My elderly father’s most recent directive from his trusted physician was quite simply, “Gain weight, Ed!,” but for all the woes we hear about the trails of trying to lose weight, we don’t often realize that for some, gaining weight can be a real struggle.
Being too thin, especially for senior citizens, or anyone battling an illness, can put further strain on our system and make us feel weak, tired, cold, or frail. Weight loss can also impact our muscle mass, and maintaining some muscle in general, and particularly as we age, is instrumental in maintaining our mobility, strength, and in turn, our health.
While the road to weight gain is quite logical – we need to take in more daily calories than we burn – the practice can be challenging, especially if it involves changing our diet or eating patterns. Still, it can be done, it can be fun, and foods must be healthy to be truly effective.
Here is a list of foods for healthy, happy weight gain, along with some snack ideas and meal recipes.
- Eat three full meals a day
- Snack during the in-between hours, and have a snack before bed
- Increase portion sizes
- Half a whole grain bagel with peanut or almond butter (add banana for additional texture and flavor)
- Half a whole grain bagel with smoked salmon, or smoked salmon and cream cheese
- Unsalted nuts mixed with dried fruits such as apricot, mango, and raisins
- Whole–milk yogurt with flax seeds, hemp seeds, nuts or granola (be mindful of the sugar content of granolas, as they can be high)
- Guacamole and flax seed chips (or just slices of avocado by themselves)
- Cheese and whole–grain crackers
- A bowl of small mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes drizzled with olive oil
- Hard boiled eggs
- One-egg omelet with grated parmesan
- Cornbread or banana bread (these can easily be made from store-bought mixes, or from scratch)
- Unsalted or lightly salted popcorn with or without real butter (throw a tab in and mix it up)
1. Avocado Open Sandwich on Toast
Prep time: 3 minutes
Ingredients: Two slices of multigrain bread, one avocado and a little lime juice.
Recipe: Toast the bread. Peel and stone the avocado. Coarsely slice it and in a small bowl crush it down with a squeeze of lime juice, sea salt and mayo. Don’t try and form a puree as this should still be coarse and chunky.
2. Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
Use this recipe, but swap in ground turkey for beef, and sweet potatoes or yams for regular potatoes.
Recipe: Simply Recipes
3. Stir-fry Chicken (and shrimp) with Cashews (or Peanuts) over Brown Rice
Recipe: Belly Full
4. Chocolate, Banana, Peanut Butter Protein Shake
Scroll down in the link for the recipe and directions, and add shredded coconut if you like
Recipe: A Sweet Peach
Foods to buy and eat
- Salmon (steaks, fillets, cured)
- Tuna steaks or fillets
- Fresh sardines (Whole Foods sometimes has the whole fish at the fish counter for pretty cheap and you can cook them and I think even eat the bones).
- Lean chicken meat or ground turkey without additives
- Any fish, but fishes high in omega-3 such as salmon, lake trout and mackerel are best.
- Unsalted nuts
- Oatmeal (adding ground flaxseed or chia seeds to oatmeal, yogurt, shakes or whatever is great)
- Sweet potatoes or yams
- Peanut or almond butter
- Olive oil or some butter
- Dried figs or apricots (without added sugar)
- Brown rice/quinoa with beans (black/kidney/pinto/lentil) or some kind of protein mixed in or on the side
- Elbows or spaghetti (good to add a protein like chicken/salmon/even a tuna casserole would be good)
- Breads with no added sugar/whole grain bagels
- Yogurt (full fat), add fruit, nuts, flax seeds to taste
- Fresh vegetables (leafy greens) and
- Fruits (bananas, berries, figs, etc.)
- Spiru-Tein powder in chocolate or vanilla (add to fruit smoothies)
- Vega all-in-one nutritional shake (both are sold at Whole Foods)
- Dark chocolate
- Shredded coconut (add to yogurt and smoothies)
Thank you for these ideas. It’s hard to know what to prepare for an older adult who has been unintentionally losing weight and has no appetite. I found some additional helpful tips here: https://www.jfscare.org/when-a-senior-refuses-to-eat/