Following a vegan diet full of plant-based whole foods can be extremely healthy. However, without incorporating the right high calorie vegan foods, some people may struggle to get enough calories and nutrition to support weight gain goals.
In this guide, I’ll cover 30 nutritious vegan food options perfect for adding more quality calories and nutrients to your meals and snacks when trying to gain weight. I’ll also provide the calorie counts per serving to give you an idea of recommended portion sizes.
Whether you’re an athlete looking to bulk up or simply hope to gain some curves, this guide will empower you to eat abundantly. Let’s help you properly fuel that active vegan lifestyle!
Table of Contents
The Benefits of Healthy Weight Gain on a Vegan Diet
Before jumping into the top vegan foods for weight gain, let’s first talk about setting realistic goals:
For Athletes and Bodybuilders
- Increasing caloric intake from whole foods allows you to train harder and see improved muscle growth over time. Vegan diets definitely don’t have to limit strength or performance goals!
For Underweight People Seeking Calories
- Those with faster metabolisms, illness, or naturally thin frames can finally reach a healthier weight.
For Women Hoping to “Fill Out”
- Weight gain from nutrient-dense foods can help achieve a curvier, stronger physique. No super-restrictive dieting required.
For Anyone Battling Undesirable Weight Loss
- Illness, stress, depression, anxiety and other issues can sometimes cause unintentional weight loss. More calories from healthy vegan foods helps restore a comfortable weight.
How to Calculate Your Calorie Needs for Weight Gain Goals
Determining your total daily calorie needs for gradual weight gain involves a few simple steps:
Step 1: Calculate Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Your BMR represents the minimum calories needed for basic functioning if resting in bed all day. Calculators that factor height, weight, age and sex provide estimated BMR.
Step 2: Factor in Your Activity Level
Next, multiply your BMR by an activity factor ranging from 1.2 to 1.9 depending on your lifestyle:
- Sedentary: 1.2
- Light activity: 1.375
- Moderate activity: 1.55
- Very active: 1.725
- Extremely active: 1.9
This provides your “maintenance” calories to just maintain current weight with that activity level.
Step 3: Add More Calories for Weight Gain Goals
Finally, add 250-500 extra calories per day to see a healthy 1/2 to 1 pound weight gain per week on average.
Be patient and make adjustments as needed. Track progress monthly rather than daily fluctuations.
30 Nourishing High-Calorie Vegan Foods
Now that you know your calorie needs, let’s explore delicious whole food options perfect for healthy plant-powered weight gain!
Protein-Packed Vegan Foods
Protein provides 4 calories per gram, making high-protein foods a key component of healthy vegan weight gain. Aim for around 1 gram of protein per pound of goal body weight daily. Great high-protein, high-calorie vegan options include:
Tofu is made from condensed soy milk pressed into solid white blocks. Try pan frying or baking marinated tofu for a high protein, plant-based calorie boost.
- 153 calories in 1⁄2 cup
- 10 grams protein
- Rich source of iron, calcium, manganese
- Versatile in stir fries, smoothies, baked goods
Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake with a firm texture and nutty flavor. Tempeh easily absorbs other flavors, making it great for sautés, sandwiches, bowls, and more.
- 222 calories in 1⁄2 cup
- 19 grams protein
- Excellent source of probiotics from fermentation
- Meaty texture works well in tacos, bowls, sandwiches
With a meaty texture when cooked, seitan is made from wheat gluten and often used as a vegan meat substitute. Making it perfect for upping calories in bowls, tacos, sandwiches, and more.
- 280 calories in 3 ounces
- 21 grams protein
- Wheat-based meat substitute without soy
- Absorbs flavors like beef broth well during cooking
Beans and Legumes
- Kidney beans, lentils, black beans, and chickpeas offer 150-270+ calories per 1⁄2 cup cooked.
- Provide fiber, protein, iron, potassium, folate.
- Use in burgers, soups, salads.
These fun-to-eat soybeans come either shelled or in the pod. Keep a stash in your freezer for easy snacking.
- 180 calories per 1⁄2 cup
- 11 grams protein
- Soybeans popular as snacks
- Add to bowls, salads, or eat on own
This vitamin-rich vegan staple sprinkles a savory, cheesy flavor on dishes. Use generously on pasta, popcorn, and salads.
- 45 calories per 2 Tbsp
- 4 grams protein
- Provides B vitamins
- Adds cheesy flavor to dishes
Healthy High-Fat Vegan Foods
Avocados supply heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and fiber. Their rich, creamy texture makes them perfect for smoothies, sandwiches, salads, and spreads.
