Q: "I'm a 71-year-old man and I'm quite lean. I've read it's not good to be too skinny when you are older, but I don't know how to put on weight. I don't fancy eating pies or cream buns. What is a healthy way to put on some weight?"
A: HFG nutritionist Claire Turnbull responds:
To be able to gain weight you need to be eating more energy (kilojoules) in total each day than you are burning by everyday living and breathing and any activities you are doing on top of that. The second part of gaining weight is to try to ensure at least some of it is healthy muscle weight, rather than just fat. As we age, the amount of muscle we carry tends to reduce so we need to look at how we can best build that up again.
With regards to your diet:
- Increase the amount of healthy fats. This includes nuts, seeds, avocado, and oils/spreads based on canola, olive, or rice bran. These are very high in kJ but also healthy for your heart. Add nuts and seeds to your breakfast; put plenty of oil-based dressing on salads; use generous lashings of spreads; use avocado and grainy crackers as a snack; and add avocado to sandwiches and salads.
- Make sure you are including plenty of protein-rich foods at each meal and snack: try meat, fish, eggs, cheese, yoghurt and milk. Have a glass of milk with your meals and snacks to increase your protein and kilojoules.
With regards to exercise:
- Stay active – include a wide variety of activities to keep your bones and muscles strong. If you aren't used to exercising, seek advice first and build up the intensity slowly.