20 High-Calorie Healthy Foods For Gaining Weight

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Not everyone wants to lose weight, and for various potential reasons, some people wish to do the opposite: gain weight.

In its most basic state, gaining weight is simply a matter of eating more food and consuming more energy than we need.

However, there is a right way and a wrong way to achieve this. Gorging on pizza and fried chicken may support weight gain, but it does not aid our overall health.

This article provides a list of 20 of the highest-calorie foods in the world, and they all contain beneficial nutrients and support sensible weight gain.

1) Cheddar Cheese

A Large Piece of Cheddar Cheese and Some Smaller Pieces.

Cheddar is one of the most popular types of cheese, and it is full of essential vitamins and minerals.

In addition to calcium, Cheddar also provides an excellent source of B vitamins, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, and protein (1).

Cheddar cheese is also very energy-dense and provides 403 calories per 100 grams.

Cheese improves the taste of most dishes, and it is easy to add grated Cheddar to anything.

100 Grams of Cheddar403 calories
2 oz (56 g) portion226 calories
Key Point: Cheddar provides a good range of nutrients, and it’s very high in calories.

2) Chicken Thigh (With Skin)

Chicken can be rather bland, or it can taste delicious.

The difference primarily lies in the fat content of the meat, and a skin-on chicken thigh is one of the best-tasting cuts of chicken you can buy.

Since typical chicken thighs contain more than 15 grams of fat per 100 grams, they are a high-calorie poultry option.

Chicken thighs are far more than just fat and calories, though, and they provide an excellent source of B vitamins, selenium, and zinc (2).

100 Grams of Chicken Thigh247 calories
Per 3-Thigh Serving459 calories
Key Point: Chicken thighs with skin are one of the fattiest cuts of poultry and contain a large amount of calories.

3) Mackerel

Mackerel is full of healthy fat, and it offers a substantial source of energy too.

On the positive side, much of the fatty acids mackerel contains is omega-3 fatty acids.

These fats are associated with an assortment of health benefits.

For example, research demonstrates that higher blood levels of omega-3 reduce all-cause mortality and improve cardiovascular risk markers (3, 4).

That said, omega-3 isn’t the only positive contribution mackerel makes to our health. This nutritious fish also provides substantial amounts of protein, selenium, and vitamin B12 (5).

100 Grams of Mackerel262 calories
Per 6-oz (170-gram) Serving438 calories
Key Point: Mackerel is a nutrient-dense oily fish that is high in calories.

4) Avocado

An Avocado Half Showing the Stone in the Middle.

Most fruit is little more than fruit sugars, vitamins, and water, and it does not provide a large number of calories.

However, there are several exceptions to this, and avocado is one of the most notable.

In addition to (fibrous) carbohydrate, avocados also supply a wealth of monounsaturated fat, and a small amount of protein.

As a result, avocados are the highest-calorie fruit money can buy.

This little green fruit also supports our health by supplying almost every essential vitamin and mineral except for vitamin B12 (6).

100 Grams of Avocado160 calories
Per Avocado322 calories
Key Point: Avocado is a delicious, healthy, and calorie-rich fruit.

5) Heavy Cream

In recent years there has been a “bulletproof” craze of putting pure butter into coffee.

However, the classic combination of coffee and heavy cream is a tastier option, and it is just as high in calories too.

Although it is mainly a source of concentrated fat, heavy cream still manages to provide a fair amount of nutrients.

Among these nutrients, heavy cream provides good concentrations of vitamins A and D (7).

100 Grams of Heavy Cream345 calories
Per 2-tablespoon Serving104 calories
Key Point: Adding a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to a morning coffee is an easy way to increase calorie intake.

6) Sweet Potatoes

As a starchy tuber, sweet potatoes are relatively high in carbohydrate.

Sweet potatoes are a calorie-dense source of energy, and they provide some useful nutrients too.

Most notably, just 100 grams of sweet potato provides 384% of the RDI for vitamin A in the form of carotenoids (8).

Additionally, this root tuber also provides a respectable amount of vitamin C and manganese.

Adding a few sweet potatoes to a meal is an easy way to increase the overall energy intake.

100 Grams of Sweet Potatoes90 calories
Regular 180-Gram Sweet Potato162 calories
Key Point: Adding some sweet potatoes into our diet can help with gaining weight.

7) Pork Belly

Crispy Baked Pork Belly In a Baking Tray.

Pork belly is possibly the fattiest meat of all, and it is a boneless, extremely fatty cut that is popular around the world.

Pork belly is also the major ingredient in American bacon and Italian pancetta, which is a salt-cured cold cut of meat.

Since pork belly is approximately 42% fat by weight, it offers a significant number of calories.

However, as with all meat, pork belly is fairly nutrient-dense, and it is not just about fat and calories.

