Healthy Snacking for Weight Gain

by Columbia Surgery on September 18, 2013

Deborah Gerszberg, RD, CNSC, CDN
Clinical Nutritionist, The Pancreas Center

179312062While many people in the United States are focused on losing weight to improve their overall health, there is another group of people who are struggling to gain weight.

If you are trying to gain weight, or are having difficulty maintaining your weight, try adding some nutrient rich snacks to your diet to increase your daily caloric intake. I recommend having a combination of protein, fat, and carbohydrates (a mini meal) about 2-3 hours after your last meal.

If you are resistant to snacking because you get full quickly and are worried you will not be hungry for your next meal, worry no more! Many studies show that eating a snack between meals has little effect on caloric intake during the following meal. Since the studies reviewed were in healthy subjects, if you are recovering from surgery or going through chemotherapy, you may feel this does not apply to you. However, in my experience, most patients who have consistently added snacks to their diets have been able to successfully gain weight.

If you don’t need to gain weight but you do enjoy snacking to curb your hunger, be sure to choose low fat sources of protein and eat smaller meals. If you add too many calories at snack time and eat large meals, this may lead to unwanted weight gain.

Suggested snacks:

First choose a serving of fruit, vegetables or whole grains (may choose white grains if you’re having diarrhea):

    • Banana
    • Apple
    • Berries
    • Grapes
    • Whole wheat toast
    • Whole wheat English muffin
    • Whole wheat Pita bread
    • Carrots
    • Cherry tomatoes
    • Sliced bell pepper

170192495Then add a source of protein (preferably full fat)

    • Greek yogurt – full fat (if fruit flavored are too sweet, choose plain Greek yogurt and add honey or other sweetener to achieve desired sweetness)
    • 2 dozen almonds or 1 dozen walnuts
    • 1-2 string cheese or slices of hard cheese
    • 2-3 slices turkey breast
    • ¼ cup hummus
    • ¼ -½ cup full fat cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
    • 1 heaping spoon of nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower)
    • Glass of milk (soy or lactose free if lactose intolerant or having diarrhea)
    • Hard-boiled egg

You may also add any of the following to boost your calorie intake to a meal or snack:

    To yogurt or hot cereal:

    • Granola (can also add in place of breakfast cereal)
    • Crushed nuts
    • Shredded coconut
    • Ground flax seed
    • Butter or coconut oil
    • Be sure to cook hot cereal with full fat milk and not water

    To vegetables, potatoes, grains:

    • Shredded cheese
    • Butter or olive oil
    • Crushed nuts

    To pudding, applesauce, soup, mashed potato, milk, smoothies:

    • Protein powder (choose unflavored to use with a variety of foods; also may be more palatable if you are experiencing taste changes)

166736459If you are not home or in a rush, take with you an oral supplement (such as Ensure Complete®) or a nutrition bar (I like KIND®bars, Clif Builder’s® bars, or Nature Valley® protein bars). Make sure you are choosing something with at least 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat.

Use these tips on a daily basis to help achieve your weight gain goals. If you are having difficulty achieving a healthy weight, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian who can give you more personalized guidance.  If you are otherwise healthy and are losing weight unintentionally, see your doctor to rule out and any medical problems.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Al Kama S. December 10, 2013 at 2:01 am


Dear Deborah,
I’m an advocate of healthy snacks and a vending machine operator (snacks and drinks). Your article (post) is quite interesting. You considered both sides of the “weight issue”–those who need to gain weight and those who need to maintain a healthy weight (considering their BMI). I’m considering adding more vending products containg dried fruits, etc. to my inventory to help meet the needs of customers undergoing chemotherapy who need to have a snack on the go.
I am also in the process of beginning a blog on choosing healthy snacks/drinks from
vending machines. Keep up the good works!

Al Kama

Columbia Surgery December 10, 2013 at 10:07 am

Al Kama,

I have forwarded your comment to Deborah, and she replied:

“I appreciate your feedback and am happy to hear you are looking for healthy snacks to sell in your vending machines!”

Thanks for reaching out to us and best of luck!

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