Aim for a 1-pound gain each week.

Eating Tips to Gain Weight When Underweight

by Carolyn Robbins

Gaining weight should be easy. Just eat a few more slices of pizza and a big bowl of ice cream for dessert and the scale will jump. Unfortunately, healthy weight gain takes time, effort and patience. Whether you're underweight due to genetics, illness or bad habits, you have to set realistic goals for weight gain. One pound is equivalent to roughly 3,500 calories. To gain 1 pound a week, you'll need to add 500 extra calories to your diet each day. Get your extra calories from healthy foods such as whole-grain carbohydrates, milk, eggs, cheese, lean meat, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish.

1. Schedule

It's easy to slip into poor eating habits when you're busy with school, work or family commitments. Nevertheless, it's important to schedule meals and snacks if you are underweight. Plan to eat every three to four hours starting with breakfast first thing in the morning. Intersperse meals with hefty snacks to distribute your calorie intake and keep your energy levels stable.

2. Add Extras

Make it your goal to banish plain foods from your diet. Add healthy fats including nut butters, avocado and olive oil to meals and snacks. For instance, you might top whole-grain toast with sliced avocado, a drizzle of olive oil and seasonings, or smear several tablespoons of peanut butter onto an apple. Mix dry milk or soy powder into soup, casseroles and drinks for added protein, calories and calcium.

3. Beverages

If you're not hungry, sipping a drink is a good way to sneak calories into your diet. Milk and 100 percent fruit juice are simple, healthy options. If you have a little more time, whip up a smoothie with full-fat yogurt, fruit and dry milk powder. Smoothies are very versatile. You can add extra fat with nut butters or avocado.

4. Exercise

The need to gain weight is not an excuse to park yourself in front of the television. Your goal should be to increase weight from lean body mass -- muscle, connective tissue and bone -- not fat. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and two, full-body strength training sessions per week, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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