Gaining Weight Healthily

Last week I wrote about the pressures to lose weight. This may be for health reasons or simply to conform to society’s expectations when it comes to our physical attributes. But whilst most people are trying to lose weight, some are struggling to gain or even maintain a stable weight. The temptation may be to go for Calorie dense biscuits, chocolate or crisps but this is not going to do anything positive for your  blood sugar or cholesterol levels.

Like losing weight, the best approach is to do it gradually; allow your body time to adjust and learn to appreciate real food. Just as I would not advise starving yourself to lose weight, forcing yourself to eat more than you want to can make weight gain a difficult and unpleasant battle.

The key is to eat little and often whilst choosing calorie and nutrient dense foods (avoid diet, low fat or ‘light’ foods). This way you don’t have to go for huge portions that fill you up, making your plan backfire. I would recommend 3 meals and 3 snacks a day; regularity is vital.

Here are tips to help you along the way:

Whole milk

I am a huge fan of dairy because it provides so much more than Calcium. Milk for example is also a great source of protein, Vitamin B12 and Iodine, all of which we need to stay healthy. Swapping your usual semi-skimmed (2% fat) or skimmed milk (0.1% fat)  for whole milk (4% fat) in your breakfast cereal, porridge or daytime drinks is a very easy way to boost your Calorie intake. Adding a warm milky drink at bed time can also help relax you before bed and enable better sleep.


Like milk, cheese is also a great way to boost your Calcium and protein intake. It’s energy dense too so adding some to pasta, having with crackers or fruit or going back to good old fashioned cheese on toast is a tasty way to top up your energy intake.


It’s really important we include heart-friendly, healthy fats in our diet and watch the levels of saturated fats. Avocados are rich in ‘good’ polyunsaturated fats (the same type we find in olive oil) as well as Potassium (even more than bananas!), fibre and loads of antioxidants. Avocados provide around 160 Calories per 100g and are hugely versatile; you can do so much more with them than turn them into guacamole! Make smoothies, spread them on toast, add to pasta and salads – here are some new fabulous recipes from BBC Good Food.

Olive oil

One of the reasons the Mediterranean diet is considered so healthy is the use of olive oil. Associated with a longer life expectancy and lower risks of high blood pressure and stroke, it just goes to show not all fats are ‘bad’. 1 tablespoon provides around 12o Calories and including 2-3 tablespoons in our daily diet has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease.


Nuts are amazing little power houses; full of protein, fibre, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Here’s a previous blog that will fill you in on all their nutty goodness! So why not make your own trail mix by adding your favourite nuts seeds and dried fruits together in a Tupperware container – try a mix of cashew nuts, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, golden raisins and dried pineapple. And we can’t forget peanut butter! In fact there are loads of nut butters (almond, cashew and walnut for example) that you can add to smoothies and all sorts of savoury dishes as well as spread it on toast or as I do, eat it straight out of the jar 😉

So I will leave you with a delicious nutritious energy bar recipe, made with oats nuts and dried fruit by Emily Angle. These are so much more nutritious than many of the commercial bars available.



  • 120g/4oz rolled jumbo oats
  • 30g/1oz unsweetened puffed rice (not crisped rice cereal)
  • 75g/2½oz toasted flaked almonds
  • 25g/1oz mixed seeds
  • 130g/4½oz stoned dates, chopped
  • 50g/1¾oz dark chocolate chips (optional)
  • 40g/1½oz raisins or dried berries of your choice
  • 100g/3½oz crunchy peanut butter
  • 90g/3¼oz honey


  1. Line a 23cm/9in square tin with baking paper.

  2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.

  3. Spread the oats out onto a baking tray and bake them for about 10 minutes until they smell nice and toasty. Set aside to cool. (You can skip this step, but it makes the bars crispier.)

  4. Mix together the toasted oats, puffed rice, almonds, seeds, chopped dates, chocolate chips, and raisins in a large bowl.

  5. Melt the peanut butter and honey together in a small saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir until the mixture is smooth and thoroughly combined. While still warm, stir the peanut butter and honey into the oat mixture (you may need to get your hands in there) to completely coat all the oats, nuts and fruit.

