If you haven’t yet heard, Wednesdays are our Guest Blogger Series day! It’s a day where Matt and I get a bit of a mid-week break while getting to share with you some of our favorite online bloggers. And for their hard work, they get the benefit of your readership – we encourage you to please show all of them your support by visiting their blog and social media links at the end of this post!
The guest post this week is from Hallie Klecker from the Daily Bites Blog! She tackles an interesting and unique problem that many never even attempt to tackle: How do your gain weight on the paleo diet? Check out her blog for great recipes and helpful information!
Have you ever wondered, in the midst of our weight-loss-focused culture, how a person can actually add some padding by eating a healthy gluten-free diet? For any of you struggling with gaining weight or helping your child add a few pounds, I hope you’ll find a few valuable pointers in this post.
It’s a common struggle but one that receives very little attention in the media, even among food allergy and Celiac disease circles. Gaining weight has been a big part of my life in the last couple of years, so I’m here today to share my story and a few tips with you.
Before eliminating gluten and dairy from my diet a few years ago, I lost over 20% of my body weight over the course of about a year and half. With every slice of bread and piece of cheese I ate, my poor digestive system took one heck of a beating. For those of us with food allergies or sensitivities, every time we eat an offending food we’re provoking a reaction. My reactions usually manifested themselves as chronic fatigue, digestive problems (I’ll spare you the details…), and mental fogginess. With damage being done to my intestines on nearly a daily basis, I was not properly absorbing the food I ate. I was becoming malnourished and well on my way to being clinically classified as an anorexic because of my low body weight.
Everything turned around when I stopped eating gluten and dairy. Focusing on whole, natural, colorful foods (mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and protein) led me back to a place of optimal health. But let me tell you, the road I traveled was not an easy one! As a young woman trying to put weight on instead of take it off, I found very little advice about how to do it…especially if I were to be eating healthy foods.
My Google search for “how to gain weight” took me to bodybuilding chatrooms and websites promoting protein powders for elite athletes. Needless to say, this was a rare instance where the internet was really no help at all! Instead of wasting my money on expensive protein supplements and bars that would no doubt make me feel awful, I decided to just stick with healthy foods that I felt good eating and see what happened.
Gaining Weight with Healthy Foods
I’ll be the first person to tell you that gaining weight while eating healthy, whole foods is no easy task. But it can absolutely be done. You just have to put a little thought and effort into it.
Although I don’t follow an exclusively grain-free diet today, when I first started gaining weight back there was no way I could eat grains. My system was incredibly weak and needed a hefty dose of TLC. Most of the weight I gained back through eating a diet along the lines of Paleo. To this day, I still eat very few grains and no refined sugar. It helps me feel my best and maintain all those hard-earned pounds.
So what did I eat to gain weight? Think healthy foods, just more of them. I eat the same foods today that I did when I was trying to gain weight, just in smaller quantities and not as frequently. A few ideas to get you started:
Nuts, seeds, and avocados: I lived by these, and still do! Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nut butters, and avocados pack healthy fats, protein, and fiber. They are dense both calorically and nutritionally. One of my favorite easy-to-digest snacks during my weight gain days was (and still is) 1/2 an avocado mashed with a chunk of banana, a scoop of sunflower seed butter, and ground cinnamon. Kids gobble this “pudding” up, too, because it’s creamy and sweet. I also love snacking on these almond-based Garlic Herb Crackers.
Protein: Everybody is different, but I found that protein settled really well with my sensitive digestive system at the time that I was making a big weight-gain push. Chicken, turkey, wild salmon, sardines, and eggs were my go-to’s. I wanted to gain back lean body mass and not just “squishy stuff,” if you know what I mean. Protein really helped with this goal. To jazz up my chicken strips, I’d dip them in sweet homemade condiments like this Maple Mustard Dipper.
Dried fruit: Easy to transport and tasty to eat, dried fruit in small amounts with nuts or seeds makes a great snack or mini-meal. Because it’s dried and therefore shrunken down in size, it offers a fair amount of calories without a lot of volume. Many people, especially children, tend to get very full very quickly when they’re first making pushes to gain weight. It takes a while to adjust to eating more frequently and in larger quantities, so low volume/high calorie options like dried fruit, nuts, and oils can be very helpful. These Fruit & Nut Breakfast Treats are a great anytime snack.
Where I Am Today
I’m at my goal weight and feeling fantastic!
Are there still little things about my health that need some tweaking? Totally. But optimal wellness is a journey, not a destination. There’s always room to improve and new goals to strive for. The most important thing is to keep your efforts consistent and focused. It may take a while, but you’ll get there. Remember that a positive attitude, especially through the weight gain process, is far more valuable than any number on a scale.
Hallie Klecker is the author of The Pure Kitchen, a gluten- and dairy-free cookbook with over 100 healthful recipes. She also writes the recipe blog Daily Bites, where she shares her passion for cooking with whole, natural foods. Hallie is a certified Nutrition Educator and former personal chef. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.