Who’s sexier – Jennifer Lopez or Olive Oyl from the old Popeye cartoons? Most people would emphatically reply, “J-Lo!” Some of us are naturally endomorphs, and have difficulty losing weight. At the other end of the spectrum are ectomorphs, who are thin and actually have trouble gaining weight. Being skinny can be emotionally difficult. That may be hard to believe, especially for women, given our current “thin-is-in” culture of beauty. Others who may want to gain weight include body builders and those who are overcoming eating disorders.
The idea behind gaining weight is not to become obese of course – so fast food is definitely out of the question. That’s because obesity is accompanied by serious health risks such as heart disease and diabetes. Rather, people who want to gain weight need healthy high-calorie foods for weight gain. The healthy way to gain weight naturally is with high-protein foods – which will also build attractive, lean muscle.
The three primary nutrients for the human body are protein, which supplies amino acids; fats, which supply fatty acids; and carbohydrates, which supply glucose. These three primary nutrients are also the foods to gain weight with! Here’s a snapshot of how to optimize your diet with healthy high-calorie foods for weight gain.
Protein should be the building block of every meal and snack. Protein builds lean muscle. This does not mean fast-food burgers! Be sure that your protein sources are lean: chicken, fish, or vegetarian alternatives such as beans and tofu. Red meat and dairy products are not generally recommended because they’re high in saturated fat. However, there are healthy ways to eat red meat and dairy products, which we’ll discuss shortly. Your serving of protein should be the largest portion on your plate. Lean protein snacks include hummus, nuts, low-fat cheese and yogurt.
Enjoy hearty whole-grain carbohydrates. This does not mean white, highly processed carbs such as potato chips, white bread and bagels! Think brown. Whole-grain carbs include items such as multi-grain crackers, whole wheat bread and basmati rice. People who are watching their weight avoid highly processed carbs and reduce their intake of whole-grain carbs to one or two servings per day. Since your goal is to gain weight, feel free to eat whole-grain carbohydrates with every meal. Seven-grain crackers dipped in hummus makes a hearty snack!
Eat at least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day. You can boost your serving intake by also drinking 100 percent natural fruit juices. Also, be sure to add a fruit or vegetable to every meal. We could change that old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” to “Five servings a day keeps sickness at bay!”
Enjoy healthy fats. Fats encourage nutrient absorption, facilitate nerve transmission, and maintain cell integrity. This does not mean eating greasy french fries! Not all fats are created equal. There are good fats and bad fats. The good guys are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol and they also increase HDL, or good cholesterol. Tasty examples are nut, canola and olive oils. Polyunsaturated fats lower LDL and total cholesterol, too. Those healthy omega 3 fatty acids that you’re always hearing about are polyunsaturated fats. Salmon, fish oil, and corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils are high in polyunsaturated fats. Dip your whole-grain bread from a local baker in gourmet olive oil! Make a big, creamy batch of guacamole from hearty avocados–throw in some chunks of tomato and onion. These are delicious, healthy, high-calorie foods for weight gain! Avoid bad fats, as they instigate heart disease and certain types of cancer. The bad guys are saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats raise LDL and total cholesterol; they’re found primarily in animal products, including meat, dairy and eggs. Trans fats come from hydrogenated oils. Scientists whip hydrogen into any type of oil, even originally healthy oils, to give processed foods a longer shelf life and a creamier “mouth feel.” French fries and buns, stick margarine, vegetable shortening and countless packaged foods contain partially hydrogenated oils. Read the labels, and avoid them.
If you’re going to eat animal products occasionally, protect your health by doing it the right way. If you want to enjoy some red meat and dairy products as part of your healthy plan to gain weight, here are some tricks to keep bad fats in check. Opt for meat and dairy products that come from grass-fed animals, preferably from local small family farmers in your area. Now, organic and grass-fed meat is available at most supermarkets. Not only are these products vastly superior in flavor, but also contain more good fats, especially omega 3 fatty acids, than bad fats. They also have conjugated lineolic acid, and are high in beta-carotene. These nutrients plummet in ordinary mass-produced meat and dairy products, because the animals are fed corn, which is less expensive and makes animals larger. You might also be shocked to learn that the animals are often fed truckloads of stale or ruined junk food such as snack cakes from bakery outlets because it’s so cheap.
Another method you can use to supplement healthy foods to gain weight is by focusing on anaerobic exercise rather than aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is moderate activity performed over an extended period of time, such as running and bicycling. Aerobic exercise burns fat. However, if you’re trying to gain weight, retain a little fat to sculpt into lean, attractive muscle, and turn to anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise is high-intensity with short bursts of action, such as weight lifting, sprinting and jumping. Weight lifting is the perfect anaerobic exercise for someone who’s trying to gain weight. Body builders use this type of anaerobic exercise to build muscle mass, and non-endurance sports athletes use it to build power. Weightlifting creates a hard body for men that women love, and it sculpts those curves on women that men appreciate! Once you attain your desired weight, you can supplement anaerobic exercise with aerobic exercise for overall cardiovascular health.
In addition to these diet tips, you can supplement your healthy diet with protein supplements. It is often difficult to eat enough protein each day, so supplementing with a soy or whey protein shake can help increase overall intake. Everyone who is too skinny wants to gain weight, look great, and build strength. Take the next step today, and enjoy the benefits of a fit, healthy body.