Ditch the junk food – these 8 healthy foods will help you gain weight the right way

From avocados to coconuts, here are the best foods to help you gain weight in a sustainable way

Avocado toast with salmon and poached egg served for breakfast at a cafe
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For those who have the ongoing battle of the bulge being underweight may seem like a good situation to find yourself in. But the truth of the matter is that being underweight on not having enough muscle can contribute to health problems. This is why we came up with this list of foods to gain healthy weight with, hopefully making it easier for you to start piling on the pounds.  

Eating what you like to put on weight may seem like a dieter's dream, but it’s by far the wrong way of going about to gain weight healthily. While it may help weight gain, eating junk food will not fuel the food with the nutrition it needs and may harm the body. Instead, start including the below food items in your diet and should you do it reasonably, you will see the results soon enough.

PLEASE NOTE: Although we made sure only to include foods on this list that have been proven scientifically to help you gain weight, this guide is not meant to replace professional medical help. If you're struggling with eating disorders, please consult a doctor before going on any diet.

Healthy foods to gain weight: Dietary fat is your friend

There may be a number of reasons why you may want to gain weight such as building muscle or working on becoming healthy after an illness. Whatever your reasons, there is a healthy way to reach your goal without leaning on nutrient-poor food choices.

Fat has been long touted as the enemy and blamed for making people overweight or obese. But it’s important to understand that not all fat is bad and in actual fact breaking down and storing fat is a good thing. It’s one of the ways in which the body uses food to function, help brain development, prevent or reduce inflammation as well as keep our skin and hair healthy.  

When putting on weight take the slow and steady road. You want to add muscle mass and less fast mass. So how do you go about gaining weight in a safe and healthy way? It's time to focus on foods for a balance of good fats, paired with protein-rich food and complex carbohydrates.

Choosing minimally processed foods and eating mostly whole foods will help you gain weight fast in a healthy way. Here are our tips on putting on extra pounds that will help you reach your target with nutrient-packed foods.  

Attractive young women eating a sandwish

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Healthy foods to gain weight: 4 tips on how to gain weight healthily

  • Choose nutrient-dense: As we’ve mentioned junk food is like eating empty calories without adding any nutritional benefits. But nutrient-dense foods will help you build muscle and provide vital energy. Turn your attention to high-protein meats and fish such as red meat which contain essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Complex carbs found in brown rice and whole grains will help your body receive optimum nourishment. 
  • Eat little and often: For some eating large meals may not sound appealing especially if you struggle with a poor diet. Instead, plan your meals and eat little and often throughout the day to increase your calorie intake. Over time your body will become accustomed to eating regularly to keep you ticking over and prevent energy slumps. 
  • Sneak in healthy calories: The good news is you don’t have to drastically change your diet. You can increase healthy calories by sprinkling nuts and seeds into your meals such as oats, yogurts salads and side dishes. As long as you don’t suffer from a nut allergy eat almonds, cashews, walnuts and the like and add them sparingly to your meals. 
  • Get snacking: Snacks are not bad if they contain plenty of protein and healthy carbohydrates. They can be healthy and convenient when you’re time-poor to wizz up meals. Keep snacks such as nuts, nut butter, protein bars, fruit and trail mix to hand. They will help you stay full and provide good nutrients without having to reach for the biscuit tin.

Healthy foods to gain weight: 8 foods to add to your diet for a healthy weight gain

A bowl of sliced avocados, eggs and leafy greens

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1.  Avocados

When it comes to weight gain, avocados are right up there as one of our favourites. They are not only jam-packed with calories but are a source of heart-healthy monosaturated fats. They can be thrown into salads or made into guacamole for a dip or smashed up as a toast topping. 

2. Greek yoghurt

Produced from milk and high in probiotics, Greek yogurt is thicker and higher in protein than natural yogurt and is great for muscle health too. When choosing Greek yogurt to gain weight, opt for products made from whole fat milk. Reject labels that are fat-free or low fat as they are lower in calories and normally replaced with nutritionally poor ingredients. 

A plate with eggs, bacon, avocados and mixed salad

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3. Eggs

Eggs are versatile and complete food in their own right because it’s packed with both protein and fat. While dieters shun the yolk in favour of the egg white, it’s the former which is loaded with good fats. Eggs can be cooked in a variety of ways and can be eaten as part of a meal or a snack at any time of the day.

4. Cheese

Sticking to the chiller aisle, cheese is another high protein dairy product. Again, you need to avoid low or reduced-fat versions because they are lower in calories. The nutrition labels will guide you on the best cheeses to go for when looking for higher calories and fat. Cream cheese and other soft cheeses are packed with higher calories.  

5. Nuts and seeds

Pretty much all types of nuts and seeds are a good source for gaining weight. Packed with protein, fat, fibre, vitamins, and minerals they contain heart-healthy unsaturated good fats which lower bad cholesterol levels. Some experts have found eaten daily, nuts and seeds can lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease and could potentially lengthen your life.  

Roasted salmon on a baking tray topped with garnish

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6. Salmon

Good for heart health and packed with omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is a good choice when it comes to fatty fish. This food can help you gain weight while adding nutritional value to your meals. Salmon makes a good lunch or dinner option and can be added to salads too. Tuna is also a great high fat choice over other fish varieties. Eating fish twice a week will work wonders for your weight gain. 

7. Coconut

This tropical high-calorie food is a real sweet treat if you like coconuts. High in calories, a coconut is found in many forms - whole, shredded, flaked, coconut cream, coconut milk and water. While the latter is low in calories the milk has moderate calories and the cream the highest. It’s a great accompaniment in curries, smoothies or eaten as a snack.  

8. Olive oil

While not a complete food in itself, olive oil is a healthy source of good fats. A long-standing favourite of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is a healthy fat. Available in plain and flavoured varieties it can be added to many dishes for a boost of calories. Think salads, dips, and even cooking in a frying pan.  

Remember, the foods listed above are not inclusive and you may not eat every food on it. There are many healthy foods out there that will help you gain weight. Everyone is individual whether that is down to food intolerances, personal preference or health conditions. The list will certainly give you a head start and point you in the right direction to gain weight in a healthy and safe manner

This feature is part of T3's Get Fit 2022 campaign. We’ll be bringing you a wealth of guides, features, deals and news to help you get healthy, fit and ready for anything the new year can throw at you. Whether you’re a newcomer to fitness or someone with a passion for it, we’ll bring you all the best workouts, diet advice and gear to set you on the right track.

Sabi Phagura
Sabi Phagura

Sabi is a fitness enthusiast who’s been involved in some kind of sports since school. No sport is off-limits (apart from hockey after she was scarred for life when she lost a tooth) and she will try her hand at anything that involves moving. Sabi qualified as a fitness instructor 11 years ago and teaches kettlebells, spin, women’s weight lifting and cardio. As an NCTJ-trained journalist, she travels extensively to find fun ways to be fit and healthy around the globe. She is often found exploring new trails while listening to audiobooks, baking healthy treats and upcycling furniture in her spare time. She writes about general fitness, product reviews and offers her advice and tips on following a healthy lifestyle.