Hands down, as a personal trainer, the absolute biggest myth I've heard as it relates to gaining weight is this: eating empty calories like junk food is the best way to get curvy fast. WRONG! While you may notice the number on the scale going up on an "empty diet," foods rich in simple carbs often contain high amounts of harmful ingredients (e.g. trans fat and high-fructose corn syrup). Trans fat, for instance, is basically just a fancy word for solidified fats formed from chemical processes developed to increase the shelf life of the products they're found in. Talk about gross! But it gets worse...
According to the American Heart Association, trans fat raises cholesterol levels at an alarming rate, which in turn increases the risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. Besides several junk foods being chalked full of trans fat, another big problem stems from high-fructose corn syrup and other artificial sugars, all of which are typically bad for your health. Think about it: It's a widely known fact that any form of sugar raises your insulin levels and causes weight gain. The problem is even worse when that sugar is chemically manufactured to make your feed taste better!
***The good news is, you CAN gain weight in all the right places without sacrificing your health. As a rule of thumb, try to eat more calorie-dense foods that are found naturally and contain the least amount of chemically modified ingredients as possible. Fueling your body with nutrient-rich and natural foods is always your best bet. Need help crafting your grocery list? Below, keep reading for six foods to shop now!
Rice is such a simple, yet versatile staple food! It's considered a complex carbohydrate, which means it's not only nutrient-dense but it also contains naturally occurring starches and sugars. A daily serving supplies you with folic acid, vitamin B, and iron — all important factors to maintain a balanced diet. At about 200 calories per cup and 45 grams of carbs, eating rice acts like an immediate energy source. Increase your serving of rice, and carbs in general, will lead to weight gain.
2. Nuts, Legumes, and Seeds
This super-star food group contains a fantastic amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which are also known as “good fats” that assist in heart health. Not only are the calories in nuts and seeds very high per serving, but they're also filled with calcium and antioxidants to counteract any harmful chemicals taken in by the body. Grab some nuts as a quick in-between snack on the go!
3. Sweet Potato
Full of vitamins, fiber, and potassium, these guys are one of the most versatile veggies on the market. Besides just being really good for you, what's better is that you can eat them a zillion different ways — mashed, baked, hashed, the possibilities are endless. A personal favorite of mine is paring a baked sweet potato with a dash of cinnamon and peanut butter — yum! Don't knock it 'till you try it!
Eggs have been known for being high in cholesterol for years, and as such, typically labeled as “unhealthy." That is until the American Heart Association released new research stating that a moderate amount of dietary cholesterol isn't the culprit of heart disease so much as saturated and trans fats from processed foods are! Besides containing around seven grams of protein and five grams of fat per serving, according to WebMD, they're also filled with vitamins and minerals to fight disease, maintain bone strength, and prevent muscle from breaking down during exercise.
5. Olive Oil or Avocado Oil
One of the most calorie-dense and healthy-fat-filled foods in the world is oil. In just one tablespoon, there are about 119 calories and 14 grams of fat. According to the American Heart Association, olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, which lower harmful cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease. If you’re trying to gain weight, you need more calories than you are burning. So adding a tablespoon of healthy oil to your salad, stir fry, or as a marinade to your dishes is a great way to do so! Plus, both of these oils contain anti-inflammatory promoting ingredients which helps to reduce bloating!
As I've stated before, getting in extra calories is crucial to gaining weight. Smoothies allow you to put as many nutrients and calories as possible into a drinkable snack! Adding in protein powder, fruits, a nut butter, and even some spinach or kale can have you drinking around 500-600 calories of nutrient-dense foods in one sitting. Plus, you won't necessarily feel "full" for as long because you've pureed the food into a liquid. If you're finding it difficult to eat at the level of calories you need, I recommend adding in a smoothie or two per day!
Gaining weight can be difficult, but as in any fitness goal, the focus on diet is important. Supplying your body with the nutrients it needs will help your body be efficient is the key to health. Gaining weight is no excuse to fuel your body with harmful fats and sugars, but rather an opportunity to supply it with extra nutrients and minerals!
***Before starting any diet, consult with your physician or doctor.