This is a problem that many people wish they had. For some people on a healthy, plant-based diet with green smoothies, gaining weight can be a challenge. Here’s a few things you can do.
Assuming that you have been cleared by a qualified medical professional and have ruled out a health issue that causes unwanted weight loss, you are most likely not consuming enough calories. Healthy diets are not as calorie dense as pizzas, cheeseburgers and the sugar/fat infested meals of the typical Western diet. What this means is that when you eat healthier food, you have to eat more of it. This is especially (critically) important if you are doing a raw food diet.
However, we’ve been conditioned to watch our portions and reduce calories. If you’re trying to gain weight, you needn’t shy away from a 600-calorie green smoothie or an 800-calorie meal. Here’s what I recommend.
Choose Calorie Dense Foods
My first recommendation would be to calculate your exact calorie needs for your ideal body weight. Then get a food nutrient tracking software (I use Cron-O-Meter) and make sure you are eating enough food.
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. If you can manage it, 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 all together, but try to minimize them in your 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 dietician or nutritionist who can tailor a specific meal plan to help you reach your goal weight.
Tracy Russell is the creator of the Green Smoothie Health & Weight Loss Program and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She is passionate about helping people improve their health with green smoothies and a whole foods lifestyle.