Strategies for a Healthy Weight and Gut - Ask a Nutritionist

March 7, 2024

Here at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, we often talk about healthy ways to lose weight. But what about when you need to gain weight in a healthy way? It's not just about eating more calories.

Learn how to help manage your weight with diet, particularly in regards to Hashimoto's Disease - an autoimmune condition that damages the thyroid - and how important gut health is to maintaining a healthy weight with Britni in this week's episode of Ask a Nutritionist.

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BRITNI: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's “Ask a Nutritionist” podcast brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We are thrilled to be celebrating 20 years on air and discussing the connection between what you eat and how you feel while sharing practical real life solutions for healthier living through balanced nutrition.

We really want to thank you for all of your support and listenership throughout the years, but let's get started on today's episode and I will be answering a nutrition question that we've received from one of our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners.

And the question today is eating for Hashimoto's. “I understand gluten free is important, however, how do you gain weight? It can be tricky to keep good weight on and eat enough of a nutrient dense, low carb, or no grain diet. Suggestions?”

I think this is a great question about how to gain weight and I want to apply this to anybody that has the goal of gaining weight. And this individual sounds like she's already eating a lot of real food, she's gluten free, which eliminates a lot of processed things if she's eating naturally occurring gluten free food.

Recommendations for gaining weight if needed

But again, I want to broaden this question to anybody who has the goal of gaining weight. So often people are told if they want to gain weight, just to increase calories, whether it be eating ice cream or waffles or whatever it might be.

And of course, these foods are going to help you gain weight, but it's not necessarily healthy weight that you're gaining from eating these foods. And then you're putting your body at risk by eating these high sugar, highly processed foods. This can cause an increase in body fat. And possibly an increase in visceral fat, which is the fat around your organs in your midsection.

And having high amounts of this visceral fat puts you at higher risk for many different health conditions. So we really want to avoid that. So instead of gaining only body fat to gain weight, it's much more ideal to gain muscle. And yes, this is definitely harder to do, but it's possible. I have had clients successfully gain weight and do it in a healthy way and actually increase muscle in the process.

And sometimes weight gain is a slow process. So just please be patient. Give yourself some time to do this, and the reality is you're probably going to need to eat more in quantity than you are right now.

Protein helps us gain muscle

You know, the key macronutrient to increase muscle is going to be protein. So for gaining muscle, I would probably aim for 5 ounces, which is about 35 grams of protein per meal for women. And 6 to 7 ounces, which is 42 to 49 grams per meal for men. This is after it's cooked. Now this is variable from person to person, but this might be a good place to start.

Or if you are getting nowhere near this amount of protein, maybe you're getting two ounces of protein a meal. Well start with three or four ounces of protein a meal. And that might make a big difference for you. So I know this can sound overwhelming, especially for breakfast, but it really, really does help.

Getting at least 30 grams of protein at breakfast is going to ensure that your muscle synthesis is starting for the day right away, after breakfast. And if you're struggling to get your protein in at breakfast, maybe you eat your breakfast, which could include some sort of eggs.

Adding additional egg whites can be a good way to increase the protein without having it feel as filling or adding some high quality turkey or chicken breakfast sausage, or maybe think outside of the box and do just leftovers for breakfast. And that sometimes can be an easier way to increase your protein intake at that time of day.

Brandy has some other great ideas on how to get your protein on another “Ask a Nutritionist”. How to Get More Protein is what that one is entitled. And then I also did another “Ask a Nutritionist” and the topic was all about Breakfast Ideas. So that one would also give you some other ideas.

Eat healthy fat

Along with the protein, you want to make sure you're getting that healthy fat every single time you eat. This would be like a tablespoon of coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, butter, and that would be per meal or snack. Or half an avocado, quarter cup of nuts, 14 green olives. Those would all be great healthy fats.

