If you're trying to gain weight, it may seem logical to load up on fattening foods like burgers, fries, chips, and chocolate. But just because you are thin doesn't mean you aren't at risk for conditions such as heart disease, and these types of foods are often rich, not only in calories, but in artery-clogging fats.

Eating a balanced diet in accordance with Canada's Food Guide is just as important if you are underweight. This includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, proteins such as meat, fish and legumes, and dairy products. The trick is just eating more.

In order to gain weight, the number of calories you consume has to be greater than the number of calories you burn. The number of calories you burn in a day is based on the number of calories your body needs to fuel itself through processes such as breathing, circulating blood, repairing cells, and everything else your body does to maintain itself (called your basal metabolic rate), in addition to the calories you burn through any physical activity.

Here are some strategies for safely increasing the number of calories in your diet:

  • If you find you get full quickly, try eating foods that are more calorie dense (i.e., that pack more calories into a smaller volume of food). For example, raisins are more calorie dense than grapes but they are less filling because their water content is lower.
  • Add healthy fats to your meals. For example, cut avocado slices into your sandwich and sprinkle nuts into your salads.
  • Drink juice or milk instead of water.
  • Snack! Especially if you have trouble eating large meals in one sitting.
  • Find foods you enjoy. If eating is a chore, it can be even harder to choke down extra food.

Your doctor or a dietitian can help you find other ways to safely increase your calorie count, set a target weight, and determine the number of calories you should aim for each day.

As well, though your goal is to consume more calories than you burn, it's important not to cut out exercise as thin people can still be at risk for heart disease and other conditions.