Whether you are struggling to meet your daily maintenance calories or can’t seem to eat the amount you need to put on muscle, not hitting your calorie target can feel extremely frustrating.
There are many different tips and tricks you can implement to increase the number of calories you are eating, such as cooking with high-calorie oils, adding more condiments to your food, and eating frequently throughout the day. You can also set alarms to tell you to eat and consume more liquid calories.
In this article, I will discuss various ways you can increase your calorie intake if you are struggling to get enough. I’ll also provide some examples of high-calorie foods and simple swaps you can make to your meals to boost your calorie intake.
15 Tips for Eating More if You Struggle To Eat Enough Calories
If you’re struggling to meet your calorie goals, here are 15 tips to help you consume more calories:
1. Eat Frequent Meals Throughout the Day (At Least Three Meals)
One of the best habits that you can adopt to ensure you are meeting your calorie target is to eat frequent meals throughout the day on a consistent basis. If you are only consuming a few meals a day, it is going to be very difficult to hit your calorie goal for the day.
If you have been struggling to get in enough calories, it would be best to aim to consume at least three meals a day, with snacks in between, or 5-6 smaller meals a day. In instances where you are consuming a meal every 2-3 hours, you will most likely not feel hungry when that meal arrives, but you should aim to eat regardless.
When you aren’t feeling hungry, it is much easier to eat smaller meals more frequently as opposed to sitting down to a very large meal that will take your body hours to digest.
2. Choose Full-Fat Options of Your Favorite Dairy Products
A very simple and easy swap that you can make to increase your calorie intake is to switch out the low-fat/no-fat dairy that you are consuming for a higher fat version.
This will automatically increase the number of calories you are consuming at meals that you would normally be eating these products.
For example, if you normally consume 1 cup of skim milk with your breakfast, you would be consuming around 90 calories. If you were to swap out this skim milk for 1 cup of whole milk, you would then be consuming 150 calories.
Similarly, if you normally eat 1 cup of 0% Plain Greek Yogurt in your snack, this will equal about 130 calories. Swapping this out for the same amount of full-fat yogurt would increase your calorie intake to 230 calories. This one simple adjustment adds a whopping 100 calories to your daily intake!
- If you can’t eat dairy due to a dairy intolerance, consider these high-calorie, dairy-free alternatives to milk.
3. Blend Your Calories into a Smoothie for Easier Ingestion
Using smoothies to hit your calorie target is a very effective way to ingest a large number of calories without the heavy burden on your digestive system. Smoothies are great because they can be effective for both a low-calorie and a high-calorie diet, depending on the ingredients you include.
If your goal is to create a high-calorie smoothie, you can opt for high-calorie ingredients such as:
- Protein powder (you can purchase mass gainer brands or ready-made protein shakes that are higher in calories)
- Whole milk
- Full-fat yogurt
- Whole coconut cream
- Nuts (such as almonds and cashews)
- Nut butters (such as almond butter and peanut butter)
- Shredded coconut
- Higher-calorie fruits such as bananas, figs, and dates
When you blend the ingredients in a smoothie, you are breaking down some of the fiber in the ingredients that would make you feel very full if you were to eat all of the ingredients separately.
That is why smoothies are such a great tool if you are currently struggling to get in enough calories.
4. Use Oils and Butter to Cook Your Food
Including oils and butter in your cooking process is a great way to increase your calorie intake since oils contain a very high number of calories due to their fat content but are not accompanied by any filling fiber.
Not only that, but cooking with oils and butter can enhance the taste of your meal as well.
One tablespoon of olive oil contains about 120 calories, making it extremely calorie dense and an easy add-in to increase the calorie content of your meal.
Similar to oil, butter is a great addition to cooking certain foods like eggs, potatoes, and rice. Butter contains about 100 calories per tablespoon.
5. Consume Carbs That Are Lower in Fiber
If you are struggling to hit your daily calorie target as a result of not feeling hungry, you might want to look at the types of carbs and the amount of fiber that you are consuming.
While we most definitely want to be eating quality carbs and fiber for the health of our digestive system and blood sugar regulation, eating too much fiber may be leaving you feeling too full.
