Sample Meal Plan for a Weight Gaining Diet

If you've had some unexpected weight loss or you feel that you're just too thin, it may be time to make some dietary changes that can help you gain weight. You'll need to increase your calorie intake every day to put some needed pounds. The easiest way to increase calories is by eating foods that are energy-dense, which means they're high in calories. 

Some foods are better for you than others. It's best to choose foods that are high in calories, but also nutritious and good for you. Foods like legumes, avocados, nuts, and seeds are just a few examples of healthy weight-gaining foods.

You could also increase your calorie intake by eating more junk foods like candy, cake, cookies, and sweetened soft drinks, but don't rely on them too much because they're just not nutritious. Other than calories, they don't tend to be high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, or antioxidants.

Here's How to Gain Weight

First, use the Harris-Benedict formula to determine your daily calorie need for your current weight and add about 500 calories per day. That will help you gain a pound or so per week. Gradual weight changes are best.

After you determine how many calories you need per day, it's time to plan your daily menu, including meals and snacks. Then you can create a shopping list for a few days or a week. It's good to prepare yourself so you have healthy, high-calorie foods on hand.

Meal planning may sound difficult, but it's not. Take a look at my sample meal plan for a 2,500 calorie day weight gaining diet. It has a good balance of healthy and high-calorie foods, so you get plenty of nutrients and fiber. If you feel like you need more calories, you can adjust this menu by adding extra snacks or eat larger portions.

Example 2,500 Calorie Menu


  • One cup oatmeal with one-half cup reduced-fat milk and one-half cup raisins
  • One cup orange juice
  • One cup black coffee

Morning Snack

  • One apple and 24 almonds
  • Glass of water


  • Sandwich with two large slices of whole grain bread, four slices of lean turkey, two tomato slices, lettuce, and mustard
  • 10-ounce glass of reduced-fat milk
  • One baked sweet potato with a pat of butter or margarine

Afternoon Snack

  • One protein bar
  • Glass of water


  • Fresh garden salad with three tablespoons salad dressing
  • Six-ounce salmon filet
  • One cup cooked spinach
  • One-half cup mashed potatoes with butter or margarine
  • One glass of wine (or milk or 100-percent fruit juice)
  • One whole wheat dinner roll

Nighttime Snack

  • One-half cup plain yogurt with one-half cup sliced strawberries
  • Glass of water

You can bring this menu up to 3,000 calories with the following additions:


  • Add one slice whole grain toast with two tablespoons peanut butter

Morning or Afternoon Snack

  • Add one cup reduced-fat milk 

Nighttime Snack

  • Add seven whole wheat crackers

Keys to Gain Weight Successfully

Eat at least three meals every day with larger portions if you have the appetite for it. If you don't feel like eating much, then you might do better with five or six smaller meals spaced a few hours apart.

If you tend to forget about eating at regular intervals, you can set a reminder to eat by using an alarm clock or the timer on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Or leave notes on your desk.

Carbohydrates are your body's preferred form of energy, and you need to give your body the energy it needs to perform your daily tasks, plus some extra calories. Increase your carbohydrate intake with whole grain bread and cereals, fruits, and vegetables to increase calories.

Don't resort to eating highly processed junk foods to get your extra calories. While they are energy-dense, they're low in nutritional value. Worse, they can be bad for your health if they're high in saturated fats, trans-fats, added sugar, or sodium.

Fat can be your friend. Fats are high in calories so eating more high-fat foods can help you gain weight. Choose wisely. The best weight-gaining foods contain healthful fats such as fish, avocado, olive oil, flax, nuts, and seeds.

A Word from Verywell

Adding extra calories to your day by eating more healthy foods is the best way to gain weight. Although junk foods are high in calories, they don't have the nutritional value and health benefits of nutritious whole foods and don't make the best choices for a weight gaining diet. A healthy diet is always the best way to add nutrients, just change your calorie count to help you with your weight management goals.

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