While most people turn to green smoothies and a whole foods diet to lose weight, some people need to gain weight. Others might feel that they are losing too much weight after they cut the fattening junk food from their diet.
Whole foods diets are less calorie dense than diets rich in pizzas, cheeseburgers and the sugar/fat-laden meals of the typical American/Western diet. If you have a high metabolism, or you tend toward being underweight, it is important to increase your food intake when you switch over to a diet that has more fiber and bulk, but fewer calories by volume.
Here are some tips for packing on the healthy weight without returning to unhealthy foods.
Choose Calorie Dense Foods
My first recommendation would be to calculate your exact calorie needs for your ideal body weight. Then use a food nutrient tracking website or app (I use Cron-O-Meter) and make sure you are consuming sufficient calories to maintain, or gain your desired body weight. This often means an increase in the amount of food you will need to consume.
When you make green smoothies, use high-calorie fruits like bananas, mangoes, red grapes, goji berries, sweet potato (cooked and cooled or raw), oats or hemp seeds. Toss in a few dates for even more calories without the extra bulk. Young green or Thai coconuts provide up to 170 calories or so and don’t add a lot of fat or bulk to your smoothie.
You don’t have to avoid water-rich foods like watermelon, berries and cucumbers altogether, but try to minimize them in your green smoothies. They add a lot of extra bulk and not a lot of calories.
Gain Muscle, Not Fat
The second thing to do is to give your body a reason to build itself with the proper materials – muscle. If you increase your calorie intake while maintaining a couch potato lifestyle, you’ll only succeed in adding body fat. That’s not something you want to bulk up with. What you want is muscle.
Most people effortlessly gain excess body fat because their body automatically stores additional calories, dietary fat and sugar as body fat. However, muscle is different. Your body does not store excess dietary protein. Therefore, you need to send your body a message to build muscle by working out, preferably with a regular weight or resistance-training workout.
Both increasing calories and working out will help your body add muscle weight rather than fat weight, which is what you want. While you can add a protein powder to your green smoothies, and you can make massive, 40-ounce smoothies that contain up to 800 or so calories, take a whole-diet approach (using whole foods) to build your body to the weight you want.
Add Some Healthy Whole Foods
Don’t be afraid to add some healthy, cooked whole foods to your diet. Black beans, wild rice, brown rice and quinoa can add calories and protein to your diet without adding excess fat.
I’d also recommend that you avoid the biggest pitfall in the raw food diet (if that’s the diet you are choosing) – the fat-infested raw gourmet “meals” of cacao cake, nut-based fruit pies, cookies and other uncooked junk food.
If you are still having trouble gaining weight after increasing calories and working out, see a dietitian or nutritionist who can tailor a specific meal plan to help you reach your goal weight.
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Tracy Russell is the creator of RESET 28: A 28-Day Program For Energy, Weight Loss & A Healthy Glow, and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She has been helping people take control of their health and well being with green smoothies, a whole foods diet, and fitness since 2009.