How to Add More Calories and Protein to Your Diet

Eating enough calories and protein can help your body fight infections, improve healing and recovery from surgery or illness and keep you at a healthy weight while helping your body build muscle. 
How much calories and protein should you eat each day?

You can calculate your calorie requirements here based on your age, height, weight, sex and activity level. This provides an estimate of the number of daily calories your body needs to maintain your current weight. If you are looking to gain weight, input your ideal body weight instead of your current weight. 

The minimum amount of protein you should have is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. The maximum amount you want to have is around 1.6 g/kg/day if you are regularly weight training.

For example, if your body weight is 60 kilograms, you need 48-96 grams of protein/day (0.8 and 1.6 x 60). You can then divide this amount of protein between meals and snacks and spread it throughout the day.

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How to choose high protein foods

Protein is an essential building block of every cell in our bodies. Without enough protein, your body can not maintain or repair itself. Based on your protein requirements, you can choose a variety of protein options while aiming to hit your goal intake. 

Varying amounts of protein are found in different types of food. The food groups that provide the majority of protein are Meat and Alternatives and Milk and Alternatives.

  • Meat and Alternatives provide a variety of essential nutrients including protein, iron, B vitamins and zinc.
  • Milk and Alternatives provide many necessary nutrients including calcium, vitamin D, potassium, protein and fat.
 Protein content of some common foods

Food Group

Type of food Serving size Amount of protein/ serving (grams)

Milk & Alternatives

 

Milk (Skim, 1%, 2%)

Fortified soy beverage

Yogurt 

Yogurt (Greek)

Cottage cheese

Ricotta cheese

Goat cheese

Hard cheeses

Feta cheese

1 cup or 250ml

 

9

7

 

9

14

 

15

15

15

12.5

7


¾ cup or 175ml

 

½ cup or 125ml

½ cup or 125ml

50g (1.5 oz)

50g (1.5 oz)

50g (1.5 oz)

Meats & Alternatives Tofu, regular, firm,

 

Peas, beans and lentils

Split peas

Lentils

Soybean

Kidney beans

Chick peas

Pinto beans

Lima beans

Hummus

 

 

 

 

 

175 ml (3/4 cup)

 

 

 

 

 

125 ml (1/2 cup)

28

 

 

 

18

13

12

10

9

9

6

10

Meats & Alternatives 2 Eggs (medium)

Meat, poultry and fish

Lamb

Beef

Ground beef

Tuna

Duck

Liver

Pork chop

Veal

Salmon

Shrimp

Sardines

White fish 

Ham

Crab meat

Chicken

Turkey

Sausage

Bologna

 

 

 

 

 

 

75 g (2 ½ oz) or ½ cup (125mL)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11

 

 

23

20

18

19

18

18

18

18

18

18

18

17

17

16

14

14

14

12

Nuts and seeds

Almonds

Almond butter

Peanuts

Peanut butter

Cashews

Sesame seeds

Sunflower seeds

Pine nuts

Walnuts

 

¼ cup (60ml)

2 tbsp

¼ cup

2 tbsp

¼ cup

¼ cup

¼ cup

¼ cup

¼ cup

 

13

5

9

7

6

6

6

5

4

Breads and Cereals Quinoa

Rice, brown

Pasta, whole wheat

Oats

Couscous

Barley, pearled


Bread, whole wheat

Bread, white

 

English muffin

 

High protein cereal

Shredded wheat

Vector

Go Lean

Muesli

 

½ cup (125 ml)

13

3

4

4

3

3

 


5

3

 

5

 

 

11

11

9

8

1 slice

1 small

1 cup

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How to add calories to your meals and snacks

Spreads and dips can add calories and healthy fats.

  • Spread butter, margarine, peanut butter, mayonnaise, jam and cream cheese on bread
  • Avocados are a delicious addition, high in healthy fats which can be added to salads, sandwiches and pizza
  • Dip vegetables in hummus, guacamole or sour cream

Nuts and nut butters such as almond and peanut butter are high in calories and are an easy grab-and-go snack.

  • Add nuts and seeds to yogurt, salads or cereal
  • Spread nut butters on toast or add them to smoothies and milkshakes

Starchy foods such as bread, pasta and potatoes are a great way to add calories to meals. Try to choose higher calorie grain options such as buckwheat, bulgur and quinoa. 

Milk products are a nutrient-dense option.

  • Choose milk products with at least 2% milk fat (M.F.)
  • Add milk powder to beverages and soups
  • Eat cottage cheese with a side of fruit or in sandwiches
  • Choose Greek or Skyr yogurt for a higher protein yogurt option
  • Add grated cheese or yogurt to soup and pasta
  • Add ice cream, pudding or yogurt to desserts and fruit

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Coping with low appetite

If you are ill and do not feel hungry or generally have a low appetite, here are some tips to help you get the calories and protein you need:

  • Eat snacks and small meals more often and eat your biggest meal when your appetite is the best. Make it a point to have a snack or a high energy drink every 2 hours.
  • Keep quick and easy snacks in your kitchen. Try Greek yogurt with nuts or seeds, toast with peanut butter or low-salt crackers with hummus. Keep a supply of single serving lower sodium pre-packaged frozen foods and easy to prepare foods on hand – they’re easy to heat up and are usually high in calories.
  • Do not drink with your meals as this may fill you up. Instead, choose beverages between meals that give you energy, such as whole milk, soy milk, milkshakes and smoothies. Supplements such as Ensure Plus, Boost Plus, Glucerna and Carnation Instant Breakfast are high calorie alternatives to homemade drinks and can boost your intake between 300 and 600 calories per beverage.
  • Protein bars can be a great snack when you’re on the go and add calories, protein, vitamins and other nutrients to your diet. Choose bars that have whole grains and other healthy ingredients, such as dried fruit and nuts.
  • Set reminders or alarms on your phone to remind you to eat. Try to make your mealtime more enjoyable by eating with family and friends.

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