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How to gain weight on a healthy diet

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Does healthy eating = low-calorie eating?

It can… but it depends a great deal on the individual person. In many cases, I’d argue that a low-calorie diet is not ideal for optimum health (such as the case of an athlete, a growing child or teen, an underweight or healthy-weight adult, etc.).

Today’s post is going to be a little different.

It’s a topic about which I’ve been meaning to write for quite a while; ever since there was a bit of drama and confusion over it in the comment section of this post.

You see, I don’t want to send out the wrong message or give people the impression that I only eat low-calorie foods… or that anyone else should only eat low-calorie foods if he/she doesn’t medically need to do so. My website is not a “this is what I ate today” food blog, and the photos you see on this site are usually just of the recipes (as opposed to the entire meal I might’ve eaten along with the recipe. I can tell you I hardly ever eat just a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast!).

Due to the fact that healthier foods are often lower in calories, and because I know a large number of my blog’s readers are watching their weights, many of the recipes on this blog are—or can be—quite low in calories.

vegan-peanut-butter-ice-cream

In the photo above: Low-Calorie Peanut Butter Ice Cream

To help the large percentage of my readership that doesn’t want the extra calories, I try to always point out when lower-calorie options exist in my recipes (such as when one can sub applesauce, how to make a recipe lower in fat, etc.).

However, the cool thing is that many of my recipes are easily adaptable to almost any diet. Perhaps I need to pay better attention to the other portion of my readers; those who do not have weight to lose?

It’s a common (and dangerous) misconception that a person who needs to gain weight or eat a high-calorie diet must consume exorbitant amounts of junk food in order to meet this goal. You can meet your nutritional needs without downing milkshakes at every meal, and you’ll probably feel much less sluggish.

Today, I thought I’d highlight a few of the tricks I use to calorically bulk up my food while still being healthy.

chocolate-strawberry-pie

In the above picture: Chocolate-Strawberry Truffle Pie.

1. Focus on calorie-dense foods.

Eat these first at a meal, so you don’t feel too full before you’ve gotten in enough calories. Here are some calorie-dense, yet healthy, foods:

  • all nuts and nut butters
  • oils (such as olive, sesame, or coconut) in their pure form (not the hydrogenated stuff they put in packaged goods!)
  • avocados
  • Thai coconut meat (really good in smoothies, pies, or puddings)
  • dried fruit
  • canned coconut milk
  • giant bowls of pasta (my favorite!)
  • dark chocolate (oh wait, that’s my favorite!)

Raw recipes are often calorie-dense. Here are my favorites.

2. Don’t skip the veggies

…because you’re afraid they’re too low-cal. But do be sure to not just eat them plain and steamed. Try sautéing or roasting with a generous drizzle of olive or coconut oil (so so good).

3. Bigger portions.

For example, I post oatmeal recipes that are for one serving. But when I make them for myself, I always times the recipe by 1.5. Try it sometime… you probably won’t even notice you’re taking in more calories!

4. And eating more often.

Instead of three huge meals per day, space it out with 5-6 smaller meals and snacks throughout the day, giving your stomach a chance to digest. Personally, my job as a recipe developer means I never stop snacking! Chocolate is always close to my heart greedy fingers.

5. Non-healthy treats… sometimes.

I’d say I probably eat healthy foods 80% of the time. But does that mean I’ll turn down a friend’s cookies that she veganized just for me? Or Hangawi’s incredible cheesecake in NYC? No, it does not. (I probably should get a post up about this topic, too… but not today. I think I’ve already talked your ears off enough for one day!)

Do you eat a high-calorie diet? A low-calorie diet?

Or maybe you have absolutely no idea how many calories you consume! Please take an introspective look at your life and make responsible food decisions for you. If that means eating a low-calorie diet, my recipes are here to help. But if that means not eating a low-calorie diet, please take advantage of some of the higher-calorie options listed both in this post and in my recipe posts!

For more, see the following: High Calorie Recipes.

Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. I love this post! I totally agree with you, I think it’s important to listen to your body and really get to know yourself as an eater. It’s so hard to do that sometimes in a world that sends so many messages about eating and how to do it the “right” way, but I love your healthy tips that can be adapted to pretty much any diet! Also, your recipes are so accomodating and friendly to anyone’s diet of choice, which really makes your blog a pleasure to read. Keep up the great work and staying true to yourself! It’s so refreshing!

  2. Welp, currently working on my food journal to keep myslef in check. This is completely interesting! 🙂 Thanks for the info!

  3. Great post, Katie. I don’t need to lose weight, but I do watch my portions and try to balance out the calories I consume with my activity level. I really appreciate all of the options and substitutions you write about. I’m not very comfortable tweaking recipes on my own (maybe one day!) so I definitely like your suggestions. Thanks for writing such an awesome blog 🙂

  4. GREAT post!! I think it is a huge misconception that you need to eat nothing but terribly unhealthy food to get those extra calories. Personally. I’m more obliged to eat extra calories WHEN it’s healthy, because that food makes me feel good, and I want to keep that feeling around!

