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Ask the experts: Help me gain weight

Q: "Most of your articles are aimed at re-educating bad eating habits and the resulting overweight/obesity issues. Fair enough – my wife buys the magazine for this particular reason. However, I'm a 40-year-old male and I struggle to gain or even maintain weight. My BMI is 18.5 (height 1.80m/60kgs) which is at the lowest end of 'healthy', however I feel underweight. I don't have any reserves and feel vulnerable to illnesses. It would be helpful to have tips on how to eat for healthy weight-gain as well."


A: Dietitian Amanda Johnson responds:

"Gaining weight is really a matter of consuming more energy than you expend. Basically, the best approach is to follow a healthy diet, but you may just need to increase your portion sizes a little as well as the frequency with which you eat. Base your food intake on the four main food groups, with lots of fruits and vegetables, plenty of breads and cereals, and moderate amounts of lean meat and lower-fat dairy products. Avoid having too many fatty and sugary foods as this isn't the best way to gain weight.

Always make time for breakfast in the mornings, have a good lunch and plenty of food at dinner time, along with a couple of snacks a day and a light supper before bed time. If your appetite isn't huge you'll probably find it easier to eat more by having lots of smaller meals and snacks rather than two or three larger meals.

Also, aim to include nutrient-rich foods and drinks. For example, have a milkshake to drink instead of a diet soft drink; at breakfast, scatter some dried fruit and/or nuts over your cereal; and at dinner time, serve some extra bread with your meal and/or have a sprinkling of cheese over your food. You can also try these higher energy snacks: cheese and crackers; toasted fruit bread; cereal with milk; yoghurt or fromage frais with fresh berry fruit; banana bread; vegetable sticks (eg carrot or celery) with hummus; cheese or fruit scones; pikelets; carrot cake; peanut butter on toast.

Staying physically active by taking regular exercise is also a good idea; you'll probably find that this serves to stimulate your appetite and it can also leave you feeling more energetic and can help with building muscle."

Date modified: April 3 2017
First published: Aug 2007

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