in or on the side
  14. Elbows or spaghetti (good to add a protein like chicken/salmon/even a tuna casserole would be good)
  15. Breads with no added sugar/whole grain bagels
  16. Cheese
  17. Yogurt (full fat), add fruit, nuts, flax seeds to taste
  18. Eggs
  19. Fresh vegetables (leafy greens) and
  20. Fruits (bananas, berries, figs, etc.)
  21. Spiru-Tein powder in chocolate or vanilla (add to fruit smoothies)
  22. Vega all-in-one nutritional shake (both are sold at Whole Foods)
  23. Dark chocolate
  24. Shredded coconut (add to yogurt and smoothies)