    1. Superfood Babe says:

      Same xxx

  5. Great post Katie-

    I actually don’t eat a very low calorie diet at all (I normally consume between 2500-3000 calories daily) to preform at optimum running level. I have a lot of friends that aren’t athletes and are watching their weights that enjoy making your recipes (I just get to have like 10 servings lolz!).

    Anyways-I think the blogging world makes eating low calorie foods and losing weight seem so normal when in reality, it’s not normal for most people to be eating 1400 calories or so. Anyways, great post!

  6. Mary says:

    Hi Katie!

    Thank you for the post. I am on Weight Watchers, so while it sounds weird, calories just aren’t a big deal! The formula for points incorporates fat, carbs, fiber, and protein. I love all of your recipes! Keep ’em coming! 🙂

    1. Chloe says:

      I’m in the same camp. I have been doing Weight Watchers for about 2 months now and I rarely if ever look at calories–and I’ve lost 12.5 pounds! I completely agree that it isn’t so much about cramming your meals into a 2,000 or 1,400 or whatever calorie limit–it’s about eating enough so that your body is properly nourished and able to accomplish what it needs to each day. I love your blog Katie! I tried your Snickerdoodle oatmeal this morning and it was awesome! Tomorrow, I’m doing Banana’s Foster oatmeal. I hope it’s just as good!

    2. Lisa says:

      Many of your recipes are wonderful for the weight watchers program and I love the hearty breakfasts. They really keep you full and are very satisfying!!

  7. i’m actually in a weight gaining program and people always say JUST EAT MORE. it’s more than that. my nutritionist however does tell me to go grab a DQ blizzard once in awhile. haha. but thanks for the tips because that is actually what i do. i typically try to just double my portions and make sure i’m adding healthy fats.

  8. I think it sucks (for you) that you have to even justify these reasons!! The blogging community can be so amazing, but at the same time, so hurtful! Personally, I think you do an amazing job of justifying eating, even though you don’t have to! I hope that your respect for all your readers influences more respect for you and your posts. Now, keep the goodies coming!!!!

    1. Laura says:

      Agreed. Katie, you are awesome and glowing and obviously healthy and taking care of yourself. I’ve learned that people are going to say things no matter what.

      As someone who’s almost fully recovered from an eating disorder, I can say that your blog was one of the biggest helps to me in my recovery process. Before CCK, I thought that peanut butter was a four letter word. And don’t get me started on bananas! I wouldn’t touch them! :-?. The fudge babies? Not on your life! But you taught me that there is so much more to food, and to life!, than calories. I saw Sue’s comment above about you saving her life, and I have to say I don’t find it silly at all. I think you saved mine too!

      I never comment on blogs, but I just had to tell you that.

      1. Jennifer says:

        Katie, I am so sorry that you had to read those types of comments (from the previous post)! But, I think it says a lot about your character that you not only left the posts up, but replied to (some of) them.
        Most people have a “disordered” relationship with their food; one of the biggest ways to tell that someone has a healthy relationship with their food is that they celebrate food and try new things — which is what this blog does.
        You look healthy and happy; and I wouldn’t want to receive my “healthy” recipes from someone who didn’t look that way!

      2. Kayla says:

        I’ve found this website awesome in helping me fight off my slight relapse I’ve been having for the past month or so. I’ve only been in recovery (this time) for almost 5 months with a few slight relapses.
        I only had EDOS.. restricting type and binge purge subtype. It would have been a diagnosis of anorexia had my weight not been high like it is. I’m still trying to lose weight, but healthily and Katie’s blog has been wonderful.
        I totally hear you when you’re talking about peanut butter and bananas. I used to binge on peanut butter (or Nutella) covered everything. I didn’t want either in my house. And I’m still getting over my fear of bananas (ate half of one the other day!!).

        Anyways.. Thanks Katie for helping so many people realize what health really means. You truly are awesome (how could you not be when you’re covered in chocolate. ;))!

  9. Sue Breem says:

    I am so thankful for the lower-calorie options, but I also think it is so sweet of you to think of everyone and worry about everyone. Katie, you are truly an amazing girl. And, as I wrote above, a life saver.

  10. Audrey says:

    I really appreciate that you provide lower-calorie, low-sugar, low-fat, etc. options. I’m not one of those people that needs to gain weight (quite the opposite), so those options work best for me. I think you do a great job providing lots of options and flexibility in your recipes for all your readers, so thank you!

    1. Jasmin says:

      Yes, I love the lower calorie options too! And this just shows how everyone is so different! some people need to lose weight, some need to gain… so one type of eating plan isn’t going to work for everyone! I don’t exactly count calories but I do keep them in mind, so the calorie counts on recipes help a lot also! thank you katie!

