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Healthy, Less Stress Weight Gain: Suggestions and Tips


Gaining weight in a healthy way requires some planning. Add to the planning a bit of creativity and common sense, and you can put on weight without causing yourself undue stress or triggering symptoms.

The list of suggestions below comes from scouring reputable health and medical websites about eating disorders and weight gain, and selecting ideas that are mentioned on a minimum of three sites. These are not the only good suggestions, but they are frequently made.

Generally speaking, to gain weight people need to eat foods that are energy and calorie-dense relative to serving size, and full of nutrients. Some examples are:

  • whole grain pastas, breads, crackers, and rice
  • nuts and seeds
  • fatty fish and lean meats
  • low or full-fat dairy products such as yogurt, solid cheeses and cottage cheese
  • avocados
  • dark chocolate

Healthy Weight Gain for People with An Eating Disorder

First Things First: Three Ideas for Support

  1. Ideally, unless you are experienced at gaining and maintaining weight, you will be in consultation with your physician and a dietician. They can help you prepare a plan suited to your personal needs that will allow you to gain weight safely.
  2. Counseling is highly recommended to help you manage stress, begin making peace with your body image, and address any limiting or negative beliefs about yourself.
  3. Eat your meals with family and friends whenever possible. Being with others who care about you is supportive, and the table talk will distract your mind from circular thoughts about food.

Four Ways to Add Invisible Calories

  1. Prepare hot oatmeal or soups with milk instead of water.
  2. Add one or two tablespoons of dried or powdered milk to foods such as soups, cereals, casseroles, liquid milk, mashed or sweet potatoes.
  3. You can also add calories to foods by stirring in honey, margarine, or butter.
  4. Dress your salads with healthy oils such as olive oil.

Seven Ways to Add Visible Calories

  1. Add toppings to cereals, casseroles, soups and salads such as fresh fruit, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, olives, baked bread crumbs and avocados.
  2. Eat breads and bagels that contain nuts, seeds or dried fruit.
  3. Use salad dressing generously; use dressings on sandwiches.
  4. Eat whole grain crackers with hummus or nut butters.
  5. Eat fresh fruits such as apples and bananas with peanut or other nut butters.
  6. Dunk your raw vegetables or whole grain crackers in a dip.
  7. Drink fruit juices, 2-percent milk and smoothies.

Four Tips for Less-Stress Weight Gain

  1. Eat small meals frequently; about five to six small meals per day works well for many people.
  2. Avoid weighing yourself. Get rid of your scale or put it in a very inconvenient place.
  3. Discuss with your doctor how much and how strenuously you should exercise; maybe walking is enough.
  4. Keep a food diary at least for a few weeks. Many people believe they have consumed far more calories than they actually have. By keeping a record you will know where you stand, and if you are eating enough to actually put on weight.