Ask the Nutritionist
Q: I am looking for a protein drink or powder to add both protein and increase weight gain. Which ones are safe and effective?
PK, South Yarmouth, Massachusetts
A: You can refer to a previous question to learn more about hemp protein as a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids that discusses different kinds of protein shakes and powders using whey, soy, hemp, or pea proteins. In general, we suggest that you look for protein powders with 25 grams or less protein per serving. Also, foods like eggs, beans, nuts, soy, fish and lean meats are all great sources of protein to add to your solid food diet.
Here are some healthy foods you can eat to increase calories and gain weight:
- Incorporating nuts and seeds into your diet is a heart healthy way to increase calories and aim for weight gain. Try adding nuts (walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, etc.) to baked goods, breads, cereal, pancakes, salads, and ice cream or yogurts. (1/4 cup serving = 170 calories)
- Trail mix or granola bars with dried fruits and/or cranberries or raisins are a calorie-dense option that can be eaten as a snack or added to cereals and yogurts. (1/4 cup serving/bar = 120 calories)
- Try frying or cooking eggs for a meal. Add chopped hard-boiled eggs to salads, dressings, and casseroles, or beat eggs into sauces, custards, and baked goods. (1 large egg = 90 calories)
- Olive and canola oil can be mixed into sauces, used as salad dressing, and added to yogurt frappes or smoothies as a great calorie boost that contains essential fatty acids that your body needs. You can also use oil to cook when stir-frying vegetables. (1 tbsp = 120 calories)
- Try adding beans to soups, salads, or entrees.
- Try adding peanut butter as a spread to whole grain breads or eat it with fruits like bananas and apples for a healthy snack. (2 tablespoons = 190 calories)
- Add cheese, bean spreads or hummus to vegetables (1 ounces or 1/8 cup cheese = 100 calories; 1/4 cup hummus/bean spread = 100 calories)
Here are some strategies you can try for healthy weight gain:
- Eat small, frequent meals and snacks every couple of hours throughout the day.
- Use small plates for meals opposed to full size dinner plates.
- Try not to snack too close to meal times to avoid feelings of fullness.
- Do try to eat your favorite foods more often.
- Limit fluids to a minimum at meals but make sure to drink fluids between meals.
- Keep high-calorie snacks on hand at your house and bring these snacks with you when on the go.
- Drink high-calorie fluids or 100 percent juices (orange juice, blueberry juice, V8, cranberry juice, milk), smoothies, yogurt drinks, or a commercial nutritional supplement such as Mix 1, Ensure, Carnation Instant Breakfast, or Boost.