- Underlying medical conditions like eating disorders, cancer, digestive diseases, and psychiatric conditions can lead to unintentional weight loss.
- A dietitian can help you gain weight safely by recommending a high-calorie and high-protein diet that suits your food preferences, lifestyle, and health needs.
- Make sure you choose a nutrition provider with a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) credential who specializes in the area you seek treatment.
There are many reasons why a person may need to gain weight. However, gaining weight is not always straightforward, especially if you have barriers to eating enough, like appetite loss, nausea, or dietary restrictions.
A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you overcome these barriers and make sustainable changes to gain weight. Continue reading to learn how a nutritionist can help you gain weight, along with easy meal planning tips.
Try Nourish to be matched with a registered dietitian who can help you meet your weight gain goals online.
Can a Nutritionist Help Me Gain Weight?
A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help you gain weight at a safe and healthy rate. Your dietitian can create a balanced weight gain eating plan for you by understanding the root cause of your weight loss and possible barriers.
In addition, dietitians have training in Medical Nutrition Therapy, a type of nutrition counseling that targets various nutrition-related health conditions.
During the weight gain process, your dietitian will consider how dietary changes can help improve other health conditions you may have.
Reasons You May Need to Gain Weight
If you’ve experienced unintentional weight loss or are underweight, your doctor may advise you to gain some weight to improve your health and nutritional status.
A body mass index (BMI) under 18.5 is considered underweight, with the normal range between 18.5 and 25. However, your doctor will also consider your typical body weight and other health markers when assessing weight changes.
Unintentional weight loss is defined as losing at least 5-10% of your body weight over 3-12 months without trying.
Many factors can contribute to this, but it is often the result of an underlying medical condition, such as:
- Eating disorders.
- Appetite loss.
- Digestive diseases.
- Psychiatric conditions.
- Medication side effects.
- Substance abuse.
- Undiagnosed diabetes.
Benefits of Working with a Nutritionist to Gain Weight
Muscle loss and weakness commonly occur alongside unintentional weight loss as the body burns fat and muscle stores. In addition, low body weight increases the risk of health concerns like malnutrition.
Research shows that working with a registered dietitian for weight gain helps prevent and reduce malnutrition and related health effects.
It’s best to establish care early before you lose significant weight (more than 5% of your body weight without trying).
A dietitian can create a high-calorie, high-protein meal plan for weight gain based on your food preferences and lifestyle.
They will help you optimize your eating schedule to ensure adequate eating opportunities. In addition, your dietitian will troubleshoot factors that may make it difficult for you to gain weight.
Tips for Finding the Right Nutritionist
You may be unsure where to start when it comes to finding a dietitian who can meet your needs. As you begin your search, it can be helpful to understand the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist.
Dietitian vs. Nutritionist
A registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist must undergo extensive schooling, complete practice hours, and pass a national exam to earn their credential.
They also participate in continuing education activities to stay current on the latest research.
On the other hand, anyone can use the “nutritionist” title. While many nutritionists have degrees or certifications in nutrition, no regulatory body monitors their qualifications.
Types of Nutritionists
Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) work in many fields, from clinical nutrition to public health and food service.
Within clinical nutrition, dietitians may specialize in a specific area, such as:
- Oncology (cancer.)
- Renal (kidney.)
- Weight management.
- Bariatric (weight loss) surgery.
- Geriatric (older adults.)
- Pediatric (children.)
While all dietitians can help you safely gain weight, you may prefer to find a provider who specializes in the area related to your health condition.
Questions to Ask Your Nutritionist About Gaining Weight
Before your first appointment with a dietitian, start writing down your questions about getting to a healthy weight. This may include things like:
- Is there a goal weight range I should aim for?
- What are the best foods for managing nausea?
- I have type 1 diabetes. How can I gain weight without spiking my blood sugar levels?
- What are strategies for eating when I don’t want to eat?
Think about your barriers to gaining weight, and be sure to explain these to your dietitian.
The goal of your appointment will be not only to create a realistic meal plan but to learn strategies to work around the things getting in your way of eating enough.
Common barriers to weight gain may include:
- Low appetite.
- Early satiety (fullness.)
- Digestive symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and constipation.
- Food preferences or allergies.
- Busy schedule.
- Low mobility.
- Food insecurity.
- Changes in taste and smell.
Creating a Meal Plan for Weight Gain
Experts typically recommend a high-calorie, high-protein diet consisting of small, frequent meals for weight gain. You may be given a specific calorie and protein goal in some cases.
Especially if you have a low appetite or get full quickly, you’ll likely need to eat more frequently throughout the day to get enough nutrition to gain weight.
Eating five to six times per day (or every two to four hours) is effective for most people.
Additionally, choosing liquid nutrition options, such as protein shakes and fruit smoothies, can be helpful in reaching your daily calorie goals.
Foods to Gain Weight
Focus on including high-calorie and high-protein foods every time you eat, and make swaps to boost the nutrition content of your meals and snacks.
Avoid low-fat, sugar-free, and low-calorie foods. For example, choose full-fat Greek yogurt instead of nonfat yogurt and regular pudding over sugar-free.
Include high-calorie foods, such as:
- Nuts, seeds, and nut butter.
- Olive oil.
- Full-fat dairy.
- Dips, like guacamole and hummus.
- Full-fat salad dressings.
- Ice cream.
Focus on including a protein source with every meal, including:
- Fish and shellfish.
- Soy protein, like tofu or edamame.
- Beans, lentils, and peas.
You may notice some of the foods on this list are not considered “health foods.”
However, if you are at a low weight and struggle with appetite or nausea, sometimes highly palatable foods like ice cream can make it easier to get the calories you need.
You might need to be more mindful of your food choices if you have a condition like diabetes or high cholesterol.
Talk to your dietitian for guidance on the best options for you to gain weight.
Other Strategies for Gaining Weight Healthily
In addition to meal planning, there are other strategies you can try to help you gain weight. If you find it hard to remember to eat frequently, consider setting alarms or enlisting friends and family to remind you.
Consider batch cooking or preparing meals and snacks in advance, so you have quick options to grab and go. Ready-to-eat meal delivery services can be a great way to reduce the amount of cooking you mus do.
In many cases, liquid nutrition can be a helpful tool for weight gain.
You may feel overly full when you eat more than you’re used to, so sometimes, it can be easier to supplement your calories in a drink. This can be a milkshake, a high-calorie smoothie, or a ready-to-drink oral nutrition supplement.
If you’ve lost more than 5% of your body weight over three or more months without trying, talk to your doctor to find the underlying cause and consider working with a registered dietitian who can help you safely gain weight.
The right nutrition provider will be a registered dietitian specializing in your primary health concern, such as oncology or digestive diseases.
Eating small, frequent meals and including high-calorie and high-protein foods with every meal can help you gain weight and improve your health status.
How a Dietitian Can Help
A registered dietitian can help you manage your weight by creating a healthy weight-gain eating plan focused on nutritionally dense, nourishing foods.
Talk to a registered dietitian through Nourish for evidence-based nutrition advice on gaining weight safely.
Frequently Asked Questions
See a Registered Dietitian with Nourish
- Covered by insurance
- Virtual sessions
- Personalized care