Nutritionally, pork belly is an excellent source of B vitamins, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc (9).

100 Grams of Pork Belly541 calories
Per 6 oz (170-gram) Serving906 calories
Key Point: Pork belly is incredibly high in calories, and just small amounts provide a significant source of energy.

8) Macadamia Nuts

Even before recipe developers were making “fat bombs,” there has always been a small, natural and calorie-dense source of fat.

This food is the macadamia nut, and these small nuts are surprisingly high in both fat and overall calories.

For instance, with 718 calories, macadamias offer more calories per 100 grams than almost any other whole food (10).

Most of this fat comes from oleic acid of olive oil fame.

Aside from their fat content, macadamia nuts offer an excellent source of magnesium, copper, manganese, and vitamin B1.

100 Grams of Macadamia Nuts718 calories
1 oz (28-gram) Serving201 calories
Key Point: A small handful of macadamia nuts each day is a simple and easy way to increase calorie intake.

9) Pecans

Similar to macadamia (and all) nuts, pecans are a highly concentrated source of calories, and they’re fairly nutritious too.

Pecans offer a large amount of magnesium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, zinc, and B vitamins (11).

Additionally, pecan nuts are one of the most significant sources of polyphenols in the world, specifically epigallocatechin (EGCG). This phenolic compound is also thought to be the primary compound responsible for many of green tea’s beneficial effects (12).

Other than their nutrient density and phenolic contents, pecans also supply a moderate amount of protein.

100 Grams of Pecans692 calories
1 oz (28-gram) Serving193 calories
Key Point: With almost 200 calories per handful, snacking on pecans can help with efforts to gain weight.

10) Dark Chocolate

Delicious Chunks of Dark Chocolate On a White Background.

Dark chocolate is an energy-rich and nutrient-dense food choice.

Not many people realize that dark chocolate (and cocoa) is a healthy and nutritious food, and it is loaded with magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese (13).

Furthermore, cocoa contains some interesting polyphenols, and human clinical trials demonstrate that they may help to lower blood pressure and levels of oxidative damage (14, 15).

100 Grams of Dark Chocolate599 calories
1 oz (28-gram) Serving168 calories
Key Point: Dark chocolate is a delicious way to consume more nutrient-dense calories, just watch out for the sugar content. The higher cocoa percentage, the better.

11) Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is probably the most evidence-backed cooking fat in the world.

This fruit oil works well drizzled over cold dishes, and it offers a higher oxidative stability than many people realize.

In recent laboratory trials, extra virgin olive oil outperformed most other plant oils with its high-heat stability, offering a similar performance to coconut oil (16).

Potential reasons for olive oil’s impressive heat stability include the antioxidant vitamin E and polyphenols the oil contains (17).

As olive oil is a concentrated source of fat, it contains a substantial number of calories, with just a tablespoon containing well over 100 calories.

100 Grams of Olive Oil884 calories
Per Tablespoon Serving119 calories
Key Point: Adding a tablespoon of olive oil here and there is an easy way to increase total caloric intake.

12) Peanut Butter

As previously discussed, all nuts offer a substantial number of calories.

However, peanut butter takes it one step further by disguising just how much we are consuming.

Perhaps surprisingly, it takes more than 540 peanuts to make a standard 12-ounce (340-gram) jar of peanut butter (18).

As well as being high in both fat and calories, peanut butter also offers an impressive range of nutrients, including large amounts of manganese and vitamin E (19).

Lastly, peanut butter is delicious.

100 Grams of Pecans588 calories
Per 2-tablespoon Serving188 calories
Key Point: Peanut butter is a delicious, highly calorific nut spread.

13) Rib-eye Steak

A Thick Raw Rib-eye Steak With Marbling

Rib-eye is one of the most popular—and fattiest—cuts of steak available.

Since rib-eye is so rich in fat, it also packs a large number of calories into one steak.

Once again, high-calorie foods tend to be delicious, and rib-eye is no exception.

Furthermore, because rib-eye steaks are generally quite large, a single steak offers close to 1000 calories.

Rib-eye steak is also reasonably nutritious, and it offers a good range of B vitamins, iron, and protein (20).

100 Grams of Rib-eye Steak291 calories
Per 291g Rib-eye Steak847 calories
Key Point: Including fattier cuts of meat such as rib-eye and T-bone steak is a good way to increase energy intake and gain weight.

14) Lamb Chops

Arguably just as delicious as rib-eye steak, lamb chops are another rich source of calories.

Lamb is also one of the most nutritious types of meat we can eat, and thanks to the lamb’s grazing on pasture, lamb is full of essential nutrients.

In particular, lamb is an excellent source of B vitamins, zinc, protein, and it even offers 175 mg of omega-3 per 100 grams (21).

