Foods to Gain Weight (58 Foods in PDF)

Foods to Gain Weight

People who weigh too small are often advised to gain weight by their doctors because this can trigger a myriad of health issues.

Building muscle or gaining weight is also crucial to bodybuilders and other athletes.

According to a report by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), between 1988 and 2008, the number of underweight individuals aged 20 to 40 years in the United States declined from 3% to 1.8%.

Some of the issues likely to be experienced by underweight people include:

  1. Developmental delays
  2. Infertility
  3. Malnutrition
  4. Osteoporosis
  5. Weak immune system

While gaining weight can be somewhat of a challenge, some foods can help you do so quickly. These foods can also increase muscle and boost overall health.

How to Get Started With Foods to Gain Weight

The formula for weight gain is simple: eat more calories than you expend.

If you have a fast metabolism or engage in strenuous activity, you may put yourself in a calorie deficit if you don’t consume enough to fulfill your needs.

If you don’t know how many calories you expend each day, try using an online calorie calculator. Then, design a nutrition plan that goes above and beyond that value.

Diets have been created using the 3,500 calories per pound rule. According to this rule, cutting 500 calories from your diet daily will result in one pound of fat loss or an increase per week.

To make the strategy work, eat smaller portions, schedule more meals throughout the day and add calories without bulk by using toppings such as cashews, gravy, ranch dressing, etc.

Gaining weight is not the same as bulking. If you aim to increase your muscle mass, read the Bulking Diet Meal Plan article.

Foods to Gain Weight

58 Foods to Gain Weight

1. Healthy Fats

Trans fats are unhealthy and should be avoided; instead, focus on consuming unsaturated fats. These healthy fats include healthy plant-based fats and omega-3 fatty acids.

Moreover, compared to processed fats like oils and butter, fats from whole foods such as nuts and seeds tend to be packed with extra nutrients. The top healthy fat foods include: 

  1. Avocado oil
  2. Butter: Almond butter, cocoa butter, peanut butter, etc.
  3. Coconut milk
  4. Extra virgin olive oil
  5. Fatty fish: Anchovies, herring, mussels, salmon, swordfish, etc.
  6. Nuts and seeds: Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc.

High-Quality Carbs

While many plant-based foods contain carbs, not all do; focus on whole, unprocessed sources of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can also be found in dairy products.

Furthermore, because carbs are classified as sugars, most processed foods and sugary drinks can be a substantial source of carbs. Research conducted by the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases highlights the weight gain associated with ultra-processed diets. (1)

The majority of carbohydrate sources can be incorporated into a healthy muscle-building diet.

The key is to eat more nutrient-dense foods most of the time and add higher carb/higher sugar foods when you need energy the most, such as before and after a workout session.

During the day, eating more fiber-rich carbohydrates from whole foods can help with blood sugar regulation, resulting in increased appetite, energy, and mood. 

In addition, eating nutritious carbohydrates and sugary foods before and after workout sessions can help supply energy to your muscles faster, which might be helpful in your muscle-building efforts.

Some of the top high-quality carbs include:

2. Low Carb Fruits and Veggies

While low in calories, these foods provide essential nutrients and fiber. They also contain many other key nutrients that can help boost your overall diet and recovery after workouts.

Some of the top low-carb fruits and vegetables include:

  1. Artichokes
  2. Asparagus
  3. Bell peppers
  4. Broccoli
  5. Cabbage
  6. Cauliflower
  7. Celery
  8. Cucumbers
  9. Leafy greens
  10. Tomatoes

3. Starchy Fruits and Veggies

Include starchy fruits and vegetables for their nutrient density and energy provision. Some of the best starchy fruits and vegetables include:

  1. Banana
  2. Brussels sprouts
  3. Carrots
  4. Corn
  5. Dates
  6. Pineapples
  7. Prunes
  8. Plantain
  9. Pumpkin
  10. Root vegetables: Beets, sweet potatoes, etc.

