Meal Prep for Gaining Weight

Meal Prep for Gaining Weight was written by Pavneet Kaur dietetic intern at Oregon Health Sciences University. Reviewed/edited by Katie Dodd, MS, RDN, CSG, LD, FAND.

Why gain weight?

Why gain weightIn today’s world, society values weight loss culture. Losing weight has almost always been praised.  But it is not always the healthiest goal.

For the elderly, maintaining a proper weight is important. Low weight, or excessive loss of weight can cause many health risks.

It can lead to declined health, vulnerable to bone fracture and injury, sarcopenia, and cause malnutrition. These are only just a few examples (1).

There are several health problems that can arise in the elderly, which can cause the need to gain weight. Health issues include decreased appetite, unintended weight loss, and malnutrition.

Gaining back weight can help to prevent serious health issues.

Decreased Appetite

A loss of appetite is common in the older population due to various illnesses, swallowing disorders, medications, depression, and loss of senses.

When people lose the desire to eat, weight loss can occur. It is important to work with a medical provider to fix this issue and avoid the risks of losing weight.

Unintended Weight Loss

Unintended weight loss can be caused by various medical conditions and medications (2).

This must be stopped in the elderly because it can cause a variety of complications like loss of muscle, which we need to function-depression, and risk of mortality (2).

Changing diets, adding nutritional supplements, appetite stimulants, and flavor enhancers can help with gaining weight- but should only be done with the help of a medical professional (3).

Malnutrition

Weight loss can also mean an inadequate intake of energy and nutrients, causing malnutrition. This is a big problem to arise and must be treated as it can significantly increase the risk of death.

Not getting enough vitamins in minerals in your diet can lead to deficiencies which can cause a series of health problems in the immune system.

Learn more about malnutrition here.

How Do You Gain Weight?

Now that we covered the reasons why gaining weight in the elderly can be beneficial (especially if they have lost weight due to poor appetite or are experiencing malnutrition). But, how do you do it?

weight gaining foods

Weight Gaining Foods

One technique for gaining weight is focusing on foods that have a high calorie content and good fats. We will dive into specific weight gaining foods for each food group later in this article as well as how to meal prep for them, but for now check out this: The Best Weight Gain Food List.

High Calories/Calorie Surplus

Eating high calorie, nutrient dense foods can significantly help the elderly gain weight. Try avocado, nut and seed butters, quinoa, sweet potatoes, beans, cheese, dairy, and more.

Eating more calories than your body burns, is called calorie surplus and can help you to gain weight!

Frequent Meals

Eating a lot of calories is beneficial.  It can make you feel full for a longer duration, so try eating frequent meals throughout the day. This also helps to combat problems like decreased appetite.

Eating every 2-3 hours with a total of 6 (meals and snacks) in your day can help you to maximize your intake of nutritious food.

My Plate Food Groups

my plate food groupsOkay, this is the part where we talk about weight gaining foods from each food group!

My Plate is a guideline we can all use to help us meet our nutritional needs.

It tells us about how much of our plate we should dedicate to protein, grains, dairy, and fruits and veggies.

The guidelines show us that half our plate should be fruits and vegetables, and the other half protein and grains. Half of these grains should be whole grains. A small portion of My Plate also consists of dairy foods.

This method ensures that we are eating nutritionally dense, colorful foods which means we are consuming a variety of vitamins and minerals!

So, how can we use my plate method to gain weight?

Protein

Let’s start with protein. Foods with a high protein source can help to gain muscle, which also means gaining weight.

Every food group has protein, but there are some choices that are healthier than others.

Healthy protein choices include eggs, nuts, beans, seafood, lean meat, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, quinoa, lentils, and fish.

Grains

Like, I mentioned before, grains and whole grains are important for incorporating in your diet.

Examples of ones that can help you gain weight are rice, whole grain cereals like wheat, barely, and oat, quinoa, lentils, bread, pasta, and tortillas.

Dairy

Dairy for Gaining WeightCheese, whole milk, cottage cheese, yogurt are excellent choices for healthy dairy products.

Non-dairy food choices provide calcium and fat. Their content is similar to dairy, examples include coconut/soy milk, or other milk substitutes, vegan cheeses, and vegan yogurts.

Fruits/Veggies

It is true that fruits and vegetables can help you lose weight. However, they are still important to include in your journey of gaining weight.

They contain fiber and essential vitamins and minerals that we must include in our diets.

Eating more calories than you burn can be beneficial when you include a variety of fruits and veggies in your diet.

Fruit choices to try are bananas, avocados, mango, coconut meat, squash, dried fruits, dates, olives, grapes, and pineapples.

Vegetable choices to gain weight include potatoes, corn, beets, pumpkin, kale, artichokes, Brussel sprouts, beans, and lentils.

Meal Prepping benefits

Meal Prepping Benefits  

Now that we talked about the various weight gaining foods, lets talk about meal prep for gaining weight and the benefits it can have on your weight gaining journey.

