8 Healthy Weight Gain Methods for Females

Anonymous Afro-American Woman Pouring a Smoothie into a Glass

There are a number of reasons someone may want to or need to gain weight. Being underweight can pose a number of health concerns. Even those not clinically underweight or managing a health condition may want to gain weight for other reasons.

Not consuming adequate nutrition may result in unhealthy weight loss and lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, poor bone mineral density, decreased immune function, irregular menstrual cycle in individuals who menstruate, and brittle skin, hair, nails, and teeth.

If you are looking to gain weight, it is important to do it in a balanced and sustainable way. Here are relatively simple strategies for weight gain that focus on living a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet. Always check with a healthcare provider, such as a registered dietitian, for individual recommendations and a target weight goal.

Increase Your Calorie Intake

One key to weight gain is creating a calorie surplus, meaning you eat more calories than your body needs to maintain weight. You can determine your needs using a calorie calculator. For slow and steady weight gain, try increasing your calories by 300 to 500 per day. This method will vary greatly in individuals because weight gain can be affected by genetics, metabolism, activity level, and underlying health conditions.

To add more calories to your day, try a high-calorie snack, add an extra serving to your meals, or include more calorie-dense foods.

Eat More Frequently

If it is challenging to increase calories by adding more food to meals, it may be helpful to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Additionally, if you are underweight, your stomach may be smaller and you will feel fuller faster. Try eating five to six high-calorie, smaller meals daily rather than two to three large meals.

Try Smoothies and Shakes

Drinking calories can be an efficient way to increase both the calorie density and nutritional value of your diet. Certain medical conditions may require calories to be given through liquid or liquid calories may be better tolerated than solid food. Make or buy smoothies and shakes packed with full-fat cow's milk or a comparable plant-based beverage, such as soy milk, Greek yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, nut butter, and seeds for a high protein and fat nutrition source.

Make Every Bite Calorie-Dense

Maximize your meals by including as many calorie-dense foods as possible to get the most bang for your buck. Don't fill up on lower-calorie foods. Make room for protein, complex carbohydrates, and fats. Include nut butters, nuts, avocado, and cheese with your meals and snack on trail mix, cheese and crackers, dried fruit, avocado toast, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Top Off Your Meals With Extras

Adding extras in and on top of your meals is a good way to increase calories without significantly increasing the volume of your meals. You can get more calories in without feeling like you are eating significantly more. This is especially helpful if you have early satiety and your stomach has shrunk. Top your pasta, soups, and eggs with cheese, mix butter and sour cream into potatoes, and dip vegetables into a higher-calorie dip such as hummus or guacamole.

Don't Fill Up On Fluids

Some people find that drinking water before or during meals fills them up too much and doesn't leave enough room for food. Additionally, caffeine is known to decrease appetite and slow gastric emptying. Be mindful of how fluids affect your appetite and your ability to consume enough food. you may want to try drinking after a meal rather than during or sipping on high-calorie beverages along with a meal.

Add Dessert

Include dessert on a regular basis. Desserts can be a simple and delicious way to add more calories to your diet. Try regular whole milk ice cream, coconut ice cream bars, chocolate chip muffins, or a couple of peanut butter cookies.


While too much exercise may have the effect of weight loss, some exercise, especially strength training, may promote weight gain by building muscle. Note that this study was done on elite athletes, however, this research suggests that strength training may increase lean body mass and build muscle. Exercise can also help to stimulate your appetite, making increasing calories easier. Always check with your healthcare provider to make sure you are safe to exercise.

A Word From Verywell

There may be a number of reasons why an individual may want to or need to gain weight. These include health concerns such as an eating disorder, pregnancy, or conditions such as cancer or gastrointestinal disease. Others without a medical condition may want to gain weight as well. It is important to do it in a slow and sustainable way by eating more frequently throughout the day, adding high-calorie foods to your meals, and supplementing with smoothies and shakes.

It is important to consult with your healthcare provider and a registered dietitian to receive individualized goals and recommendations for your health concerns and nutrition needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is considered healthy weight gain?

    Healthy and sustainable weight gain is about 1-2 pounds per week. This can be done by increasing calorie intake as well as building muscle mass.

  • Why might someone need to gain weight?

    Someone may need to gain weight if they lost weight unintentionally due to a medical condition, have an eating disorder, are below a healthy weight, or want to build muscle mass.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Nutritional Supplementation for Patients with Cancer: A Review of the Clinical Effectiveness and Guidelines. Ottawa (ON): Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health; February 12, 2014.

  5. Schubert MM, Irwin C, Seay RF, Clarke HE, Allegro D, Desbrow B. Caffeine, coffee, and appetite control: a reviewInt J Food Sci Nutr. 2017;68(8):901-912. doi:10.1080/09637486.2017.1320537

  6. Garthe I, Raastad T, Refsnes PE, Sundgot-Borgen J. Effect of nutritional intervention on body composition and performance in elite athletesEur J Sport Sci. 2013;13(3):295-303. doi:10.1080/17461391.2011.643923

  7. Healthy weight gain. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

By Rebecca Jaspan, MPH, RD, CDN, CDCES
Rebecca Jaspan is a registered dietitian specializing in anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, as well as disordered eating and orthorexia.