When you eat carbs that are lower in fiber, they are digested much more quickly, which means that you will not feel full for as long in comparison to eating high-fiber carbs.
Therefore, if you are trying to eat more calories, it might be worthwhile to swap out some of the high-fiber carbs for lower-fiber alternatives.
For example, you can swap out the following carb sources for their lower-fiber alternatives:
- Whole grain bread for white bread
- Brown rice for white rice
- Whole grain pasta for white pasta
- Whole or steel-cut oats for quick oats
By making these simple swaps with your carbs, you will ensure that you will be eating less fiber, which means that you won’t be as full for as long, and you will be able to consume more calories overall.
- Many protein bars have a lot of added fiber as well, but you can swap them out with low-fiber protein bar alternatives.
6. Increase Your Liquid Calorie Intake
If you are frequently consuming beverages that don’t contain any calories, it might be worthwhile to swap a few of these drinks out for liquids that contain calories in order to boost your intake.
For example, if you normally drink your coffee black, you could add calories to this drink by adding in cream and sugar or opting for a latte made with full-fat milk.
While you obviously do not want to stop drinking water, you could also incorporate other hydrating beverages such as coconut water and fruit juice. This would be more optimal in comparison to guzzling down soda every day since soda contains more ingredients that can be harmful to your health.
7. Start Consuming Your Meals Earlier in the Day
While it might seem obvious, waking up and beginning to consume your meals earlier in the day will increase the amount of time that you have to get your calories in. This is particularly helpful if you are aiming to consume a meal or a snack every 2-3 hours.
For example, if you don’t have your first meal until 11:00am, it is going to be much more difficult for you to consume as many calories as you would if you were to wake up and eat at 6:00am.
If you consume your first small meal at 6:00am, you could already have 2-3 small meals before 12:00pm, unlike if you were to begin eating at 11:00am.
8. Incorporate Condiments and Sauces Into Your Meals
The addition of certain condiments and/or sauces to your food will not only increase the calorie content of your meal but can enhance the taste of your meal as well. You can add a significant number of calories to your meal depending on the type of condiment you use.
Another example would be eating a serving of protein pancakes for breakfast and adding ¼ cup of maple syrup, which would increase the calorie content of your breakfast by around 208 calories.
Other condiments and sauces that you can add to your meals to boost calorie content include:
- BBQ sauce (172 calories per 100 grams)
- Teriyaki sauce (89 calories per 100 grams)
- Mayonnaise (680 calories per 100 grams)
- Ketchup (112 calories per 100 grams)
- Honey (304 calories per 100 grams)
- Soy sauce (53 calories per 100 grams)
- Fruit jam (267 calories per 100 grams)
- Hummus (166 calories per 100 grams)
9. Avoid Drinking Too Many Liquids at Mealtime
Although we went over drinking some of your calories through your beverages in the section above, you want to make sure that you are not drinking too much liquid right around or during your mealtime.
The reason for this is that you do not want to fill up on your liquids and have no room in your stomach for your meal.
In addition to this, drinking too many liquids right before or during your mealtime can deplete the digestive enzymes in your stomach that are needed to break down your food. Ultimately this can lead to indigestion.
In order to get your water intake in without filling up on it during your mealtime, try consuming the majority of your liquids away from your mealtime. Ideally, you want to drink most of your liquid around 1-2 hours before or after you eat a meal.
- Related Aricle: Calories On Rest Days: 7 Rules To Follow (With Sample Plan)
10. Incorporate Weight Training to Help Increase your Appetite and Build Muscle
If you are someone who experiences low hunger levels and a meager appetite, incorporating weight training will help to increase your appetite so that you will want to eat more.
When you weight train, your body requires more calories to carry your body through the workout, along with repairing the muscle tissue after the workout is finished.
In addition to this, when you weight train you add muscle mass to your frame, which will ultimately increase your metabolism and your calorie requirement.
If your appetite is low but you are very sedentary throughout the day, try incorporating some movement into your routine on a consistent basis in order to stimulate your appetite.
11. Set an Alarm to Remind You to Eat
A struggle that many people have when it comes to hitting their calorie target is not noticing their body’s natural hunger cues and signals. This can occur for a variety of reasons, with the main cause being having a high amount of stress or a fast-paced or busy work schedule.
