How To Gain Weight on a Vegetarian Diet

Did you just do a double take when you read the topic? Is it really possible to gain weight while on a vegetarian diet?

The truth is that most times when you hear about a vegetarian diet, you hear about the many health benefits and more than likely you will hear of its role in weight loss.  Many overweight or obese persons have been put on a vegetarian diet by their doctors in an effort to lose weight.  Many vegetarians have been able to achieve and maintain healthy weight on this diet.

But what about those of you who are already slim or maybe even underweight?  Do you have to reject the vegetarian lifestyle (and its many benefits) for fear of losing even more weight?

Aha! You are one those persons who thought so, aren’t you?

Well I have good news for you.  You don’t have to reject it. You can embrace the vegetarian lifestyle without fear of shrinking away. Yes it’s true that many persons are able to lose weight on on this diet but read on and you will find out how to gain weight on a vegetarian diet.

Unhealthy Suggestions

I have seen suggestions to this issue that are not at all healthy such as;

Eat just before going to bed.

Eat lots and lots of fatty foods.

These methods will certainly cause you to gain weight,  but at what expense?

These are unhealthy habits and I will certainly not encourage you to adapt them. A healthy lifestyle is what we should all aim for.

Don’t worry.  There are healthy ways to gain weight on a vegetarian diet.

Why do people gain weight

Simple.  They are taking in more calories than they are using up.

Food provides energy.

If the energy consumed is greater that the energy expended, then you are in positive energy balance. The result of positive energy balance is storage of the excess energy in adipose (fat) tissues.

The opposite of course is true.  Negative energy balance results when you expend more energy than you consume. When a person is in a state of negative energy balance the result is weight loss.

Negative Energy Balance

Take in 2000 calories
Use up 3000 calories

Results in weight loss

Positive Energy Balance

Take in 3000 calories
Use up 2000 calories

Result in weight gain

How to gain weight

You now know that you get energy from your food and if you consume more than you utilize you will gain weight.

Your next question is probably going to be “So how much energy is in the food I eat” or “How am I going to know how much energy I am consuming”

Well you could get a bomb calorimeter, burn a portion of food inside a chamber of the calorimeter that is surrounded by water and as the food burns it will give off heat which raises the temperature of the water surrounding the chamber. The increase in water temperature measured after the food has burned indicates the amount of energy in the food.

I am just kidding. You don’t have to do that.

Scientist have already done it.

What we have learnt from their testing is that on average carbohydrates yield 4 kcal (or 4 calories) per gram, proteins yield 4 kcal per gram and fats yield 9 kcal per gram.

Do you need to now grab your calculator and your kitchen scale and measure everything you eat?

I just had 200g of potato…multiply by 4 equals 800 calories.  I need 1200 calories more today. Let me measure out some bread….and some beans………..

No! No! No!

That’s a bit extreme and is really not necessary.

Nowadays information on caloric value of food is readily available.

Just for some perspective though, one pound is approximately 3500 calories.

Some researchers have suggested a range whereby one pound of fat could contain anywhere between 2,843 and 3,752 calories.

What you can gather from this information is that to gain 1 pound you have to consume an extra 3500 calories approximately.  Of course this cannot be done in one day but an extra 500 calories a day will add up to 3500 calories in a week.

How to gain weight on a vegetarian diet

So how is this accomplished…….

Don’t let eating be a drudgery by having to count and check every thing you eat.

Just applying generally the principles outlined below will result in you accomplishing your goal.

One approach is to gradually increase your consumption of energy-dense foods. These are foods that provide a great deal of energy in a small volume

Here are some suggestions.

If you are lacto-vegetarian:

  • Drink 1% or 2% milk instead of skimmed milk.
  • Add Italian cheeses or other low fat cheeses to sandwiches and snacks.
  • Eat yogurt supplemented with fruit.

Increase your intake of legumes such as beans and peas which are high in protein and calories and low in fat.

Use nuts, seeds and peanut butter for snacks.

Increase your consumption of whole grain products such as rice, pasta.

Increase consumption of starchy vegetables such as potatoes and yams which are nutritious sources of calories

Breads, muffins and whole grain cereals supplemented with fruits and nuts provide a high calorie breakfast.

Extra fruit added to the cereal can make a tasty dessert or snack.

Bananas and dried fruits such as apricots, pineapples, dates and  raisins are high in calories and make excellent snacks.

Feel free to add salad dressing to your vegetable.

Replace diet soft drinks with fruit juices which are nutritious and high in calories.

If you want to gain and maintain weight, it is important that you ensure that you have regularly scheduled meals.

Sometimes the demands at work have us so busy that we end up skipping lunch……..or we wake up so late that we have to skip breakfast.

This practice is working against your effort to gain weight.

Make regular meals a priority……..three balanced meals per day supplemented with two or three healthy snacks. (Dried fruits, nuts and seeds are excellent snacks.)

Just a few examples of caloric value of food

8 ounces 2% milk  –  120 calories

2 slices whole wheat bread  –  160 calories

8 ounces orange juice  –  120 calories

1 tablespoon jelly  –  50 calories

1 tablespoon peanut butter  –  100 calories

2 granola cookies  –  100 calories

1 banana  –  120 calories

1/4 cup raisins  –  120 calories

1 piece apple pie  –  350 calories

1 cup peas  –  160 calories

1 sweet potato candied  –  300 calories

1 cup cooked rice  –  230 calories

1 cup pasta  –  155 calories

1 cup mashed potatoes  –  140 calories

1 cup cooked beans  –  225 calories

1 ounce nuts  –  165 calories


Many of you have thought of adopting the vegetarian lifestyle for various reasons.  You have heard of the benefits and are considering making the change…….but for one problem…… You don’t want to lose any weight and you have always heard of the vegetarian diet and the role it plays in weight loss.

You want to keep your nice, slim figure just where it is or you want to add a few pounds because you feel you are on the skinny side.

Have no fear.  Go ahead and make the choice to adopt a vegetarian diet.

Just remember this principle; when energy consumed is greater than energy expended, weight gain will result.

Go ahead. Make the switch.

Enjoy all the benefits of being a vegetarian and gain weight too.

Bon appetit.

Has this article been helpful to you?

I would love to hear from you.

Drop me a line in the comments section below.

4 thoughts on “How To Gain Weight on a Vegetarian Diet”

  1. I think it’s easy to gain weight and I’m sure most would agree with me. You can eat healthy foods and vegetables and still gain weight. Nuts are healthy but contain a lot of calories. Starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes can make you gain weight too. Peanut butter is also healthy but a lot of calories. Wish I had the problem of gaining weight instead of losing it.

    • Hi Rob. I think a lot of people wish that was their problem too….gaining weight that is. 🙂

      There are so many persons that believe that people who are vegetarians will always be skinny as a pole. They are not aware that people on a vegetarian diet can attain and maintain ideal weight (either by gaining weight or losing weight, whichever is necessary).

      Thanks for helping to enlighten such persons with your very valuable comment.

  2. Anne C, thanks for your article on How To Gain Weight on a Vegetarian Diet. This is an important issue for me. I am not a vegetarian but I am thinking of becoming one because of its positive effects on the body. I want to gain weight though and I was wondering how that would be possible on a vegetarian diet. Your article just answered that question. Thanks again!

    • You are welcome Becky. I hope all the information you have seen will give you the nudge in making the decision to adopting a vegetarian lifestyle.


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