It’s common practice to consume endless amounts of carbs in order to gain weight. For some, this approach is effective. But for others, this can be a recipe for disaster. If you find that overindulging in carb-heavy snacks and meals leads to bloating and sluggishness rather than actual weight again, maybe it’s time to switch things up. The solution could be to add high-calorie, low-carb foods to your diet. Not only are these foods a low-carb option, but they can also help you gain weight safely and effectively – whether you’re a weightlifter looking to bulk up or simply trying to add a few extra pounds for health reasons. In this article, we’ll show you thirteen of the best high-calorie, low-carb foods that will help you achieve your weight gain goals while keeping you healthy and happy. So put down that slice of bread and let’s get started on the ultimate guide to safe and successful weight gain!
What Is High Calorie, Low Carb?
It is possible for a food to be high calorie and low carb (12). This may seem contradictory, but calories and carbs are two separate things.
Calories are a measure of the energy content of food, while carbs are one of the three macronutrients (along with protein and fat) that provide the body with energy.
Certain foods, such as nuts and seeds, are naturally high in calories but low in carbs. Other foods, like whole-milk yogurt, may also be considered high-calorie and low-carb as long as the other ingredients are chosen carefully.
That said, not all the foods that are high in calories and low in carbs are good for weight gain. Some of these foods, like processed junk foods may contain a lot of calories and few carbs yet lack the essential nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy and build muscle.
In addition, while low-carb diets are effective for weight loss, they may not be the best choice for those looking to gain weight. Your body needs carbs to function properly, and cutting them out completely can leave you feeling fatigued and unmotivated.
So with that in mind, let’s look at thirteen of the best high-calorie, low-carb foods that will help you gain weight safely and effectively.
What Are The Best Low Carb High Calorie Foods?
The foods in the list of high calorie low carb foods to gain weight share a number of common characteristics:
- they are high in calories
- they are low in carbs
- they contain a good balance of protein, fats and other essential nutrients
- they are easily digested
- they are minimally processed
- they can be made at home
- they can be made into tasty meals or snacks
In addition to being high in monounsaturated fats, fiber, and vitamins, avocados contain potent antioxidants such as carotenoids and tocopherols. These antioxidants may help reduce inflammation, protect cells from damage, and play a role in disease prevention (17).
Research suggests that consuming avocados regularly may improve heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the bloodstream (1). The fiber content in avocados also promotes healthy digestion and may help regulate blood sugar levels.
Here’s a high-calorie, low-carb meal idea using avocados:
- Slice an avocado in half and fill it with protein-rich quinoa, black beans, feta cheese, and diced tomatoes.
- Drizzle with olive oil and enjoy either as a side dish or main course.
2. Fatty Fish
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish are essential fatty acids, meaning they cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through diet. These fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function and development, reduce inflammation, and boost heart health (15).
Eating fatty fish regularly has been shown to lower the risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Fatty fish is also an excellent source of vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones and may help prevent a wide range of chronic diseases (9).
There are many fatty fish to choose from, including salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout. Salmon is a popular choice, as it is high in omega-3 fatty acids and rich in B vitamins (15).
Try this meal idea for a delicious high-calorie, low-carb dish:
- Rub a salmon fillet with olive oil, lemon juice, and your favorite herbs.
- Grill or bake for 10–15 minutes and serve with steamed vegetables.
3.Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of plant-based protein and healthy fats, which can help regulate appetite and promote feelings of fullness. They also contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making them a nutrient-dense snack option (10).
Studies have linked nut consumption to a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Nuts and seeds may also help lower inflammation in the body and improve blood sugar control, which is important for those looking to gain weight in a healthy way (10).
While nuts and seeds pack a punch when it comes to nutrition, they aren’t very filling. Knowing this, we recommend adding them to meals or snacks to make them more satisfying and healthy.
A crunchy salad topped with roasted almonds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds makes for a tasty meal or snack. You can also make your own trail mix by combining different nuts and seeds of your choice.
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4. Grass-Fed Beef
It’s not a coincidence that we specify grass-fed beef. Unlike grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef is thought to be higher in essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and E, and antioxidants (14).
The higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants in grass-fed beef may help reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and protect cells from oxidative damage. Grass-fed beef is also higher in conjugated linoleic acid, which has been linked to improved body composition and other health benefits (14).
The price point of grass-fed beef may be higher, and the taste and texture may be slightly different than grain-fed beef, but the health benefits are worth it. Even then, grain-fed beef can be considered a high-calorie, low-carb meal plan as long as it is kept to moderate amounts.
Here’s a quick and meal idea featuring grass-fed beef:
- Use butter, garlic, and your favorite herbs to marinate steak and cook it on a skillet or grill.
- Serve with roasted vegetables for a tasty and nutritious meal.
Eggs are perhaps the most versatile and nutritious food in existence. They’re full of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They contain all nine essential amino acids and are a great source of choline, which is important for cognitive function (16).
Eating eggs regularly provides nutrients that may reduce the risk of stroke, improve eye health, boost brain power, and support muscle growth (16). Furthermore, studies suggest that eating eggs for breakfast can help regulate appetite and lead to better overall food choices throughout the day.
Eggs make a great high-calorie, low-carb addition to any meal. Try scrambling or baking eggs for breakfast, adding them to salads for lunch, or making deviled eggs as a savory snack.
Cheese is a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. It also provides essential amino acids and other nutrients, including phosphorus, zinc, and vitamin B12. Full-fat varieties like cheddar, blue cheese, and mozzarella are higher in calories and fat than their low-fat counterparts (5).
Regularly consuming cheese may aid weight management and improve body composition, as the fat in it helps keep you feeling full for longer periods of time (5).
However, cheese can also be high in sodium and saturated fats, which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and other health issues (7).
