How To Gain Weight With Diabetes? 7 Tips You Should Try 2022

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Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

how to gain weight with diabetes

Being a diabetic is usually synonymous with having some excess weight. However, this is not always the truth. Many people with diabetes need to keep strong and have healthy body weight or even gain weight as they age. Weight issues often arise as a result of unregulated insulin in your body. 

Insulin is the hormone that causes your body to burn fat stores for energy. However, if insulin becomes erratic and you have constantly fluctuating blood sugar levels, it can result in losing weight. 

If you are confused about where your weight should be, talk to a registered dietitian or doctor. The following ideas can help you know how to gain weight with diabetes.

7 Effective Tips To Gain Weight With Diabetes

  1. Set a goal weight
  2. Get technical
  3. Add calories
  4. Small frequent meals
  5. Smart carbohydrates
  6. Avoid processed foods
  7. Work it out

How To Stop Weight Loss In Diabetes

To stop weight loss, the first thing to consider is you need to consume more calories. However, if you have diabetes, you must also avoid foods that could cause heart disease or blood sugar spikes.  

Therefore, consider the following as you are looking to stop weight loss.

  • Avoid simple carbohydrate foods such as white potatoes, white rice, and white pasta; these spike blood glucose levels and cause glucose to spill into the urine, which results in weight loss.  
  • Avoid processed foods loaded with sugar. 
  • If you are on insulin, double-check your dosage with your doctor. Too much insulin will cause weight loss.  
  • Include many healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) such as avocados, olive oil, and fatty fish.  

Anyone with diabetes considering making significant changes to their diet should speak with a doctor, a certified diabetes educator, or a dietitian before making changes. 

How To Gain Weight With Diabetes: 7 Effective Tips

People with diabetes are usually given advice and meal plans[1] geared toward weight loss rather than weight gain. This can be very frustrating if you need to know how to gain weight while trying to control blood sugars.

Anyone who needs to gain weight should start with a healthy diet consisting of fruits, whole grains, quality protein, and vegetables. This will ensure that you consume calories and balanced nutrition with vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats. 

Here are some tips on increasing your calories while maintaining healthy blood glucose levels. 

Set A Goal Weight

how to gain weight with diabetes

It’s important to know what a healthy weight for you looks like. That way, you can start setting weekly goals to help achieve your ideal weight and avoid unintentional weight loss. To begin, you need to understand your BMI, which calculates your body mass index. This number tells you whether you are at a healthy weight for your height. 

You can use many BMI calculators[2] online for free and type in your personal dimensions. This tool will help you determine an appropriate weight for your height. 

Get Technical

how to gain weight with diabetes

There’s an application (app)[3] for managing diabetes, actually several. An app can be so helpful for anyone with diabetes. It doesn’t matter if you have gestational diabetes or type 1 or 2.

Figuring out what your activity level and food intake should be, since they may alter your blood sugar levels, is crucial in managing your diabetes. And there is an app for almost everything you might need.

It may be tough to decipher which app will best suit your lifestyle. Here are a few things to look for when picking[3] the best app for you

Determine your needs before looking at different apps

Some examples include

  • Tracking blood sugar levels
  • Weight tracking changes
  • Food journaling with calorie tracking to keep track of your caloric intake
  • Medical information storage

Decide the price you are willing to pay

  • Some apps are free, while others can run a monthly fee

Check user reviews

  • User reviews help you know what people have struggled with and which things are beneficial.  
  • Reviews will help you determine the user-friendliness of the app

Review the capabilities of the app

  • Can the app sync with your other devices?  
  • If you use an insulin pump, some apps will sync with it, saving you time and is essential for health management and avoiding unexplained weight loss.

Remember that an app should make your life easier, not harder. If you have downloaded an app that is tricky and time-consuming, then pick another. There are so many diabetic management apps on the market today. You should have one that makes your life simpler.

Add Calories 

how to gain weight with diabetes

To gain a half pound to a pound a week, you’ll need an additional 250 – 500 calories daily. Adding calories[4] to what you are already eating is an excellent way to accomplish this without adding bulk to your foods. Here are some ideas

  • Add peanut butter or nut butter to crackers, toast, or celery 
  • Mix cheese into soups, salads, or add to snacks
  • Add dips to crackers and chips
  • Smash avocado onto toast, chips, or salads
  • Combine full-fat milk or dry milk with soups and stews
  • Add full-fat cream to soups or mashed potatoes

Small Frequent Meals

how to gain weight with diabetes

The best way to gain weight is to increase the number of calories you consume. The easiest way to do this is to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, ideally six meals daily. 

This may be quite different than how you are used to eating. Therefore, before you start, consider planning your meals for the week. While planning your meals, consider nutrient-dense foods to ensure you are getting proper nutrition. Some key things to keep in your meals daily include

  • Quality protein sources such as fish, chicken, grass-fed beef, legumes, beans, and turkey.
  • Snacks rich in unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, and avocados
  • Whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, barley, and buckwheat
  • Whole fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Full-fat dairy products (full-fat greek yogurt, milk, etc.) with no added sugars

Also, do not drink fluids with meals. Instead, drink them between meals, so you are not full on low-calorie or no-calorie beverages at mealtime.   

Smart Carbohydrates

how to gain weight with diabetes

While planning your six meals daily, discard simple carbohydrates (carbs) and replace them with low glycemic index carbohydrates.