We also have a Free Weight Gaining Meal Plan you can check out.

Save Time/Add Convenience

Everyone wants to save time and add convenience to their lives. Including all these foods in your diet can seem intimidating.  

But that’s where meal prepping comes in! Preparing your meals ahead of time can not only save you time during the week but can also just add ease even if you aren’t on the go!

Stabilize Your Weight

Meal prepping can also help you stay consistent in your journey of gaining weight and stabilizing it! It can also encourage you to stay organized and committed.

Getting Started

If this is your first-time meal prepping, follow the little guide below to get started!

Collect Recipes/Stock Up

Recipes for Gaining WeightYour first step-collect recipes and stock up on weight gaining foods-like the ones listed above!

Our food blog, High Calorie Recipes, includes a growing list of delicious high calorie recipes.

Collecting recipes will help you get excited and inspired to try new foods and begin this new journey. It can also help you determine what meals you want to prep in your week.

Next, it’s time to make a trip to the grocery store! You can have a family, friend, or caregiver do this for you if you like.

Buy items in bulk if you plan on using them repeatedly-plus they can be cheaper too!

Start Small

The idea of meal prepping is cooking and preparing your food ahead of time, so that you can use it throughout your week! It can help you reach your nutrition goals, but also save time, and add convenience to your life.

If you are new to meal prepping it is important to start small.

Cooking for your entire week can seem overwhelming, so start with 2 to 3 days at first. This can be more manageable and realistic if this is your first time with meal prep!

Foods That Take Longer to Cook

Cooking foodWhen its time to meal prep, start cooking foods that take longer to cook. Cooking off grains, meats, and vegetables can be a good place to start.

If you don’t want to cook your vegetables in advance, you can cut them up and store them in food storage containers!

You’ll be surprised how much time you can save by chopping up veggies in advance!

Meal Prepping Process

Now that we have covered some basic tips and guidelines, let’s start our meal prep for gaining weight!

Remember, you can have a family member, friend, or caregiver help you with all the steps below! Make sure you talk to them about your nutritional goals of gaining weight for support and encouragement.

Planning/Prepping

Of course, the first step is planning and prepping, which we already discussed a bit above.

Make sure to plan out exactly what meals you want to eat for your week, so you know what to shop for.

Again, you can chop up veggies and fruit and store them in air-tight containers, so they are ready to go!

Cooking

For this step, you can cook a meal from start to finish and divide it up into containers. You can pull one of these containers out during the week and your meal is ready to go!

You can leave sauces and dip on the side in separate containers, so your actual meal doesn’t get soggy.

Lastly, if you don’t like eating the same foods over the week, try spicing things up by adding fresh veggies (the ones you already cut up), sauces, spices, and garnishes. Or, try pairing it with something on the side like bread, a salad, or fruit!

Storage/Labeling

Store and label foodsRemember, any food that you will not eat within 3-5 days can be frozen. This is a great way to preserve food!

Also make sure you are using good quality food storage containers, so your food can last as long as possible.

It could also be a great idea to label these containers with the food that is inside, just something to make it more fun!

Reheating

As you meal prep, its important to think about reheating your food. For instance, if you prepared a baked potato with veggies but want the avocado crème sauce on top to be cold, put that in a separate container.

You can also stop the cooking process early, if you want to finish cooking it later use the stovetop or microwave. This can help keep your food tasting fresh!

Also consider recipes that you can enjoy cold to add to convenience.

Next Steps in Meal Prep for Gaining Weight

Now we have talked about the importance of gaining weight, foods that can help you with that, and incorporating these foods in your meal prepping journey. So, what’s next?

Speak to a Dietitian

Let’s not forget that excessive weight loss in the elderly is a big deal. This is a serious problem and one should consider talking to a medical professional like a dietitian to get help on gaining weight.

Contacting a dietitian who specializes in geriatrics can cater more to your needs. 

Check out this article on the Top 5 Reasons You Need a Geriatric Nutritionist.

Make it Fun!

Make meal prep for gaining weight funEven though gaining weight and maintaining it can be a serious goal don’t forget that it can be a fun one too!

Don’t worry too much about checking your weight every day. Instead, listen to your body, and start in small steps!

Meal prepping with a friend, watching recipe videos, and trying new food can help you have more fun with this!

Be Consistent

It may be hard at first, but, if you remain consistent you can achieve anything. Whatever method you find to help you stay motivated and gain that weight back-stick to it!

References

  1. Edwards, M. H., Dennison, E. M., Aihie Sayer, A., Fielding, R., & Cooper, C. (2015). Osteoporosis and sarcopenia in older age. Bone, 80, 126–130. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bone.2015.04.016
  2. Huffman G. B. (2002). Evaluating and treating unintentional weight loss in the elderly. American family physician, 65(4), 640–650.
  3. Gaddey, H. L., & Holder, K. (2014). Unintentional weight loss in older adults. American family physician, 89(9), 718–722.

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