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To some people, trying to gain weight is as difficult as trying to lose weight. People who are underweight may want to pack on more pounds to achieve an ideal weight, to build muscles, or to have more curves. However, some experts believe that being slightly underweight is not necessarily unhealthy, as long as you are comfortable with it and you can function properly without health problems. It is different, though with others, who may be sick, pregnant, or trying to recover from illness, because they need proper nourishment to restore or maintain good health. Sometimes being too underweight can increase your risk for health problems such as infections and nutritional deficiencies.

It is not enough just to know how much you weigh, because other factors, such as height must be considered in determining your ideal weight. Health experts use a standard calculator which determines your body mass index (BMI), a system that categorizes your size and the amount of body fat you have based on your height and weight. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, people with a BMI of 18.5-24.9 have a normal body weight. A BMI below that is considered underweight, and values above it is either overweight (25 to 29.9) or obese (> 30). To calculate your BMI, use the BMI calculator in their webpage to see if your body weight is ideal for your height.

Ways to Gain Weight

  • Eat meals with the following ratio of nutrients: carbohydrates, 60% -70%; protein, 10% -15%; and a small amount of healthy fats.

  • Choose nutrient-dense foods that are high in calories, vitamins, minerals, but not sugar or fat, which contain empty calories. These may include whole-grain bread, pasta, cereals, fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk and dairy products, lean meat, nuts and seeds.

  • Eat three whole meals and have snacks in-between. Limit drinking beverages before meals.

  • Instead of drinking soda, try milk shakes or smoothies with fruits, sprinkled with flaxseed.

  • Snack on peanut butter, nuts, cheese, avocados and dried fruits. You can also have a bedtime snack as well as healthy treats made of yogurt, peanut butter-jelly sandwich, granola bars and fruit pies.

  • Top your dishes with cheese, nuts, eggs, and other suitable toppings.

  • Choose good fat sources such as nuts, olives, fatty fish like salmon or mackerel, and avocado.

  • If you want to increase muscle mass, eat snacks that are rich in proteins, such as high-protein energy bars, protein shakes or low-fat chocolate milk, immediately after weight training.

  • Sports nutritionists also recommend adding whey protein to beverages like protein shakes in addition to high calorie food and beverages.

  • Some experts recommend taking a small glass of wine or beer before a meal to stimulate your appetite. However, care must be taken if you are taking medications or if you have a health condition that contraindicates alcohol intake.

  • Consult a doctor or a nutritionist on other ways to increase your appetite and how to prepare nutritious, high calorie meals and snacks.

  • Exercise regularly to increase your strength and muscle mass. Moderate exercise can also stimulate the appetite and help you eat more.

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