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Healthy Ways to Gain Weight

Gaining Weight After an Illness

Weight loss is often associated with illness because of a lack of appetite or certain disease conditions. During illness, most diets are inadequate in calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals -- all the nutrients you need to get back to good nutritional status.

Drinking smoothies or meal replacement drinks, eating egg dishes, and choosing bland, mild foods is usually the best diet prescription while transitioning back to a healthy diet. These foods are easy to digest, loaded with good nutrition, and simple to prepare.

"In addition to all the other important nutrients, focus on getting enough protein, which is very important in recovery after illness," Bender says. 

Aim for about 5 ounces of lean meat, fish, or poultry and a few servings of dairy, whole grains, eggs, and legumes to make sure your diet has enough protein. Bender suggests avoiding raw fish if your immune system is compromised.

Tips to Whet Your Appetite

When eating just doesn't appeal to you, there are some tricks of the trade that can help stimulate your appetite. 

Taking a little walk before eating is one of the many ways to help fire up your appetite. When you are not hungry, choosing your favorite comfort foods may help. So can jazzing up foods with spices and herbs to enhance flavor.

Liquids, including water, can fill you up. So drink liquids separately to help make room for nourishing foods. 

The sweet taste of fruit can rouse your appetite, especially when blended into an easy-to-tolerate smoothie. 

Foods That Pack a Punch

Foods highest in calories and nutrients are foods with fats, especially plant fats. Plant fats such as nuts, peanuts, seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, avocados, hummus, and oils are great sources of healthy fats loaded with nutrients and calories.

Animal fats provide nutrients and the same amount of calories as plant fats, but they also contain saturated fats, which can increase LDL (bad) cholesterol.

"First choose plant fats and smaller amounts of lower-fat dairy and lean meat animal fats, so your weight gain efforts don't increase risk of heart disease," Bender says.

"If you have a normal cholesterol level, you can enjoy extra calories by choosing full-fat dairy products," Escott-Stump says. For instance, pair cheese with fruit and whole-grain crackers for a boost of protein, calories, calcium, and vitamin D.

Drink high-calorie juices instead of water and choose high-calorie condiments such as mayonnaise, ranch, thousand island, and Caesar salad dressings, Rosenbloom suggests.

Meal replacement drinks and smoothies are very convenient. To pump up their calories, add fruits, powdered milk, or soft silken tofu, Bender says.

Eat nuts by the handful or sprinkle them on top of soups, salads, cereal, desserts, and casseroles for added protein, fiber, healthy fat, and calories. Granola, loaded with nuts and dried fruits, is a concentrated source of nutritious calories, especially when eaten with full-fat Greek-style yogurt, which is higher in protein.

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