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Need to add extra pounds on a slight frame? Here’s a sensible way to do it.
By Lisa James
Like the late Rodney Dangerfield, Americans who are underweight don’t get any respect. The numbers explain why: While two-thirds of the US population is overweight, only 1.8% qualifies as underweight.
People need to gain pounds for a number of reasons. Some have fast metabolisms that quickly burn calories. Others engage in strenuous activities. Still others have eating disorders or chronic illnesses such as cancer.
It’s the last group that Carolyn Lammersfeld, RD, CNSD is most familiar with in her job as national director of nutrition for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTC, www.cancercenter.com ). She says, “What we hear often is that patients spent a lot of their lives trying to lose weight, and now they’ve lost weight and they can’t gain it back.”
Lammersfeld says being underweight is no excuse to eat poorly. Junk foods are “high in omega-6 fats, which we know to be immune-suppressing,” she notes. “Those foods can also increase your cholesterol.”
The key to healthy weight gain is resistance training plus extra helpings of beneficial foods. “Most people who are trying to gain weight are under-muscled,” Lammersfeld explains. “With our patients we use resistance bands. Those are good for people who travel a lot.”
Lammersfeld says CTC recommends a standard weight-maintenance diet consisting of balanced meals with complex carbs, whole produce, lean protein and low-fat dairy. She suggests consuming an additional 200 to 500 calories a day by eating every two to three hours. “I tell people the easiest way to do it is to add one serving from each of the food groups,” she says. “That should allow you to gain a pound a week.” Foods rich in both calories and nutrients include nut butters (almond, peanut, cashew), trail mix, protein shakes made with high-calorie ingredients such as bananas, kefir, low-fat cheese and avocados (including gua...