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Claire Turnbull: Healthy weight gain - 27 September

Need to gain weight? How to do it the HEALTHY way!

1. For those people who need to gain weight - what do you need to do?

The theory of putting on weight is as straightforward as the theory of losing weight: you need to consume more energy in your food than your body is using through normal activity. 

In weight loss, where you want to reduce energy intake and/or increase energy usage, there are healthy ways to go about it, and then there are the fad diets and the crash diets which are not healthy.

For weight gain, when you are looking at increasing energy intake, there are also healthy ways to go about it; and unhealthy ways.  Simply adding lots of fat to your diet, because it's very high in energy per gram, is not a healthy approach.

2. What kind of foods do people with this issue need to be eating?

- Just like everyone else, the basis of your daily diet should be the following:
- at least six serves of breads and cereals
- at least three serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit
- at least two serves of milk or milk products
- at least one serve of lean meat or chicken, fish, eggs, seafood or cooked dried beans, peas and lentils.
- Overall you are going to need to eat a greater volume of food than you have been used to but you don't want to feel stuffed after a meal.
- Never skip meals.  Regular eating habits are essential.

3. How can you make sure you are eating enough? Will bigger portions help?

For some people this works well - but don't stuff yourself, but you may find a slightly larger serving is fine.

For example:
- don't rush breakfast: after your cereal, add a slice of grainy toast with peanut or almond butter
- pasta salad at lunchtime - add extra tuna, avocado and vinaigrette
- potato salad - add extra mayonnaise and chopped boiled egg to your serve

ALSO Don't drink in the 30 minutes before meals so you leave more room for food.

4. Do you need more snacks too?

Yes! Eat more frequently.  Plan to have snacks in between meals and before bedtime.

For example

- generous serve of nuts and/or dried fruit
- banana smoothie with (reduced-fat) ice cream and added milk powder
- avocado on grainy bread

5. How can you add healthy KJ to your diet?

- Add healthy fats to your salads: olive or canola oil; olives; avocado; nuts; and seeds
- Add lashings of vinaigrette to salad. Make your own vinaigrette with three parts oil (using healthy oils like olive, canola, rice bran or avocado oil) and one part vinegar.
- Use avocado in salads and sandwiches.
- Add generous amounts of nuts, seeds, olives or raisins to salads and couscous.
- Add nuts and dried fruit to baking and desserts.
- Even for people wanting to gain weight we recommend using low-fat dairy products and trimming fat from meat so you are not adding saturated fat to your diet.
- Choose a milky coffee rather than a black coffee.  Even with low fat milk (to limit saturated fats) the milk adds energy as well as essential calcium and B vitamins

- Substitute some of your kilojoule-free water drinks with fruit juice, milk or shakes

- Prepare a snack mixture of dried fruit, nuts and seeds: it's high in energy; is nutrient rich with good fats; and most people love it

- Don't be tempted to eat 'junk food'; instead increase your intake of nutrient-dense foods like starchy vegetables and dense wholegrain breads and cereals

This advice is for healthy people wanting to gain weight.  People who have lost weight suddenly and do not know the cause or people with eating disorders, need to seek personal professional advice.

5. How can you tell if you are eating enough?

Keep a food diary.  Start with your current eating pattern and then use it to plan where you can make changes; track your progress in the diary. 

5. Is exercise important?

Unless you've been overdoing exercise you don't want to cut back on that. 

Exercise is good for maintaining or building muscle mass; it helps you to feel energetic; and it enhances your appetite.  And don't be discouraged by slow progress; slow is good! Your goal should be a slow and consistent weight gain.  As with weight loss, it will be easier to maintain your weight change if it happens slowly and your new habits become ingrained.

Try having a snack before and after a good workout. And check out the strategies and tips for weight