Gaining weight requires that you consistently eat more calories than you burn.

Easy enough, right? Well, not necessarily.

Factors related to poor appetite, increased calorie needs, underlying medical conditions, or certain medical treatments, can make gaining weight a significant challenge.

An effective way to increase your calorie intake to promote weight gain is by including many high-calorie foods in your diet.

This article lists the 9 best high-calorie foods for weight gain.

high calorie foods for weight gain

1. Peanut butter

Peanut butter is the perfect high-calorie food for weight gain.

It’s versatile, relatively inexpensive, shelf-stable, and delicious.

One serving (2 tablespoons) of peanut butter provides 190 calories and 7 grams of protein (1).

Add it to smoothies or shakes, spread it on toast or bread, stir in with oats, or better yet, eat it with a spoon straight from the jar.

If you’re always on the go, individual snack-size peanut butter cups are a great option.

2. Nuts

Nuts are dry, single-seeded fruits.

Chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts fit the true definition of nuts. While not technically considered nuts, almonds, cashews, and pistachios are still generally classified as such.

Nuts, especially almonds, can be costly, but the good news is you don’t have to eat a lot to get a good amount of calories.

Just one serving (28 grams) provides about 170 calories and 6 grams of protein (1).

Nuts are incredibly versatile, you can store them for up to several months, and they’re easily transportable.

Add them to yogurt or cereal, toss in stir-fries, use them as a crust for salmon or chicken, or enjoy them in trail mix for a high-calorie snack.

3. Avocados

While technically a fruit, avocados are nutritionally considered a fat.

In fact, most of the 225 calories that one avocado provides comes primarily from fat (1).

Here are a few ways to incorporate avocados into your diet:

You can tell when an avocado is ready to eat if it’s soft but not mushy to the touch.

4. Whole milk

Cow’s milk is a nutritious drink rich in protein, calcium, vitamin B12, and usually vitamin D.

The fat content of milk varies from less than 0.5% (skim) to 3.25% (whole).

The nutrients that milk provides are similar regardless of fat content, but they differ in the number of calories they provide.

Whole milk provides about 70 more calories per cup (240 mL) compared with skim milk, making whole milk a great choice for boosting your calorie intake and promoting weight gain (1).

Enjoy a glass of milk with a meal, use it to make oatmeal, pour over cereals, or use it as your liquid base for smoothies and shakes.

5. Olive oil

Olive oil is an oil pressed from olives.

It’s a rich source of healthy fats and provides about 120 calories per tablespoon (14 grams) (1).

There are a few different types of olive oil, including refined, virgin, and extra virgin olive oil.

Of these, extra virgin olive oil is the least processed and tends to be considered the healthiest type of olive oil since it retains more of its nutrients.

Olive oil is safe for cooking at moderate-to-high temperatures.

Use it for frying eggs, searing meats and fish, roasting veggies, making stir-fries, on bread, or as a dressing.

6. Full-fat Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is made like regular yogurt but Greek yogurt goes through an additional straining process that removes most of the liquid.

This leaves Greek yogurt thicker and creamier — and also significantly richer in protein — than regular yogurt.

One cup (226 grams) of full-fat Greek yogurt provides about 220 calories and 20 grams of protein (1).

Compare this to the 140 calories and 8 grams of protein that one cup (226 grams) of full-fat plain yogurt provides (1).

Top Greek yogurt with fruits, nuts, or granola, use it to make a ranch dip, add it to smoothies, or mix it with your favorite flavor of protein powder.

7. Oats

Oats are a nutritious whole grain rich in fiber and many vitamins and minerals.

They are also energy-dense, providing about 300 calories per cup (80 grams) (1).

A variety of different types of oats exist, but old-fashioned or rolled tend to be the most popular.

Oatmeal is great for gaining weight because you can load it with calories.

For example, you can make it with whole milk — or a plant-based dairy alternative — rather than water, mix in protein powder or peanut butter, and top with fruit, seeds, and nuts.

You can also add other foods like maca root powder for a nutrition boost.

If you don’t like oatmeal or just want to change things up, you can make overnight oats, high-calorie no-bake protein bars, or blend in shakes or smoothies.

8. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is a fresh cheese with a mild flavor and creamy texture.

The full-fat variety provides about 220 calories and 24 grams of protein per cup (226 grams).

Like oatmeal, you can top cottage cheese with a variety of foods to boost its calorie content such as fruit, granola, or nuts.

You can also spread it on toast, add it to scrambled eggs, or use it to make pancakes.

9. Rice

Rice is a staple food all over the world.

It’s great for weight gain because it’s versatile, easy to prepare, relatively inexpensive, and tasty.

It’s also hypoallergenic, making it a great option for people with common food allergies or sensitivities.

One cup (158 grams) of cooked rice provides about 200 calories (1).

Here are a few ways to add some flavor to your rice:

  • add olive oil
  • cook it in a vegetable or chicken browth
  • season with cilantro and lime
  • drizzle on soy sauce
  • mix in salso
  • add beans
  • put it in soup
  • fry it with veggies and a protein

The bottom line

Consistently eating more calories than your body needs to gain weight can be challenging.

However, you can make the process easier by incorporating more high-calorie foods into your diet.

Try incorporating one or more of the high-calorie foods on this list today.

Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD
Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD is a registered dietitian with a master's of science in human nutrition and bioenergetics. Gavin specializes in nutrition for older adults and regulations surrounding long-term care as they relate to food and nutrition.