Being underweight may not attract as much sympathy as carrying excess pounds, but it can be equally challenging. Low body weight can lead to infections, hair loss, hormone imbalances and osteoporosis, says Elena Blanco-Schumacher, a clinical dietitian in Wilmington, Delaware. Gradually gaining weight by eating more calories can lower these risks. Along with other nutritious foods, such as whole grains, nuts and vegetables, fruits are important components of a healthy weight-gain-promoting diet.
Because dried fruits are dehydrated, they provide more concentrated amounts of calories than fresh fruit, making it easier to increase your caloric intake through modest portions. A 1.5-ouce box of raisins -- less than a small handful -- provides 129 calories, while a full cup of fresh grapes provides only 75 calories. The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne recommends snacking on dried fruits for healthy weight gain and adding them to cereals and salads. Other nutritious dried fruit options include mixed dried fruit without added sweeteners and dried apricots, plums, berries and mangoes.
Avocados are top sources of fiber, healthy unsaturated fat and antioxidants, such as vitamin E. Mayo Clinic dietitian Kathryn Zeratsky recommends avocados as a nutritious, calorie-rich addition to a weight-gain-friendly diet. Add avocado slices to crackers, breads and wraps for enhanced texture, flavor, nutritional content and calories. Avocados also raise the caloric content of low-calories foods, such as leafy salads. One standard avocado provides about 225 calories, while lettuce contains a mere 2 calories per cup.
Juices, Smoothies and Purees
Fluids are often easier to consume when your appetite is low and are less likely to trigger a stuffed feeling. McKinley Health Center recommends that underweight individuals sip high-calorie beverages for improved weight-gain success. As with dried fruit, juices, smoothies and purees provide more concentrated amounts of calories than fresh fruit. Swapping a diet soda or glass of water for 8 ounces of fruit juice adds about 120 calories to your intake. Two tablespoons of prune puree can add close to 100 calories to cereals, soups and smoothies. As a fiber-rich food, prune puree also promotes digestive function, which can suffer when your appetite and weight are low. Pureed mangoes, avocados, bananas and raisins can also add valuable amounts of nutrients and calories to foods.
Sweeter fruits contain more fructose -- a naturally occurring sugar that provides more energy and calories than water, fiber or starch. Particularly sweet varieties include bananas, pineapple, mangoes and coconut. One medium-size banana provides 105 calories, which is equal to about twice the amount in 1 cup of cubed cantaloupe. One cup of plain, shredded coconut provides about 285 calories. Limit or avoid fruits with added sugars, which contribute calories and sweetness without vitamins, minerals or fiber. While added sugars can promote weight gain, excessive intake can interfere with your wellness.
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com