While it’s fine to enjoy cheese in moderation as part of a healthy diet, particularly when it’s paired with other nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and nuts, too much cheese can lead to weight gain and other health problems.
Here’s a simple meal idea:
- Melt cheddar cheese on a grilled chicken breast or use as a topping for a taco salad.
7. Beef Jerky
Beef jerky is a convenient, high-protein snack that is low in carbs. It is made from lean beef that has been dried and flavored. Beef jerky is an excellent source of protein, as well as certain minerals such as iron and zinc (2).
It is also a good source of fats, including omega-3 fatty acids.
However, some types of beef jerky can be high in sodium, and some brands may use preservatives or additives that have questionable health effects. When selecting beef jerky, opt for options made from grass-fed beef and without harmful additives.
Simple meal idea:
- Pair beef jerky with almonds or other nuts for a high-protein, low-carb snack.
Sure, bacon isn’t exactly a healthy food, but it can still be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Bacon is an excellent source of protein and fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains certain vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and zinc (4).
Bacon can also be a great addition to high-calorie, low-carb meals, as it provides plenty of flavor with minimal carbohydrates (4).
However, bacon is very high in sodium and saturated fat. Consuming too much can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease and other health problems.
Simple meal idea:
- Wrap a piece of cooked bacon around an avocado half for a delicious snack.
9. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, but it’s considered by some to be a “healthy” fat because it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are metabolized differently than other types of fats and may help reduce body weight and improve overall health. It also contains lauric acid, which may help support immunity and reduce inflammation (11).
Coconut oil is a versatile cooking oil that can be used in a variety of dishes, including stir-fries, curries, and baked goods. It has a mild coconut flavor and aroma that adds depth to savory dishes.
Simple meal idea:
- Use coconut oil to sauté vegetables such as mushrooms, onions, and peppers for a flavorful side dish.
10. Dried Coconut/Coconut Milk
Dried coconut and coconut milk are both great sources of healthy fats. Dried coconut is high in fiber and can help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol, and support gut health. Coconut milk is a creamy dairy alternative (3).
It also contains minerals such as manganese, iron, copper, and magnesium. It’s an excellent source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) (3).
Simple meal idea: Blend frozen bananas with coconut milk for a creamy smoothie or use coconut milk in oatmeal for extra creaminess.
Vegetables are rarely ever classified as high-calorie simply because they have so few calories. But soybean sprouts are an exception to the rule, offering a good source of high-calorie nutrition. In comparison to other vegetables, they are much lower in carbs and higher in fat, protein, and calories.
Soybean sprouts are a great source of B vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. They also contain phytonutrients that may help reduce inflammation and improve heart health (13).
Simple meal idea:
- Top your taco salad with soybean sprouts for added crunch and nutrition.
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12. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate often gets a bad rap due to its high sugar content, but dark chocolate can actually be a healthful treat when enjoyed in moderation.
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and healthy fats that may help reduce inflammation and improve heart health. It also contains small amounts of minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium (6).
Keep in mind that most commercial dark chocolates have added sugar and other unhealthy ingredients, so choose one with a minimal ingredient list for the most health benefits.
Simple meal idea:
- Top your oatmeal with a few pieces of dark chocolate for extra sweetness and flavor.
Lard is a type of fat that is rendered from pork. It is high in calories and fat, but it is also a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats. Additionally lard provides essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, phosphorus, and zinc.
Lard produced from pigs which were fed an omega-3 fortified diet was seen to have a positive impact on blood lipid levels in mice (8). Lard is also a great substitute for butter and other vegetable oils when cooking or baking .
While it is high in calories and low in carbs, it is also high in saturated fats which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other health issues. It would be best to limit the consumption of lard and other foods high in unhealthy fats.
Simple meal idea:
- Use lard to sear and cook a steak or other types of meat for a flavorful low-carb meal.
The Bottom Line
High calorie, low carb foods can be a great addition to any healthy diet. They provide essential nutrients and minerals, while also offering a good source of energy.
Just remember to enjoy these foods in moderation and get plenty of other nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Avocado Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in US Adults (2022, nih.gov)
- A comprehensive review of drying meat products and the associated effects and changes (2022, nih.gov)
- Antioxidant and Nutritional Properties of Domestic and Commercial Coconut Milk Preparations (2020, nih.gov)
- Bacon (n.d., nutritionfacts.org)
- Cheese and Healthy Diet: Associations With Incident Cardio-Metabolic Diseases and All-Cause Mortality in the General Population (2019, nih.gov)
- Dark chocolate: An overview of its biological activity, processing, and fortification approaches (2022, nih.gov)
- Effect of Cheese Intake on Cardiovascular Diseases and Cardiovascular Biomarkers (2022, nih.gov)
- Effects of Omega-3-Rich Pork Lard on Serum Lipid Profile and Gut Microbiome in C57BL/6NJ Mice (2022, nih.gov)
- Health Benefits of Fish (n.d., doh.wa.gov)
- Health Benefits of Nut Consumption (2010, nih.gov)
- Health Effects of Coconut Oil-A Narrative Review of Current Evidence (2018, nih.gov)
- Low Carbohydrate Diet (2023, nih.gov)
- Macronutrients, Phytochemicals, and Antioxidant Activity of Soybean Sprout Germinated with or without Light Exposure (2023, nih.gov)
- Nutritional Benefits from Fatty Acids in Organic and Grass-Fed Beef (2022, nih.gov)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids Fact Sheet for Consumers (2022, nih.gov)
- The Golden Egg: Nutritional Value, Bioactivities, and Emerging Benefits for Human Health (2019, nih.gov)
- The Odyssey of Bioactive Compounds in Avocado (Persea americana) and Their Health Benefits (2019, nih.gov)