As a registered dietitian, I have seen people throughout my career who experience weight loss and are in need of making their way back to a healthy weight. While the news and social media are inundated with ads for products and services that help people looking to lose weight, there are thousands of people across America who are underweight and in need of weight gain to get their body back to a healthy state.
There are many health conditions that lead to the need for weight restoration and weight maintenance. Whether it’s cancer, a gastrointestinal disease, appetite changes that come with age, or any diagnosis requiring support in this area, often it’s a challenge to know where to start and how to develop a routine that sees lasting success.
I have included a series of tips below to help with weight gain for those going through, and after, treatment for any health condition, or for those who are just having trouble gaining weight. These suggestions can help aid you in weight gain, which can contribute to improved overall health and wellbeing, and support improved medical outcomes.
- Choose nutrient dense foods that give you “more bang for your buck”. This means high calorie foods with a large amount of nutrients in them. Examples are foods such as nuts and nut butters, avocado, olives, coconut and oral nutrition drinks. You can add nut butter, avocado, coconut milk and a nutritional drink such as Reason to any smoothie to increase calories and nutrients. You can also add some nut butter or a handful of nuts to any fruit or veggie snack. Try throwing some olives and a generous amount of avocado into a salad or on the side of a meal. Another idea is to make a snack plate with the addition of some of these foods and eat it at a time of day, or multiple times per day, that you have a larger appetite and when eating is most appealing.
- Eat frequently. If you find that you feel full quickly or have little appetite, make an effort to eat frequently throughout the day, snacking as often as needed to meet calorie and nutrition needs. Every snack, no matter how small, counts as eating regularly will help to stimulate your appetite. Often, we forget to eat if we don’t feel hungry, so a good idea is to put reminders in your phone, tablet and/or computer to eat something multiple times per day.
- Drink your calories. Many medical treatments can impact your desire to eat, and drinking is often an easier, more appealing option. Making smoothies, having pureed soups, or drinking high-calorie nutritional drinks such as Reason’s Nutrition Beverage are great ways to get the calories and nutrients you need, when the desire to eat isn’t always there. Increase your liquid calories as needed in addition to your diet to be sure you are meeting the nutrition goals designed for you.
- Eat what sounds good! If you are craving sweets and desserts, it’s okay to have these foods when weight gain and weight maintenance are a priority. Don’t be afraid to indulge in these foods in between meals and snacks. Your body needs calories to heal and recover.
- Work with a dietitian. Meeting with a dietitian during treatment or recovery has been shown to help with weight restoration and maintenance. Dieticians will work with your individual needs and create a plan for how best to include calories and hydration into your day for optimal weight gain results.
Undergoing treatment or being in the midst of recovery can be a stressful time for anyone. Designing a plan that works best for you to increase calories and nutrition is often a vital part of healing. Work with your doctor and medical team to ensure you are getting the support you need in this area. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request additional support to be sure you are on an upward trajectory during and after treatment as well as during the recovery process.