Gaining weight when you’re underweight, or malnourished can be as challenging as losing weight when you’re obese! The important point for weight gain though, is that you don’t want to gain unhealthy fat, you want to gain strong, healthy muscle.
The best way to do this is by eating nutrient-dense, healthy, yet tasty foods. If, for whatever reasons, you cannot eat much, then the easiest way to gain weight is by using a liquid, elemental shake like Absorb Plus – as it is much easier to drink your calories then eat them!
You can also use a combination of nutrient-dense foods along with Absorb Plus shakes, if you prefer. I did this while I was pregnant and breastfeeding. When I didn’t have the time to cook or eat properly, I had an Absorb Plus shake instead of a regular meal. Or, I would have one between meals to pack in some extra nutrition before my baby sucked it back out of me!
When you’re trying to gain weight, you need a lot of protein and good fats. You can also use any kind of whey protein or veggie protein shake between meals or along with your meals and add a tablespoon of flax or Udo’s oil to each shake. Or you can use the Raw Nutrient Shake recipe below.
Then you can use nutrient-dense snacks (like the muffin recipe I’ve given below) between meals to give you those extra calories – but in a delicious way, that doesn’t feel like a chore!
I also give my kids these muffins to take to school when they get bored with sandwiches. For this reason, they are as high in protein (from almond flour – ground almond meal), whole grains and even veggies, as I could make them, so that even though they taste like a treat, they are actually a nutritious meal. For this reason, these recipes are ideal for weight gain, or to use in place of breakfast, or as a late afternoon, or bedtime snack.
White Chocolate Cranberry Muffins
- 1 cup almond flour (made from finely ground almonds, available at health or organic grocery stores)
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour*
- 1 cup unbleached flour*
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1 cup liquid honey
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 3 cups grated zucchini (if your kid’s picky, then peel the zucchini before grating – that way they won’t see any ‘green bits’ in the muffins)
- 1 cup cranberries
- 1/2 cup – 1 cup white chocolate chunks or chips
Optional: If you prefer, you can use raisins instead of cranberries. You can also just delete the white chocolate, if you prefer.
1. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, melted butter, and honey. Then stir in the grated zucchini and raisins.
2. In another bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (almond flour, whole wheat flour, unbleached flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt).
3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just mixed.
4. Bake in lined muffin tins at 350F for about 15-20 minutes. Makes about 20 muffins.
*NOTE: You can replace the 2 cups of wheat flour with 2 cups of gluten-free flour and 1 tsp xanthan gum.
High protein due to the almond flour, and no refined sugar!
Chocolate Puffed Squares (gluten-free)
- 2 cups puffed millet
- 3.5 cups puffed rice
- 1/2 cup tahini, or cashew butter, or almond butter, or peanut butter
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup raw honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
1. In a large saucepan, combine butter, tahini (or nut butter) and honey on very LOW heat, until melted and well mixed.
2. Remove from heat, mix in cocoa powder and vanilla extract.
3. Gently (but quickly) stir in the puffed rice and millet.
4. Press into a well-buttered 8″ x 8″ baking pan. Allow to cool and then cut into squares.
*Note: Because this recipe doesn’t use marshmallows or sugar, it does not set as hard as rice krispie squares. However, it is still delicious and much healthier!
I also find that it can be easier to drink your extra calories, so here’s a nutrient shake that is also kid-tested and delicious. For people who are not trying to gain weight, you can just use this in place of breakfast:
Raw Nutrient Milkshake
- 1 cup raw milk or organic yoghurt (use rice or almond milk for dairy-free)
- 1 very ripened banana (black is ideal – means it’s “predigested”)
- 2 whole organic raw eggs
- 1 organic raw egg yolk
- 1 tsp. Udo’s oil or liquid unrefined coconut oil
- raw honey, maple syrup, or stevia to sweeten, if needed
Optional: Add 1/2 tsp of cocoa powder or 1 tsp of hot chocolate mix to make a chocolate shake. Or add nutmeg, cardamom and/or cinnamon for a Christmas eggnog taste.
Puree milk and banana together in a blender on low speed (or use hand blender) until smooth, then add rest of ingredients and blend for 10 seconds. Pour into a glass and serve with a straw.
You absolutely cannot tell there are eggs in here – it does not thicken the liquid, or anything.
*Note: The blending instructions are to avoid damaging the protein in the raw eggs, which is quite delicate.
And in case, you haven’t seen it yet, here is my video where I show you how to get more healthy fats into your diet. Whether you are underweight or overweight, consuming more good fats will help normalize your weight. Many experts advocate getting 40% of your calories from good healthy fats, since the cell membrane is 40% fat and studying healthy indigenous people has revealed they consume a very high amount of fat in their diet (up to 80%). Good, healthy fats include:
- cold-pressed organic olive oil
- unrefined organic coconut oil
- cold-pressed organic flax or Udo’s oil
- organic butter (preferably raw)
- fish oils
- animal fats from organic, grass-fed animals only
Original post March 2010. Most recently updated July 2020.