4. Whole Grains

Whole grains are a healthy source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and other nutrients. Some of the best whole grains include:

  1. Amaranth
  2. Barley
  3. Black rice
  4. Buckwheat
  5. Bulgur
  6. Farro
  7. Freekeh
  8. Kamut
  9. Millet
  10. Quinoa
  11. Red rice
  12. Rolled oats
  13. Sorghum
  14. Tortillas
  15. Whole grain bread and pasta

5. Proteins

Boosting your protein intake is a no-brainer if you’re muscle building. But, not all proteins possess what you need. Here are some proteins you should consider adding to your diet. 

Lean Proteins

Lean proteins provide essential amino acids with lower levels of saturated fat. The top lean proteins include:

  1. Egg whites
  2. Grass-fed meats: beef, lamb, mutton, etc.
  3. Low-fat Dairy: cheese, milk, and yogurt.
  4. Poultry: chicken and turkey
  5. Shellfish: crabs, lobster, prawns, shrimp, etc.
  6. Whitefish: cod, haddock, hake, pollack, sea bass, etc. 
  7. Wild game meats: bison, elk, pheasant, venison, etc.

6. Protein Supplements

Protein supplements can support muscle gain and recovery, especially in combination with resistance training.

Mass gainers and whey protein supplements, for instance, can be easy and inexpensive ways to gain weight, especially when used in conjunction with strength exercises.

Whey protein is a high-quality source and safe for most people when consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Whey protein is a dairy protein proven to boost health indicators and lower the risk of contracting illnesses. 

Protein supplements are even more vital when working out because your daily protein requirements rise.

Like eggs and meats, whey protein has all the amino acids needed to promote muscle building.

It may be used prior to or after a workout session and any other time during the day. Some of the top protein supplements include:

  1. Casein
  2. Collagen fiber
  3. Rice and pea protein mix
  4. Soy protein
  5. Whey protein

7. Vegan Proteins

Vegan proteins can be complete sources of protein when various plants are consumed, although they are inherently less protein-rich than animal-based alternatives.

The following are the top high protein vegan foods in terms of protein per calorie:

  1. Beans: Including black, garbanzo, kidney, and lima beans, are excellent sources of plant-based protein and fiber.
  2. Edamame
  3. Lentils: Black beluga lentils, Brown lentils, red lentils, puy lentils, etc. 
  4. Tempeh
  5. Tofu

Final Thought

To sum it all up, the key to gaining weight is consuming more calories than you expend.

Exercising and working out in the gym are also crucial so that the extra calories from high-calorie foods and snacks can be utilized in developing muscle rather than fat.

So if you want to gain weight, consider including some, if not all, foods on this list in your meals and meal plans.

Printable List of Foods to Gain Weight

Healthy FatsLow Carb Fruits and VeggiesStarchy Fruits and VeggiesWhole GrainsLean ProteinsProtein SupplementsVegan Proteins
Avocado oilArtichokesBananaAmaranthEgg whitesCaseinBeans: Black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lima beans, etc.
Butters: Almond butter, cocoa butter, peanut butter, etc.AsparagusBrussels sproutsBarleyGrass-fed meats: beef, lamb, mutton, etc.Collagen fiberEdamame
Coconut milkBell peppersCarrotsBlack riceLow-fat Dairy: cheese, milk, and yogurt.Rice and pea protein mixLentils: Black beluga lentils, Brown lentils, red lentils, puy lentils, etc.
Extra virgin olive oilBroccoliCornBuckwheatPoultry: chicken and turkeySoy proteinTempeh
Fatty fish: Anchovies, herring, mussels, salmon, swordfish, etc.CabbageDatesBulgurShellfish: crabs, lobster, prawns, shrimp, etc.Whey proteinTofu
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc.CauliflowerPineapplesFarroWhitefish: cod, haddock, hake, pollack, sea bass, etc.
CeleryPrunesFreekehWild game meats: bison, elk, pheasant, venison, etc.
Leafy greensPumpkinMillet
TomatoesRoot vegetables: Beets, sweet potatoes, etc.Quinoa
Red rice
Rolled oats
Whole grain bread and pasta

See Also

3000 Calorie Meal Plan

Meal Plan for Weight Gain

Low Sodium Fast Foods

How to Eat Clean?

Vegetarian Protein Sources

Vegetarian Meal Plan for Weight Gain

Weight Gain Smoothies Without Protein Powder