What’s the Highest Calorie Food for Weight Gain?

What’s the Highest Calorie Food for Weight Gain?

“What’s the Highest Calorie Food for Weight Gain?” was written by Nina Deuschle & edited/reviewed by Aly Bouzek, MS, RDN. Nina is a dietetic intern based out of Florida.

You’re probably used to hearing about low calorie foods and strategies for eating less calories. These topics have been a main focus in recent years in the health and wellness space.

But, the reality is that our energy needs are all so vastly different. Some of us could really benefit from a higher calorie eating pattern. 

In this article, you will learn about:

What is a Calorie?

Calories measure the amount of energy provided by food and drinks. They can come from carbohydrates, fat, protein, and alcohol depending on the type of food or beverage you are consuming. (1)

Did you know that calories are now printed in larger and bolder font on Nutrition Facts Labels. Check out this example below!

How Many Calories Should I Eat?

The answer to this question is, as usual, it depends! The number of calories we need to eat each day depends on a number of different factors. The important thing is that we recognize that our needs are not going to be the same as those of anyone else. 

Some of the factors that impact your energy needs include: height, weight, age, muscle mass, and activity level. You’ll also need to factor in the presence of any health conditions, wounds, or injuries. 

Importantly, what are your goals? Two people who may appear to have similar energy needs will actually have very unique needs if one person is hoping to gain a significant amount of weight.

How Many Calories

What Are the Benefits of High Calorie Foods?

High calorie foods provide more energy and are typically more nutrient dense. And high calorie foods are appropriate for a variety of situations and people. Generally, they are helpful for encouraging weight gain.

For example, anyone experiencing decreased appetite for an extended period of time may want to incorporate high calorie foods. These are foods that can provide plenty of nutrition in a smaller package.

Therefore, it can be easier to reach your needs if your meals and snacks are lower in volume but higher in calories.

Athletes, and very active people in general, may benefit from high calorie foods because they are spending a lot of energy every day. This also applies to people who need more calories due to injuries, wounds, or illness. (2)

High calorie foods can be extremely helpful for anyone with malnutrition or anyone who is underweight. You might be wondering how to determine if you or a loved one is underweight. We’ll tackle this subject next!

What Exactly is Considered Underweight?

If your BMI (Body Mass Index) is below 18.5 as an adult, you are considered underweight. However, weight is looked at differently in older adults.

Research has shown that the risk of mortality increases in people over the age of 65 with a BMI <23.0. This means that in older adults, the BMI guidelines are actually higher!

For more information on BMI in the elderly, take a look at our comprehensive overview here.

Health Risks Associated with Being Underweight 

Obesity and overweight often dominate the discussion when it comes to weight. However, what are some of the health risks associated with being underweight? (2)

  • Weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis)
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Weakened immune system
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Depression
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Atypical heart rhythm
  • Sleep problems

The good news? Gaining weight IS possible. If you’re looking for advice related to weight gain, then you’ve found yourself in the right place.

Weight Gain

Advice for Gaining Weight Safely and Comfortably

To gain weight, you need to consistently eat more calories than your body is using for energy. Always speak with a registered dietitian or trusted healthcare provider when making changes to your diet that may impact your health. 

Start slowly by introducing extra calories. When it comes to your physical comfort and long-term adherence to your new eating pattern, gradual introduction of more calories is the way to go.

More Calories

Simple Strategies for Getting More Calories

By making some small tweaks, you can find easy ways to fit more calories in throughout your day. 

Eat more frequently throughout the day. Squeeze in extra snacks or break up your meals so that you are eating 4-5 smaller meals instead of 3 meals per day.

Add more fat to your diet. Fat has more calories per gram than the other two macronutrients, protein and carbohydrate. Plus, have you heard how delicious it is?

Don’t fill up on liquids, like water, immediately before or during your meal. Hydration is always important. However, when eating more to gain weight, it may help to focus on drinking your fluids between meals.

Speaking of drinks, try placing more emphasis on drinks that contain calories rather than low- or zero-calorie options. This may include juice, shakes, smoothies, and milk. 

Incorporate condiments and toppings into your meals like mayonnaise, dressings, a drizzle of olive oil, chopped nuts and seeds, cheese, and dried fruits. 

These additions to meals can add flavor and extra calories without also adding a lot of volume. 

High calorie food meal toppings

What’s the Highest Calorie Food for Weight Gain?

The highest calorie food (by volume!) is oil.

On average, oils contain about 120 calories per tablespoon. For perspective, a tablespoon of all-purpose flour contains just 28 calories. This means that oils are about four times as calorically dense as all-purpose flour.

See below for a comparison of the calorie and fat content of one tablespoon of some common fats and oils.

Fat/OilCaloriesTotal FatSaturated Fat
Avocado Oil 3124 kcal14 grams1.6 grams
Canola Oil 4120 kcal14 grams1 grams
Olive Oil 5124 kcal14 grams1.9 grams
Coconut Oil 6117 kcal14 grams11.6 grams
Butter 7100 kcal11.4 grams7.2 grams

As you can see, the calorie and fat content of these commonly used fats and oils doesn’t vary that much. What does vary is the type of fats that are found in different fats and oils.

You might have noticed that coconut oil and butter are higher in saturated fat than oils like avocado, canola, and olive. 

Foods that have a high saturated fat content will be more solid at room temperature than those that are mostly made up of unsaturated fat.

The American Heart Association recommends a diet with up to 5 or 6% of calories from saturated fats. This means that if you’re eating 2,200 calories per day, then no more than 132 calories should come from saturated fat. (8)

Comparison of Common Fats & Oils

How Can I Incorporate Oil to Encourage Weight Gain?

Because oil is so energy dense, it’s the perfect addition to meals for someone who might not want to eat a lot of extra volume but needs more calories. In order to incorporate more oil into your diet, there are several approaches.

One example is when you’re making salads. Either make your own dressing with extra oil or add some more oil to your favorite salad dressing. 

Olive oil is also often used as a finishing oil before meals are served. Try an extra drizzle on your pastas, pizzas, or whatever else you are enjoying! Extra oil can also be incorporated when you are sauteing or pan frying. 

You’ll want to make sure that you are choosing an oil that can withstand heat like canola oil if you are cooking with high temperatures. This strategy will leave you with crispier, more flavorful results. Plus, your food will be higher in calories.

If you are in need of some more inspiration for high calorie recipes to gain weight and/or stop unintended weight loss, grab your FREE copy of our easy high calorie shake recipes!

High calorie oil

Conclusion: What’s the Highest Calorie Food for Weight Gain?

We hope that this information is helpful if you or someone you know would benefit from learning what’s the highest calorie food for weight gain.

Safe and comfortable weight gain is well within your reach. With some planning, consistency, and patience, you can achieve your weight gain goals.


  1. Calories on the New Nutrition Facts Label. FDA. https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/calories-new-nutrition-facts-label
  2. High-Calorie Foods and Snack Ideas to Gain Weight. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16555-snack-ideas-for-weight-gain
  3. Oil, avocado. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173573/nutrients.
  4. Canola oil. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103863/nutrients.
  5. Olive oil. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103861/nutrients
  6. Coconut oil. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103857/nutrients
  7. Butter, stick. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103823/nutrients.
  8. Saturated Fat. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats

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