A glycemic index[5] is a tool that shows how fast or slow sugar from food is digested into your bloodstream. A high glycemic food will typically cause a high blood sugar reaction followed by low blood sugar levels leading to dysregulation.

Examples of high glycemic index foods include

  • Soda
  • Cookies
  • Candy
  • Flavored coffee drinks
  • Juice
  • Pastries 

Conversely, foods that are lower on the GI scale are digested and absorbed at a lower rate, meaning they will unlikely cause a high blood sugar response. These foods are typically high in fat, protein, or fiber, for example

  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Grapefruit
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Wild Rice

Additionally, adding protein-rich foods or healthy fat sources along with carbohydrate foods can help increase your calories while still stabilizing blood sugar levels.  

When it comes to gaining a few pounds, it’s essential to focus on getting in more healthy fats. Unlike protein and carbohydrates, you will get more calories per gram when you consume fats. Fats have nine calories per gram compared to four calories per gram for protein and carbs.

However, remember that you add unsaturated fats to your diet as those with diabetes are more prone to heart disease. Good wholesome, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats include

  • Avocados and avocado oil
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Nut butter and seed butter
  • Fatty Fish
  • Flaxseeds

Avoid Processed Foods

how to gain weight with diabetes

So how do you gain weight fast with type 2 diabetes? Many unwittingly increase their intake of processed foods. However, these foods are typically loaded with sugar and are terrible for people with diabetes.

People with diabetes should avoid foods like soda, cookies, cakes, pastries, fast foods, etc., as they contain few nutrients and are typically high in sugar and unhealthy fats. 

Work It Out

how to gain weight with diabetes

When someone is trying to gain weight, working out isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, it could make a big difference in weight gain and appetite. Specifically, weight lifting or resistance training is excellent for increasing muscle mass. 

In addition, research[6] suggests that resistance training and working out with weight machines can significantly increase appetite.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for aerobic[7] activity, which has been shown to suppress appetite. Furthermore, increasing muscle tissue adds lean muscle weight to your BMI. 

What Foods Can Help a Diabetic Gain Weight?

Focus on getting high-quality fats such as avocados, olives, and fatty fish. Next, add a good protein source with each meal, such as nuts, seeds, chicken, turkey, etc. Then finish your meals with carbohydrates low on the GI scale, such as apples, berries, quinoa, or wild rice. 

A diet high in calories but low in nutrients can cause nutritional deficiencies, so ensure you eat a balanced diet. You may need a nutritional supplement if you cannot eat enough nutrient-rich foods. Also, if you are on insulin, take enough insulin to match your weight and dietary needs.

Drink caffeine-free, alcohol-free beverages and focus on full-fat dairy. In addition, eat snacks that are nutrient-dense and high in calories, such as full-fat Greek yogurt with berries.

Conclusion

Trying to gain weight while having diabetes can be challenging without any guidance. However, knowing the right foods to choose and which ones to avoid can get you started in the right direction. From there, determine your ideal weight, consume several small meals a day, and grab a diabetes tracking app to help you along the way.  

Remember that your doctor, dietitian, or other health care professional is trained to help you along your journey. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them for meal plans, goals, stress reduction, and fitness routines to ensure you will succeed with your weight gain goals in conjunction with your diabetes treatment plan. 


+ 7 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Diabetes.org. (2022). Meal Planning | ADA. [online] Available at: https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/meal-planning
  2. Nih.gov. (2022). Calculate Your BMI – Standard BMI Calculator. [online] Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm
  3. Chavez, S., Fedele, D., Guo, Y., Bernier, A., Smith, M., Warnick, J. and Modave, F. (2017). Mobile Apps for the Management of Diabetes. Diabetes Care, [online] 40(10), pp.e145–e146. doi:10.2337/dc17-0853.
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2020). Underweight? Healthy tips for adding pounds. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/underweight/faq-20058429
  5. Eatright.org. (2019). What Is Glycemic Index? [online] Available at: https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/what-is-glycemic-index
  6. Jafari, A., Peeri, M., Ali, M. and Matin, H. (2017). Effect of Resistance Training on Appetite Regulation and Level of Related Peptidesin Sedentary Healthy Men. Medical Laboratory Journal, [online] 11(4). Available at: https://mlj.goums.ac.ir/article-1-1025-en.pdf.
  7. Dorling, J., Broom, D., Burns, S., Clayton, D., Deighton, K., James, L., King, J., Miyashita, M., Thackray, A., Batterham, R. and Stensel, D. (2018). Acute and Chronic Effects of Exercise on Appetite, Energy Intake, and Appetite-Related Hormones: The Modulating Effect of Adiposity, Sex, and Habitual Physical Activity. Nutrients, [online] 10(9), p.1140. doi:10.3390/nu10091140.

Written by:

Alexandra Gregg, RD

Medically reviewed by:

Alexandra Gregg is a registered and licensed dietitian with a private practice in Kansas City, Missouri. After studying Nutrition and Dietetics at Northwest Missouri State she completed her Dietetic Internship at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, MN. Following her dietetic internship, Allie worked at Mayo Clinic in a variety of areas including nutrition support, geriatrics, neonatology, and pediatrics. In addition, she was a regular presenter at Mayo Clinic conferences and an educator for dietetic interns.

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