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What to Eat if You need to Gain Weight

If you need to gain weight, you might be wondering what kind of food to eat. This list of foods ideas can help you make every mouthful count.

Groceries placed in a red shopping basket.

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Unintentional weight loss can be challenging to address. There's not a whole lot of information about what to do when you need to gain weight. So I wanted to look at it here, starting with some common causes when to seek professional help and followed by high-energy, high-protein foods that can assist in weight gain. 

In this situation, every mouthful counts because it's often not so easy to increase the quantity of food eaten. So let's jump in, shall we?

Causes of unintentional weight loss

Unintentional weight loss can happen when we're not meeting our body's energy needs due to loss in illness, surgery, or other medical condition.

Many different things can cause unintentional weight loss. It can be due to a decrease in appetite, the inability to keep food down due to nausea or vomiting, an increase in metabolism, genetic conditions that affect the metabolism of food, or other underlying medical conditions (such as cancer, AIDS, kidney failure) for examples. 

Unintentional weight loss can also be due to a change in diet, such as eating less food or eating more low-calorie foods because of illness or difficulty swallowing. 

Health Risks of being underweight

Unintentional weight loss that develops to becoming underweight can also bring health-related risks. 

A certain amount of body fat and energy reserves is protective to our bodies during prolonged illness when the body needs to call on these resources for healing. 

When we don't have enough energy reserves, our body will turn to protein sources (e.g., muscle) to fuel daily energy needs. This is not ideal because our protein reserves are needed to restore, repair and build bodily tissues necessary for our bodies to function correctly. 

A loss in protein can lead to many unwanted side effects, like muscle wasting and the increased risk of falls and other injuries. Plus, it also makes it harder for our body to heal wounds - which is why we need to do something about it.

When to seek medical advice

With so many possible causes of unintentional weight loss, it's essential to understand what could be causing your issue.

If you've lost a lot of weight in a short time, you have an underlying health condition, if your weight loss is due to food aversions and fears, or if you struggle with poor appetite. Visit with your dietitian. 

What to Eat to Gain Weight

Aiming for weight gain has two key nutrients we look at. They are energy and protein. The goal is to make every mouthful count. This phrase means we want each mouthful to be packed with energy, protein, and other essential nutrients. This will stop more weight loss and allow you to regain weight safely over time.

The other thing to consider is how often you eat across the day. Having more frequent smaller meals and snacks can help to stimulate appetite as opposed to 3 big meals, so think about Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner along with Morning, Afternoon and Supper snacks. 

High Energy, High Protein Food Ideas

Below is a list of food ideas from the supermarket that can help increase energy and protein intake. They are called high-energy, high-protein foods. We've linked some products to Woolworths online, but you can find the similar foods at any average Australian supermarkets.

A variety of snack foods displayed on a yellow background


These snack ideas can help to top yourself up throughout the day. Eat with a cup of tea, as a dessert or if you need something salty.

Baked Beans

Cheese and biscuits


Dried Fruits


Handful of Nuts

Scone with jam

Yoghurt (full cream or 2%)

Yoplait Fruche



Hydration is crucial for good health and wellbeing. We can take an opportunity to make your drinks more nourishing by adding something extra of with a few swaps.


Fruit Juice

Fruit Smoothie

Full Cream Milk (*Based in individual needs) 

Enriched Milk (Regular milk + added milk powder) 





Up and Go

 Food ideas to assist with weight gain

Ingredients to Enrich Existing Foods

Here is a list of foods that are great to have on hand, as they can help to provide greater energy and protein quality to the food you prepare on a daily basis.

Butter or Margarine







Milk Powder

Peanut Butter

Salad Dressings (oil or cream based)

Sour Cream

Supplement Powder (e.g., Sustagen) 


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