Carbohydrate recommendations

And, this listener particularly mentioned eating low carb and since I don't know what this listener is eating specifically, it's hard to know how many carbohydrates that means. But it's possible that maybe you may, you might need to increase your carbohydrates, and this can be a delicate balance. Of course, we don't want to get too many carbohydrates because that can increase inflammation and glucose, but for some individuals, getting too low of carbohydrates is not a good thing either.

I would start with a half a cup of concentrated carbohydrate or starchy carbohydrate every time you eat. That would be like potato, winter squash, sweet potato, beans, lentils if tolerated, and for those that tolerate some grains like quinoa or wild rice; those would all be options.

Protein smoothie: idea to get more healthy food in

And I mentioned this earlier, but chances are to gain weight, you're probably going to need to eat more than you are currently. And I think a really easy way to do that is to add a smoothie in your day. And maybe that could be a great afternoon snack. It's easy to pack a ton of nutrients into a smoothie.

And if you're not super hungry, it's much easier to drink something than it is to sit down and have food and have to chew all of that. So there's tons of smoothie recipes on our website,

Check Out Some of Our Protein Smoothie Recipes!

If you do tolerate dairy, use whey protein. That is particularly great at gaining muscle. If you do not tolerate dairy, I would suggest Paleo Protein, which is made of beef. I promise it doesn't taste like beef. This is the one that I use at home. You can add some fruit in there. I usually opt for frozen fruit. It's cheaper. Also, I like the texture that it provides;

Great opportunity to sneak in some vegetables. That could be spinach, kale, frozen riced cauliflower. Depending on the other flavors, cucumber works in there, zucchini. And, you know, if you didn't know what was in there, then you'd be none the wiser. All the other flavors really do cover up that veggie flavor.

And then we want to make sure to add that healthy fat too. So that could be canned coconut milk, a third of a cup, one or two tablespoons of nut butter, half an avocado. Those would all be great options. You could sneak in some extra fiber into this smoothie: one or two tablespoons of ground flaxseed or chia seed.

If you haven't ever had those, I would start really small, like a teaspoon, and slowly increase so your body adapts to getting more fiber. And if you're not at home in the afternoon to put together this delicious smoothie, you can make it the morning of, and then just drink it later, or you could make a big batch of them and freeze them.

Take it out the morning of, and by the time afternoon rolls around, it should be thawed. I generally freeze them in glass jars, like mason jars, or I save pickle jars, mayonnaise jars, things like that. Just make sure to add some extra room at the top so that it doesn't explode in your freezer. That would not be a good situation.

So it is time to take a very short break. And when we come back, I'm going to talk about why you might not be absorbing your food, which could make it much more difficult to gain weight.


Welcome back from break. I have been talking about ways to gain weight in a healthy way by increasing muscle and another piece to this puzzle to consider is maybe part of the reason it's difficult for you to gain weight is you're not actually absorbing the nutrients that you're consuming.

Focus on gut healing to aid in digestion & absorption

And this listener specifically said that they have Hashimoto's, which is an autoimmune condition. If you're finding it difficult to gain weight and you have an autoimmune condition or digestive symptoms, I would also focus on gut healing if you haven't already, just to ensure that you are actually absorbing all the food that you're consuming.

So, let's dive a little bit into the specifics of this: big picture, gut health and nutrient absorption are linked in a number of different ways. The health of your gut plays a really critical role in how the nutrients are broken down, absorbed and metabolized and when the gut is healthy, it's able to break down the food particles, absorb the nutrients much more efficiently.

When you have an unhealthy gut, there is a decrease in the efficacy of nutrient absorption. And for some people, this can make it much more difficult to gain weight and actually cause people to lose weight. I've had many clients over the years come in with digestive symptoms. And they've lost a lot of weight as a result of it. And it really just again, goes back to the fact that they're not absorbing all the nutrients that they're consuming.

There's also going back to this autoimmune condition, the listener mentioned Hashimoto's. There is a strong connection between autoimmune diseases and leaky gut. And also if you have a lot of digestive symptoms, you know, bloating, constipation, gas, diarrhea, reflux, chances are you also have leaky gut.