Lamb chops are relatively dense in fat, so the meat offers a fairly high-calorie content.

100 Grams of Lamb Chop235 calories
Per 5-oz (140-gram) Lamb Chop329 calories
Key Point: Lamb chops are one of the fattier (and higher-calorie) cuts of meat. They are also delicious, and fairly rich in nutrients.

15) Sour Cream

Sour cream is another high-fat dairy food that offers beneficial nutrients.

This fermented dairy product contains a good range of vitamins and minerals, although only calcium and phosphorus are present in more substantial amounts (22).

Additionally, as a Lactobabillus-fermented product, sour cream should contain some probiotics.

Systematic reviews suggest that probiotics may have various benefits for the health of our gut microbiome (23).

100 Grams of Sour Cream194 calories
Per cup Sour Cream444 calories
Key Point: Sour cream is another healthy dairy food that can easily add extra calories into our diet.

16) Potatoes

Roast Potatoes With Herbs On a White Plate.

Potatoes (paired with oil) are likely responsible for a significant amount of unwanted weight gain around the world; potato chips, fries, crisps, and the list goes on.

However, health-wise, there is a big difference between regular potatoes and fried potato products.

For those seeking to gain weight, adding a few regular potatoes into the diet can be a healthy way to do so.

Despite their relatively poor reputation over recent years, potatoes do contain some valuable nutrients, and a large potato supplies a good amount of potassium and vitamin B6 (24).

Since potatoes are fairly carbohydrate and calorie-rich, adding several to a meal can quickly increase total energy intake.

100 Grams of Potatoes86 calories
One Large Potato258 calories
Key Point: Adding potatoes to a meal can quickly increase the calorie count.

17) Whole Milk

Whole milk is a good source of a variety of nutrients, particularly calcium.

The calories in this original, full-fat milk add up when drinking a glass or two, so it is an easy way to increase energy intake.

Aside from the calories and calcium, milk is also a good source of protein, offering around eight grams of protein per cup (25).

100 Grams of Milk60 calories
Per Cup of Milk146 calories
Key Point: Replacing a glass or two of water with milk is an easy way to increase the number of incoming calories.

18) Durian

Avocados are not the only high-fat fruit around, and durians are a tropical fruit that offers large amounts of fat and carbohydrate.

Durian fruit is notorious for its pungent smell, which puts a lot of people off. However, people generally like the taste of the fruit.

Although finding fresh durian can be difficult, it is usually possible to find a frozen version in a local store (or online).

In addition to its calorie-density, durian also supplies a moderate amount of B vitamins, vitamin C, and several other nutrients in smaller amounts (26).

100 Grams of Durian147 calories
One Cup (243-gram) 357 calories
Key Point: Durian is one of the most calorie-dense fruits in the world.

19) Herring

Two Herring Fillets With Lemons and Herbs.

Herring is a substantial source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Furthermore, herring is packed with nutritional value, and it provides large concentrations of B vitamins, selenium, and dietary protein (27).

As well as being one of the best sources of omega-3, herring has one of the very lowest levels of mercury among all fish (28).

Opting for herring rather than a lean white fish can double the calorie content.

100 Grams of Herring203 calories
One Herring Fillet 290 calories
Key Point: Using oily fish in place of lean fish choices is a simple way to increase calories.

20) Salmon

Salmon is perhaps the tastiest commonly available fish, and it offers an incredibly healthy mix of protein, omega-3 fats, and a wide range of nutrients (29).

To increase the calorie content of a meal, try serving salmon with a creamy Cheddar cheese sauce.

Similar to herring, salmon is also very high in omega-3 but low in mercury.

100 Grams of Salmon206 calories
Half a Salmon Fillet367 calories
Key Point: Containing a wealth of healthy fatty acids, salmon is reasonably high in calories.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why someone may wish to gain weight.

It could be someone wanting to bulk up and gain muscle, put weight back on after an injury, or gain weight under doctor’s orders.

However, we never need to eat poor-quality, ultra-processed foods to achieve this.

By implementing some (or all!) of the foods on this list, we can quickly increase the total amount of calories we consume.

The best thing is that each of these foods offers beneficial nutrients too.

  • How do some of these foods fit with a Ketogenic diet? I have a hard tome maintaining enough weight to be able to donate blood regularly. But I do not want to ingest too many carbs in the process. Thank you for including carb levels in each of these foods.

    • All of these foods fit with a ketogenic diet except for sweet potatoes, potatoes, and durian.

      Whole milk, peanut butter, and dark chocolate can fit into a ketogenic diet if you go easy on them (relatively small portions).

      Other than that, the other foods are all fine.

  • Thanks. I’m on Ketogenic and have lost some weight and had fun doing it. Now I want to add more muscle. I will probably try all these except the potatoes and maybe durian since I’ve never heard nor seen it.