If you’re trying to gain weight, chances are you’ve been focusing on muscle gain while losing fat, and you are adding lean protein to your diet. But how do you gain weight without eating meat, on a plant-based diet?
As I worked on reaching my ideal weight, I forced myself to eat meat because I was constantly told that it was a sure way to put some “meat on my bones”. Over the years, I wondered if there was a way to gain weight by eating certain types of foods, eliminating meat from my diet.
I was not a vegan or a vegetarian but was not into eating much red meat either. So this post aims to help those are looking for ways to gain weight by sticking to a plant-based diet.
High-calorie foods rich in protein – what are they?
We all agree that protein plays an important role in weight gain. As you know, consuming calories beyond the recommended daily intake is critical in gaining weight. So when we look for protein-rich foods, calories count. Here is a partial list of foods rich in protein with a high calorie count:
- Rice – One cup (195 grams) of cooked brown rice = 216 calories alongside 5 grams of protein
- Black beans – one cup of cooked black beans = 227 calories and 15 grams each of protein (mixing rice and black beans will obviously increase your calorie intake)
- Legumes in general, have a high amount of protein. Try lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- Sweet potatoes – one cup (200 grams) of cooked sweet potatoes = 180 calories
- Avocado – known to be a perfect food, 1 avocado = 322 calories. Can be used in a variety of ways: sprinkle it on your salad, add it to your smoothie, eat it with your crackers, etc.
- Nuts – walnuts, almonds, peanuts, peanut butter, cashews. A walnut pack (1 ounce) = 85 calories and over 4 grams of protein. Spread peanut butter over your sliced apples for a delicious, calorie-packed snack.
- Quinoa – 1 cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa = 222 calories and 8 grams of proteins
- Dried fruit – 1/2 cup of prunes (87 grams) = 209 calories, 1/2 cup of raisins (83 grams) = 247 calories, 1 cup of dried apricots = 314 calories, 2.8 grams of banana chips = 147 calories
You can also supplement your protein intake with natural protein powder.
Given the potential high level of sugar in dried fruit, it’s recommended to sprinkle dried fruit to your cereal, or mix it with other foods if you’re watching your blood sugar level.
Foods rich in healthy fats
It is impossible to completely eliminate fat from our diet, our body needs fat to function.
What are “healthy” fats? As you read the labels to get a sense of ingredients on anything we consume, you’ll most likely see the terms fat-free, low-fat, non-fat, etc. What should we make of all this? Let’s focus on the type of healthy fat that we need to look for when it comes to incorporate fat into our diet.
There are two types of healthy unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The American Heart Association defines them as follows: “From a chemical standpoint, monounsaturated fats are simply fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule, this is also called a double bond. Oils that contain monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled. Polyunsaturated fats are simply fat molecules that have more than one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule, this is also called a double bond. Oils that contain polyunsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled. “
Foods with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats:
- Dark chocolate
- Olives (green, black, or Kalamata)
- Almonds, cashews, and peanuts
- Ground flaxeed- spread on everything because you don’t actually taste the flaxeed. Check out some natural flaxeed
- Plant-based cooking oils such as olive, soybean, sesame, sunflower, cottonseed, corn, and canola oils
Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are polyunsaturated fats. They promote brain function and cell growth. Since our bodies do not make essential fatty acids, it is critical that we get them from food.
As an added benefit, polyunsaturated fats are known to reduce bad cholesterol level in the blood which can in turn lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. They are also a good source of vitamin E, a great antioxidant.
Shakes and Smoothies
The flexibility and ability to customize shakes and smoothies make them very appealing. You can use fresh fruit such as bananas, berries, kiwis, oranges, etc. according to your taste. You can still stay away from dairy products to make smoothies by using nut-based milk such as almond and walnut milk. To increase the calories of your shakes, add peanut butter, avocados, and/or plant-based protein.
Some smoothie recipes
The following recipes are recommended by 20 healthy vegan smoothies.
Peanut Butter Mocha Smoothie
- Peanut butter
- Plant-based protein
Feel free to experiment with the portions according to your taste, and add your own fruit- Blend well and enjoy
Ginger, C & Green Smoothie
- 2 cups of spinach
- Fresh lemon
- Orange juice
Feel free to experiment with the portions according to your taste, and add your own fruit- Blend well and enjoy!
See the reference section below for more smoothie recipes
Here are some snack ideas for you:
- Smoothie made with nut-based milk, banana, and peanut butter
- Frozen waffle toasted with almond butter, fruit, and maple syrup
- Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
- Pasta tossed in olive oil
Your Meal Plan
Whether you are a vegetarian athlete or non-athlete looking to build muscle and gain weight, you should eat good quality protein at every meal. Your meal plan should include the following components:
- Eat five to six meals a day with at least 3 snacks
- High-calorie and protein-rich items (as listed above)
- A good mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
- Use smoothies and shakes to increase your calorie intake, they can be used as a snack
- Incorporate an exercise regimen into your plan
- Consult a nutritionist if you have health issues that prevent you from using some of the items recommended in this post
- And of course consult your physician for all health concerns
Feel free to share your thoughts and feedback below.
To your health,
Danielle W., Ph.D.
Disclaimer: This article does not intend to provide medical advice. Consult your medical professional to discuss any health-related issues you may have.