Healthy Eating Tips for Gaining Weight on a Budget

While on “foodie duty” at a new upscale-casual eatery in the Chicagoland area, I had a brief, albeit thought-provoking, conversation with my waiter, Joseph. What sparked this conversation was my mentioning the intermittent fasting style of eating I follow. In the context of our talk I basically described my regular practice of skipping breakfast and only eating one full meal and two snacks within a 6-8 hour window.

Related Article: Intermittent Fasting: How I Control My Weight By Eating One Meal a Day

Seemingly intrigued by my rationale for adopting an intermittent fasting regimen, Joseph asked if he could follow this type of eating plan for healthy weight gain? He was clearly sporting the ectomorphic phenotype, which is basically technical jargon to describe the naturally thin physique. Understanding how that body type responds to any sort of meal skipping I quickly responded, “Absolutely not”.

But, as a seasoned health professional and lifestyle blogger, I simply couldn’t resist the urge to offer Joseph a few tips for strategically approaching weight gain.

However, I quickly realized, to my dismay, that he wasn’t getting much value from my advice, as he innocently responded, “Cool, I’ll start following these tips when I save up some money”. Interestingly enough, once Joseph made that statement I immediately began to take mental notes and also continued to ask more questions. By the end of our correspondence, I felt totally compelled to address his genuine concerns with an article.

You see, in a world plagued by never-ending, cookie cutter health, fitness and nutrition-related advice, far too many people feel limited in their ability to fully adopt certain lifestyle habits.

This holds particularly true for those who lack a lot of disposable income. Joseph is a great example. When people like him have a strong desire to gain weight, they may feel completely overwhelmed by the potential threat of a financial burden, especially when they’re constantly bombarded with advertisements and commercials for overpriced weight gain pills, shakes and supplements.

To reduce costs, some may choose to binge haphazardly on fast food, junk food and desserts not understanding that this will surely do them more harm than good.

Related Article: Tip to Dieters: Beware of Empty Calorie Foods

At the end of the day, when attempting to gain weight, it’s always best to implement a slow and steady approach so as not to pose any risks to your health. This is best accomplished by upping your calorie intake in a healthy way with the highest quality foods possible. While taking in large portions of any food will surely take a little extra cash out of your pocket, it certainly doesn’t have to break the bank.

Related Article: Estimating Your Metabolic Rate and Daily Calorie Needs

Seriously, it’s not as difficult as it might seem!

You can start by taking in sizeable portions (8-12 servings per day) of starchy vegetables (corn, white potatoes and sweet potatoes), whole grain foods and legumes (beans, peas and lentils). In addition to being unbelievably wholesome and rich in high-quality calories, these foods are as cheap as they come.

Oatmeal, quinoa, popcorn, whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, whole rye, whole grain barley and wild rice are great choices for whole grains that are very easy to come by. These foods are excellent sources of high-quality carbohydrates (carbs), which are especially important when it comes to successful weight gain. The same holds true for legumes, which can also be found practically anywhere.

Whether you go for fresh, frozen or even canned varieties, all legumes are rich in good carbs, protein and other beneficial nutrients.

For those with really limited budgets, I generally recommend purchasing legumes in either frozen or canned form since their overall nutritional quality is very well preserved during processing. If you opt for canned legumes, choose lower sodium versions and be sure to drain and rinse them to further reduce their sodium content.

Related Article: What You Should Know About Carbs and the Glycemic Index

Roasted nuts and seeds make another valuable inclusion in a weight gaining diet, as they are, in and of themselves, high in calories and good carbs, rich in healthy fats and also contain good amounts of protein.

Although nuts and seeds are relatively expensive, a little bit of them goes a very long way. All you’ll need is roughly a half a cup portion each day. Unsalted versions are best! Among the most economical types are peanuts (which are technically classified as legumes), almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.

If convenience is an issue, opt for high-quality nut and seed butters, as they are equally as nutritious as whole varieties. Since some tend to be high in sugar, be sure to compare labels and choose products with the lowest sugar content. Also important is that you select “all-natural” butters that are free from partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats).

Related Article: Dietary Sugar: The Good, The Bad and The Unnecessary

For maximal weight gain in a healthy way, add at least one extra serving of whole (“complete”) protein to every meal. Excellent sources of complete protein include unbattered fish, skinless poultry, lean meats, eggs, dairy products (whole milk, Greek yogurt and cheese) and high-quality soy foods.

Economical protein sources that I think are too often ignored by many include lean ground versions like ground chuck, chicken and turkey in addition to canned tuna, salmon and chicken. These foods can easily be used to boost the calorie content of virtually any meal or snack.

For overall good health avoid taking in more than two 4-ounce servings of meat and three servings of low-fat dairy each day. Also important is that you limit your consumption of egg yolks to no more than 5-6 per week.

Related Article: Nutrition Basics: Your Daily Protein Intake

Let me emphasize once again that it’s important to limit your intake of unhealthy, high-calorie foods like fast food, junk food and desserts.

Eating such high-fat and high-sugar foods in excess will almost always cause you to gain weight as fat rather than muscle, which isn’t at all ideal. The only added sugar in a weight gaining diet should come from whole fruits like bananas, apples, berries, melon and grapes. When consuming fats simply include a few daily servings of healthier varieties like nuts and seeds, avocado and olive oil, as these have added health benefits.

So hopefully I’ve given you some valuable tips and good ideas as to how you can support your weight gaining efforts on a budget. Although weight gain requires significant increases in your daily calorie consumption, there’s no reason why you should compromise your pocket book or your health while doing so.

Related Article: Quick and Easy to Follow Tips For People Who WANT to Gain Weight

Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a physician for advice.

Before starting an exercise training program you should first make sure that exercise is safe for you.  If you are under the age of 55 years and generally in good health, it is probably safe for you to exercise.  However, if you are over 55 years of age and/or have any health problems, be sure to consult with your physician before starting an exercise training program.