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HealthInfo Canterbury

Tips to gain weight

Healthy eating guidelines promote low-fat and low-sugar food choices. But if you are underweight, or are losing weight without trying to, you may need to eat more fat and sugar. These are good sources of energy (calories) and can help you gain weight. To look after your heart, it's best to use healthy fats (canola, peanut, olive, rice bran, sunflower, or soybean oil, and margarine) rather than unhealthy fats (butter, lard, dripping, coconut oil, or palm oil).

If you have diabetes

It is important to keep good control of your blood sugars while you try to gain weight. Eating more regularly and having more fat will help you to stop losing weight. You should check with your GP, practice nurse or dietitian before you have more sugar or sugary foods.

Useful tips

Eat more regularly

When you are underweight, you may feel full before other people do. Every day try to have three small meals with snacks in between, rather than two or three large meals.

Choose nutrient-rich foods

Include protein-rich foods – such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, meat, fish, eggs, or nuts – in each meal and snack. Choose full-fat milk and milk products, such as dark-blue-top (whole milk) and Greek yoghurt, rather than green-top milk (trim milk) and low-fat yoghurt.

Add more calories

Add oil, margarine, butter, avocado, cream, cheese, dressings, sauces, sugar, or honey to meals and snacks.

fruit smoothies with blueberries, strawberries, and apricotsEnrich your milk

Add 4 tablespoons of skim milk powder to 2 cups (500 ml) of milk and whisk well. Use this milk in drinks, on cereal, and in cooking.

Choose nourishing drinks

Have milky drinks (milky coffee, hot chocolate, milkshakes or smoothies), soups, or fruit juice instead of water, tea, or coffee (which have few calories and no nutritional value). Your doctor or dietitian may suggest you use a powdered drink product such as Complan or Vitaplan between meals.

Watch when you drink

Try not to drink a lot just before your meal, as this could reduce your appetite. Drink plenty at other times.

Regularly have dessert, rather just occasionally

Keep active

Exercise, especially strength training, can help you gain weight by building up your muscles. Exercise may also help to make you hungry so you eat more.

Meal and snack suggestions


Light meal

Main meal



If you aren't able to follow these tips or your weight has not improved within four weeks, contact your doctor or dietitian.

When you reach your target weight

On the next page: How to overcome a poor appetite

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2017.

See also:

Finding out if I am a healthy weight

Muffin images courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at


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Review key: HIEWG-155373