Healthy Weight Gain

With so much talk of obesity as an epidemic, low body weight may seem like an uncommon problem in America. Being underweight carries a host of risks, however, and healthy weight gain can present a serious challenge to many people.

So how much should you weigh? The American Academy of Family Physicians (as reported by MedicineNet, 2010) commends the following:

  • Men should weigh 106 pounds for the first five feet, plus six pounds per additional inch.
  • Women should weigh 105 pounds per five feet of height, plus five pounds per additional inch.

If you don’t meet these standards, talk to your doctor about healthy weight gain options, including a healthy diet.

What’s Wrong with Being Underweight?

Low body weight may lead to a weak immune system, vulnerability to infection, slow healing times and slow recovery from surgery or illness. It can also lead to low muscle mass and poor dental, hair and skin composition. Underweight teens may not get enough calcium, which may interfere with bone health later in life.

The natural tendency is to become heavier as we age, so young and underweight individuals may see the problem resolve itself over time. However, doctors recommend building critical mass sooner rather than later, using healthy ways to gain weight. Diet and exercise are key components of this process.

Typically, one to two pounds per week is a healthy weight gain goal.

Gaining Weight with a Healthy Diet

Exercise is half of the challenge; weight lifting and other resistance programs can help build muscle volume. Our focus, however, lies on nutrition and a healthy diet. Specific foods and nutritional approaches can pack on healthy calories and help you gain weight. Diet changes alone may bring significant results. Before embarking into a high calorie diet, please consult your physician and dietitian.

First, increase your intake of nutrient-rich foods that are high in vitamins and minerals, and opt for healthier fats and oils, such as olive oil, canola oil, pistachios, almonds and walnuts.

Fullness may slow you down, so focus on nutrient-dense foods to maximize healthy weight gain and get the most beneficial calories per serving (for example, choose raisins instead of grapes). Consider grating high-protein foods, like cooked eggs, into low-density carbohydrates, like mashed potatoes. You can similarly work cheese and dried milk into soups, casseroles and other foods. In addition:

  • Eat a healthy, high-protein, nutrient-dense snack like a peanut butter sandwich just before going to bed.
  • Snack between meals. Consider nuts, dried fruit and yogurt as part of a healthy diet.

Meet with a dietitian to create delicious nutrient dense and balanced meals and monitor weight changes.

An Important Note About Weight Loss

Unexpected or uncontrolled weight loss could be a symptom of a serious medical condition. See your doctor if your weight drops drastically with no apparent cause.


Center for Young Women’s Health. (2010). Healthy weight gain for teens: A guide for parents. Retrieved August 27, 2010, from

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. (2010). Healthy weight gain. Retrieved August 27, 2010, from

Zamora, D. (2010). How to gain weight the healthy way. Retrieved November 4, 2010, from