When you forget to eat during the day, it will become increasingly difficult to hit your calorie goal. In order to combat this, try setting an alarm on your phone for each of your meals as a reminder to stop and take the time to eat.
After doing this for a consistent period of time, it is likely that you will have formed a habit with your meal times, and you will no longer need the phone alarm to remind you to eat.
12. Include Plenty of Energy-Dense Snacks
If you struggle to meet your daily calorie goal, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that you are choosing higher-calorie, energy-dense snacks in opposition to lower-calorie options.
Easy, on the go snack ideas that are high in calories and still nutritious include:
- Nuts and seeds (such as hemp seeds or chia seeds) or trail mix
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Cheese and crackers
- Avocado toast
- Full-fat yogurt with berries (such as blueberries or strawberries) and honey
- Medjool dates stuffed with peanut butter
- Full-fat cottage cheese with fruit
For more ideas, check out my other articles on Top 10 Foods High In Calories But Low In Sugar and Top 10 Foods High In Calories But Low In Saturated Fat.
13. Eat the Most Energy-Dense Foods in Your Meal Before the Low-Calorie Foods
If you are looking to increase your calorie intake but struggle to finish your meals, you should aim to consume the high-calorie parts of your meal prior to the lower-calorie components in order to maximize your calorie intake.
For example, if you have prepared a meal that consists of chicken thighs, rice, and vegetables, you would want to eat the chicken thighs first as they are the highest in calories, followed by the rice, and ending with the vegetables.
With that said, you want to make sure that this style of eating does not result in you never finishing your vegetables. If you fail to eat your vegetables on a consistent basis, you may be missing out on essential vitamins and nutrients that are essential for overall health and well-being.
- If eating a lot of vegetables causes digestive issues, there are still many high-calorie, low-FODMAP foods you can include in your diet to increase your calorie intake.
14. Aim to Get Most of Your Calories From Nutrient-Dense Foods Over Processed Foods
When you are aiming to increase your calories, it can be tempting to do this with high-calorie, highly processed foods such as fast food. While this might be alluring, you want to ensure that the majority of your calories are coming from whole foods that are nutrient-dense.
The reason for this is that the types of foods that you eat can have an effect on functions in the body such as your digestive system and your hormones.
If you are frequently eating highly processed foods that contain minimal nutrients, you run the risk of acquiring health problems that will make it more difficult for you to reach your goal.
Even if your goal is weight gain, you don’t necessarily want to experience the weight gain seen from eating an abundance of highly processed foods. Weight gain from processed foods is usually due to excess fat from metabolic dysfunction, which is much different from healthy weight gain from muscle mass.
Some examples of nutrient-dense foods that are also high in calories are:
- Full-fat dairy
- Fatty cuts of meat such as steak or corned beef
- Fatty fish such as salmon
- Starchy carbs such as rice, oats, and potatoes
- Dried fruit such as raisins
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and legumes
- Plant fats such as coconut and avocado
15. Eat Foods That You Truly Enjoy
Last but certainly not least, one easy and very effective way to help you to eat more calories is to choose foods that you truly enjoy!
While this may seem obvious, it is common for people to get into food “ruts,” where they may only be eating a meal out of convenience rather than true enjoyment.
When you are truly enjoying the foods that you are eating, not only are you going to gain more satisfaction from your meals, but you are much more likely to consume more calories at that meal than you would if you don’t enjoy the taste.
If you think you might be in a food rut, expand your horizons in the kitchen by looking up new recipes that catch your eye and giving them a try. The more often you do this, the more likely you are to experience true enjoyment and satisfaction from the food you are eating.
What To Read Next
- 10 Easy 1000 Calorie Meals
- Do Macros Matter for Bulking? (Yes, Here’s Why)
- Eating 5000 Calories A Day & Not Gaining Weight (5 Reasons)
- How To Count Calories Without Labels (4 Ways)
- Gaining Muscle Without Counting Calories or Macros (7 Tips)
- Can You Build Muscle With A Bad Diet?
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About The Author
Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.
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