April 22, 2018
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For the underweight, adding pounds a less understood challenge

By Georgia Clark-Albert, Special to the BDN

I’ve realized there is a complete group of the population that I’ve neglected to address in this column. I’ve discussed weight loss, nutrition for children, the elderly, different disease states and more, but I have not yet reached out to people who are trying to gain weight.

Don’t assume it is just a matter of eating more food. For people attempting to gain weight, the battle is as difficult as it is for those trying to lose, but it isn’t always taken as seriously.

I work monthly with some people to help them gain weight and keep it on. Sometimes they have no appetite, have cancer and are going through treatment, or possess such a high metabolic rate and have to eat so many calories that they are full all of the time, and it isn’t pleasant. There are many reasons people can’t gain weight, just as there are many reasons why people can’t lose weight.

If a person is underweight, gaining weight can help improve their energy level and enhance their immune system. However, just like weight loss, weight gain can’t be rushed. Normal weight gain or loss is one to two pounds per week. Considering that a pound of weight is equal to about 3,500 calories, to gain a pound in a week you would need to add an additional 500 calories daily. To gain two pounds, add 1,000 calories a day. This is in addition to what you are currently eating.

Some suggestions for those trying to gain weight:

• This may sound simplistic, but don’t skip meals. Allow yourself snacks.

• Increase portion sizes at meals.

• Add butter to mashed potatoes, creamed soups, casseroles or other items — each tablespoon provides 100 calories.

• Add walnuts as a good source of unsaturated fat to oatmeal or other breakfast cereal. Just a quarter cup will provide 195 calories.

• Use half-and-half instead of milk in recipes. Adding a quarter cup of half-and-half provides 80 calories.

• Add olive oil to vegetable mixtures, use for sautes, etc. — each tablespoon is 120 calories.

• Dried fruits are more concentrated and contain more calories that fresh fruit. Dried fruit and nuts mixed together make a great snack.

• Slice avocado to add to your sandwich. Adding half of a medium avocado to your lunch provides 160 calories of unsaturated fat.

• Other high-calorie items are peanut butter — two tablespoons provides 190 calories — and cheddar cheese — one ounce provides 120 calories.

I also provide these recipes to patients:

Double-Strength Milk

Makes 4 cups


2-2/3 cups whole milk powder

4 cups whole milk

Blend milk and powder together in a blender. Refrigerate and use as needed. Use as a beverage to drink or use in a milkshake or any recipe that calls for milk. One cup provides 310 calories, 24 grams protein, and 850 milligrams calcium.

Peanut Butter Drink

½ cup Double-Strength Milk

3 tablespoons peanut butter

3 tablespoons chocolate syrup

½ cup vanilla ice cream

Mix the peanut butter with a little milk first to form a paste, then mix all of the ingredients together in a blender. One serving provides 620 calories and 21 grams protein.

Orange Treat

½ cup orange juice

½ cup Double-Strength Milk

½ cup vanilla ice cream

½ cup pasteurized liquid egg (not raw eggs)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together in blender. One serving provides 365 calories and 14 grams protein.

Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.

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