  6. Tip the mixture into the lined tin and press firmly to make an even layer. Damp hands make this less sticky work. Place the tin into the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up before cutting into 15 bars. Wrap each bar in cling film to keep them fresh, and they’re ready to pop into a your bag.

Recipe Tips

You can customise these with your own blend of nut butters, dried fruits or seeds. Toasting the seeds, nuts and oats will add a stronger nuttier flavour.

If you have a nutritious and energy boosting recipe you’d like to share below, please do!



Chocolate facts of the day

I wrote this in April 2014 when Easter was approaching and the choccy eggs were in the shops (didn’t they appear on boxing day?) so I posted a fact(s) of the day. There are ‘National Chocolate Days’ in various countries across the World so this should stay pretty relevant beyond Easter!

So which is your guilty pleasure? Dark, milk or white chocolate?

What is chocolate?

First we need cocoa beans. Chocolate is a blend of fat (in the form of cocoa butter which is the fatty part of the cocoa bean), cocoa solids (the non fat part of the bean which is ground into a powder) and then some added sugar.  The amount of cocoa solids very much influences the sweetness of the chocolate as the more cocoa put into the chocolate, the less sugar is added, the more bitter the flavour.  The cocoa butter melts at body temperature and gives chocolate its unique mouth-feel mmmmmm.

Dark Chocolate


European regulations state dark chocolate should have a minimum of 35% cocoa solid. This is the amount of cocoa you would find in a bar of Bournville chocolate for example.  These days though, the popularity of the more expensive, gourmet chocolate with 70-85% cocoa has become very popular. High quality dark chocolate should ‘snap’ cleanly when you break it or bite it – it takes longer to melt in the mouth compared to milk or white chocolate as it also contains less cocoa butter.  It is also better for you than milk or white chocolate (more on that later this week). Now this is not an excuse to go mad on the dark stuff, what I am saying is if you are going to eat chocolate, good quality dark chocolate is probably the way to go.  I found an interesting blog about dark IQ Chocolate so have a look!

Milk Chocolate


Milk chocolate must have a minimum of 25% cocoa solids.  It contains more sugar and cocoa butter than dark chocolate and so is sweeter and smoother as it melts more easily in the mouth. This is still the most popular type of chocolate at the moment and is partly to blame for some of those expanding waist lines….

White Chocolate


White chocolate is based on sugar, milk, and cocoa butter only; it contains no solids.  In fact it’s not really chocolate at all! It has a high cocoa butter and sugar content and will often have other ingredients and vanilla flavouring added so is super creamy and sweet – probably why kids love it so much.

Chocolate style, chocolate flavoured and chocolate alternative

These may contain some cocoa powder but they also contain vegetable fats to supplement or replace the cocoa butter. While often used to cover confectionery or ice cream products, they can be molded into solid bars or shapes. They cannot be called chocolate as they do not meet the minimum requirements that defines dark or milk chocolate in terms of the % of cocoa solids.

Carob is a chocolate alternative; made from the carob pod. It is noted for its similarity to cocoa powder; made by drying, roasting and grinding the carob pod after the beans have been removed. The colour and flavour of carob vary according to the roasting process—the longer carob is roasted, the darker its colour and the blander its flavour.

So whether its cocoa beans or carob pods, unfortunately these do not count towards your 5 (or 10) portions of fruit & veg a day! I am a big fan of eating things in moderation though and don’t believe in complete denial of certain ‘bad’ foods. I just don’t think you can beat real chocolate.  For me, I love it, but I want different types of chocolate at different times, depending on how I feel.  After a meal, or when I am full I prefer a little bit of extra dark chocolate; something not too sickly, that provides a sweet ending to a meal.  If I’m watching a film on the sofa, it will generally be milk chocolate (ideally combined with some form of nut………….thinking of M&M’s now……………where was I?………………but I also like white chocolate. It reminds me of my childhood I think; the milky bars are on me!  Those giant white buttons are rather nice…………so that’s it for today, anyone for chocolate?

Find out more with these posts I also wrote  chocolate is addictive, chocolate and migraines, chocolate and heart health, chocolate and diabetes