Leaky gut is not the topic today, so I'm not going to spend a ton of time on it, but I know it's a word thrown around a lot, and many people just don't know what it means. So, I'm going to give a quick explanation of what is leaky gut? Well, the cells in the lining of the intestinal tract really should form a very tight barrier that manages what stays in the gut and what gets absorbed into the bloodstream.

But when your gut is unhealthy, little holes in the lining of the intestinal tract can actually form. And you can think of it like holes in a garden hose. So food, bacteria, toxins can leak out into your bloodstream from your gut where they're not supposed to be, which causes inflammation and causes an immune response.

If you have an autoimmune condition, it worsens your autoimmune condition and chances are if you have a leaky gut, you are probably not absorbing your nutrients efficiently. Again, since this is not the main topic of our show, here are just some high level, key points to consider to heal your gut:

Making sure that you're eating probiotic rich foods like fermented foods, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, whether that's dairy free with no sugar or dairy if tolerated, kefir, lots of options there. Or take a probiotic. Or both, you know, there was a previous “Ask a Nutritionist” that Leah did called How to Take Probiotics.

She did a great job at taking a deep dive into this topic here. I mentioned fiber earlier in regard to the smoothie. And in general, I would encourage you to eat a fiber rich diet because many fiber rich foods also are prebiotics. So, lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds, some fruits; berries are higher in fiber, beans and lentils if tolerated.

I mentioned the chia and the flaxseed earlier. Those are really easy ways to boost your fiber and both of those are prebiotics. Again, if you're not eating a lot of fiber rich foods right now, start slow, work your way up and make sure that you're drinking enough water when you're doing that.

Otherwise, going from not a lot of fiber to eating a lot of fiber could actually cause some bloating and some constipation. So it really is best to slowly increase and make sure you're flushing it out with water intake. And if we think about your microbiome as a garden, the probiotic acts like the seed and the prebiotics acts as the fertilizer. So the prebiotics are going to feed all those good healthy bugs, making them flourish.

Eliminate food sensitivities

The other key point to consider when healing your gut is to eliminate foods that you're sensitive to. Top culprits are going to be gluten and dairy. For some people, it's not just gluten, but it is all grains. This can be really difficult to figure out on your own. And so working with a nutritionist can be really helpful to determine what foods you might be sensitive to. And then overall, how to heal your gut, how to gain weight, all of that.


In summary, focus on increasing muscle to gain weight. This is going to be a much healthier approach for your longevity. And this means likely you're going to need to eat more protein. Chances are you're also just going to need to eat more volume of food than you currently are. I mentioned adding in a smoothie in the afternoon could be a really easy way to do that to get a lot of nutrients packed into that smoothie.

And then consider the fact that maybe your gut health is poor and you aren't absorbing all the nutrients, making it difficult to gain weight. I mentioned that I've had clients in the past that have lost weight due to poor gut health and I've seen them heal their gut and gain weight in a healthy way.

And as I mentioned earlier, in general, I've seen clients be able to gain weight in a healthy way. So it is possible, but if you have tried all of this, or you're just feeling overwhelmed, not sure where to start, I highly recommend making an appointment. We are here for you to guide you along the way and make an individualized plan for you. Visit our website, to schedule an appointment or give us a call 651-699-3438.

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And I just want to thank you so much for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition's “Ask a Nutritionist”. And if you found this episode helpful, please be sure to leave us a rating review on your favorite podcast app, so we can help even more people discover the connection between what they eat and how they feel.

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Once you're a member of our community, we invite you to join the conversation and share your questions with us. Or another new option is you can call us at 952-641-5233 and you can leave your question in our Dishing Up Nutrition voicemail box. So either way, please don't be shy. If you have a question, just let us know and we really look forward to hearing from you. Thank you so much for joining me today.  

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