  11. Stacey says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! we are going through a heart breaking time with my 6 yr old who has a strong aversion to most foods. He has practically starved himself to skin and bones as I struggle to find high calorie foods he can tolerate. He LOVES chocolate so your recipes have literally been life saving at times. I use alot of coconut milk but am always looking to boost the calories in your recipes. Unfortunately he won’t try all that you post but I’ll take what I can get! He just started therapy and drinks boost twice daily, chocolate of course. I would love to find a home made version of this drink as the store ones have some scaring stuff in them. Thanks again!

    1. Yasmeen says:

      Stacey,

      I’m sorry to hear about the trouble your having with your little boy. I’ve had good success adding protein powder (vanilla and unflavoured) to a lot of Katie’s and Elana’s recipes. It increases the protein content and adds calories.

      Does your son like Hot Chocolate? If so, my favourite treat is a mug full of unsweetened chocolate almond breeze with half a scoop of vanilla protein powder (mix pp into cold milk until it’s fully blended) I like to add Torani or Davinci Sugar Free sweeteners to change up the flavours and it covers the taste of the protein, but you could use the full sugar ones. Microwave until warm enough, you have to do this slowly or the protein powder will curdle.

      I’m on a lower calorie, low carb, sugar free diet so I have to modify most recipes but they generally seem to come out just fine. :0)

      1. Stacey says:

        Thank you Yasmeen. Protein powder is a great idea! I used to temper the yolk of an egg in his cocoa but he is now resisting that one!

  12. As someone who is forever trying to keep weight one, I love this post! Great tip on eating the fats first. I need to start doing that more often.

    All of your recipe adaptions are much-appreciated. 🙂

  13. Jenny says:

    I read the “drama” on the sugar cookie oatmeal blog…People are so obnoxious. I am an average size girl not underweight not overweight but whenever I feel like I need to lose a pound or I plan on going to the beach (lets face it i’m human) I have been try to stick around the suggested 1200 calories (almost impossible because I get light-headed doing this). BUT recently after seeing your blog, reading about how bad processed foods are, and just wanting to eat better…I had an epiphany…Its not JUST about the calories you eat but about what you eat! I have recently only been eating real raw foods like fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, organic items and of course all your deserts (and muffins) to fill my sweet tooth gap! I eat whatever I want whenever I am hungry as long as its not processed and what do you know, I lost weight and I am satisfied…especially when I make your hot chocolate cookies…my favorite. So thank you so much for giving me yummy recipes that are healthy and made with REAL foods…Yay! So you keep on blogging (because we all love it!) and don’t let rude people affect you.

    1. L. says:

      I found the exact same thing! It was only when I quit counting calories and started looking at food as nourishment rather than good and bad that I settled in at a comfortable weight (this blog really helped open my eyes!).

      I’ll have to try those hot chocolate cookies!

  14. Arielle says:

    I think that my diet is on the higher-calorie side. I noticed when I started incorporating more vegan/vegetarian foods in my diet that I ended up eating more in general, subconsciously. Even though I have gained a few pounds, I think it was much needed weight, as I am pretty tall for a girl (5’9.5) and have always been slightly under the “recommended” weight. I also definitely feel like I have more energy throughout the day 🙂 Go high-calories foods!

  15. I totally agree that everyone has different calorie needs! I’m learning that after thinking low-cal was the way too go that I need to eat more calories and fats than I have been to sustain my new love for running and strength training. And don mt worry if people make comments saying you eat too little, honestly they are probably insecure about themselves.

  16. Christina says:

    My diet is definitely low-calorie. Personally, I try to focus on choosing foods/drinks that squash my appetite. For example, I try to drink at least two (if not more, sometimes I can’t help myself! 🙂 ) of either green or oolong tea before a meal. Not only does it fill me up a bit, but tea is extremely refreshing and wonderful for your health.

  17. Kathy Sp says:

    I love your blog. I am new to veganism and have used SO MANY of your dessert and breakfast recipes to help me transition. I think the majority of people watch calories, whether trying to gain or lose, and hopefully know how to adjust portion size based on that. Thanks and I hope you change nothing.

  18. Katie Henderson says:

    I don’t think I belong in either category. I’ve calculated my caloric needs and try to eat based on that. I don’t really count, just kind of keep a general idea. Some meals are high calorie(preferably early in the day), some are low fat/low cal. BUT I also try to base my intake around what I do that day. If I’m off work and it’s too cold/rainy/etc to do much outside, I’ll eat a little less. If I’m going to do barn work and work out, I’ll eat a little more.

  19. Great blog! I don’t get why just because you post something, that is all you eat! On my blog I try to post 85% healthy foods, but when I post higher calorie treats, people think you eat that. yes, I’ll have a cookie or two, but I don’t eat the whole batch! Though I could! 🙂 I love all the pointers you give, your right everyone has different calorie needs. For me to maintain my weight I stick to around 1500 – 1700 calories a day, where my friend she eats 1300, everyone is different. I eat lots of mini meals, lots of veggies and I have my 3 main meals, but there not as huge. I’ve lost a lot of weight going this route! Love the post Katie!!

  20. I try to choose the foods that I love and that are healthy!

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