Sustainable Ways to Add More Calories to Your Diet
Diet culture primarily focuses on telling individuals to “reduce”, “limit”, “restrict”, “avoid” and “eliminate” certain foods or entire food groups. As a result, when exercise professionals partner with their clients to examine their unique dietary habits and patterns, our clients often focus on “eliminating” something from their diet. Sometimes it means the client voices a need to eliminate carbs, cut out sugar, or reduce red meat intake.
Sustainable behavior change does not occur because someone says “stop that” or “don’t do this” messages. Instead, help your clients shift the narrative to be one of “how can I add healthy items and tasty ingredients to my current intake?” As a professional trainer or nutrition coach, you can and should be talking to your clients about general healthy nutrition practices.
Here are a few ways to infuse flavor into ordinary meals and some suggestions for how to add more calories and gain weight in a healthy and sustainable way.
Avoid Convenient High-Calorie Foods
The biggest mistake we often see when a client is looking to gain weight is turning to low nutritional-value foods to gain weight. It’s tempting to reach for convenient high-calorie foods, like cookies, chips, soda, and packaged meals. You’ll gain weight, but not in a healthy way, and these foods don’t build healthy muscles, bones, and blood.
Oatmeal alone is a great source of fiber, nutrients, and whole grains. But it is low on the protein side. Encourage a boost of protein and healthy fat by adding a sprinkle of crushed walnuts (or other high-nutrient nuts) or a couple of teaspoons of nut butter (natural, of course).
Greens offer a plethora of vitamins and minerals, but throwing in a handful of black beans, chickpeas, and quinoa will boost protein, fiber, and nutrient content. This promotes more staying power than a simple green salad with veggies only.
Boost Your Daily Calories with Smoothies
Drinking homemade protein smoothies can be a highly nutritious and quick way to gain weight. Making your own smoothies is the best way since commercial versions are often full of sugar and lack nutrients. It also gives you full control over the flavor and nutrient content. Many of my clients enjoy a good smoothie but overlook the benefit of adding more satiating ingredients to the mix rather than just fruit and a dollop of Greek yogurt. For extra creaminess, a few chunks of avocado add a good dose of healthy fat. The same could be accomplished by adding nut butter (natural, no sugar added, of course) in place of the avocado. A little goes a long way!
Salmon and Oily Fish
Salmon and oily fish are excellent sources of protein and important healthy fats. Out of all the nutrients that salmon and oily fish provide, omega-3 fatty acids are among the most significant and well-known. They offer numerous benefits for your health and help fight diseases.
You can prepare salmon in a variety of ways: steamed, sautéed, smoked, grilled, baked, or poached. You can also try smoked salmon or even eat raw salmon in sushi and sashimi. Fresh or frozen salmon often has a slightly higher price tag, but canned salmon is a quick and inexpensive option. Almost all canned salmon is wild rather than farmed, giving it top marks for nutrition.
Your Pre-Workout Meal
Neglecting a pre-workout meal will leave you light-headed and weak because your body doesn’t have the fuel needed to sustain you during exercise. If you are concerned with indigestion, choose easy-to-digest carbs like a banana, peanut butter on toast, or fruit and oatmeal to provide energy for your training. You need fuel BEFORE your workout in order to provide your body with the energy it needs to complete the workout, whether cardio, weight–training or a combination of the two.
Quality Snack Options
When hunger strikes, it’s easy for clients to reach for the nearest most convenient food (which often contains high energy and low nutrient value). Examples of healthy, calorie-dense snacks include: dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and nut butters, and full-fat dairy like yogurt and cheese.
Dried fruit for example is a high-calorie snack that also provides antioxidants and micronutrients (19).
You can get many different types of dried fruit, and they all have naturally high sugar content. This makes them great for gaining weight, especially since they’re convenient to eat and taste great.
While many people think fruits lose most of their nutrients when dried, this isn’t the case. Dried fruits contain lots of fiber and most of their vitamins and minerals remain intact
Try combining some dried fruit with a protein source, such as cuts of meat, cheese, or a whey protein shake. They also mix well with nuts and full-fat plain Greek yogurt, providing a blend of healthy fats, protein, and other key nutrients.
Eating healthy and bringing balance to daily dietary practices is not (and should not be) about restriction or elimination. Enjoy a wide variety of foods that offer unique benefits and flavor while fueling your body for performance and enjoyment.