- 320+ calories per medium
- Over 30 grams fat
- Creamy texture ideal for smoothies, sandwiches
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, etc provide healthy fats, protein, and calories. Enjoy nuts on salads, in homemade energy bars, or blended into nut butters.
- ~185 calories per 1⁄4 cup
- 15 grams fat per serving
- Enjoy raw, toasted, as nut butters
Shredded coconut mostly from saturated fat. Use coconut to add calories to oatmeal, yogurt, curries, baked goods, and smoothies.
- 283 calories per 1⁄4 cup shredded
- Rich in saturated fat
- Adds flavor and creaminess to dishes
A versatile cooking oil that supplies 119 calories per tablespoon. Saute veggies in olive oil or use it as a base for rich salad dressings to add flavor and calories.
- 119 calories per tablespoon
- Healthy plant-based fat for cooking, dressings
- Use generously to increase meal calories
Indulge in the antioxidant power of cacao. Melt it into desserts or enjoy a small square after meals.
- 145 calories per ounce
- Contains antioxidants
- Look for at least 70% cacao
- Eat in moderation
Chia and Flaxseeds
Tiny but mighty seeds that supply calories while adding protein, fat and calories.
- 150 calories per 2 tablespoons
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Help thicken smoothies, oats, puddings
Filling High-Carb Vegan Foods
Known as a “supergrain,” quinoa offers and tastes great in salads, bowls, soups, and sides.
- 222 calories per cooked cup
- 8 grams protein, 5 grams fiber
- Nutty flavor complements both sweet and savory dishes
A nutritious whole grain that’s widely available. Enjoy oatmeal sweetened with bananas and almond butter or use oats to add calories to baked goods.
- 154 calories per 1⁄2 cup dry
- Excellent source of fiber
- Use in porridge sweetened with banana or nut butter
In one cooked cup, this whole grain provides calories. It’s incredibly versatile – use brown rice in stir fries, sushi bowls, pilafs, stuffed peppers, and more.
- 216 calories per cooked cup
- 4 grams protein, 3 grams fiber
- Works well in stir fries, sushi, stuffed peppers, more
Despite the name, buckwheat is wheat-free. Perfect for veggie burgers, stir-fries, or porridge.
- 172 calories per cooked cup
- Wheat-free seed often used in pancakes, crepes
- Also good in pilafs, veggie burgers
A gluten-free ancient grain high in protein and fiber. Try using it as a nutrient-packed base for breakfast bowls and pilafs.
- 251 calories per cooked cup
- Gluten-free ancient grain
- Use as a base for breakfast bowls
A starchy staple crop with 158 calories per medium potato. Enjoy potatoes mashed, baked, roasted, fried or in soups.
- 160 calories per medium potato
- Starchy and versatile vegetable
- Bake, mash, roast, fry, or add to soups
Their sweet flavor makes it easy to enjoy. Also excellent mashed, roasted as fries, or added to smoothies.
- 103 calories in 1⁄2 large sweet potato
- Rich in vitamin A
- Bake, mash or add to smoothies
From butternut to acorn to pumpkin, winter squash offer complex carbs and dozens of vitamins. Use in baked goods, pastas, risottos, and soups.
- 82 calories per cup cooked
- Butternut, acorn, pumpkin varieties
- Use in baked goods, pastas, risottos
Starchy yet sweet relatives of bananas perfect for pan frying or baking into chips.
- 220 calories per large
- Starchy yet sweet
- Pan fry or bake into chips
Unlike most nuts, chestnuts are primarily starchy carbs rather than fat. Roast them as a chestnut rice or mashed potato alternative.
- 54 calories per ounce
- Starchy, lower fat nut
- Roast into chestnut rice or purees
A perfect high-calorie fruit. Eat them fresh, baked into breads and muffins, or blended into smoothies.
- 105 calories per medium
- Provides potassium, vitamin B6
- Eat fresh or baked into breads, muffins
Juicy, tropical mangoes provide fluid, calories, and vitamin C. Slice them onto oatmeal, blend into smoothies, or enjoy on their own.
- 150 calories per 1⁄2 mango
- Tropical, juicy fruit
- Add to smoothies or enjoy raw
These sticky, sweet fruits are nutritional powerhouses. Add dates to trail mixes, salads, nut butter sandwiches, oats, or eat as snacks.
- 421 calories per 1⁄4 cup pitted
- Natural sweetness, high sugar content
- Blend into smoothies or enjoy as snacks
Hydrating High-Calorie Vegan Beverages
Vegan Protein Shakes
Utilize vegan protein powders to create 300-400 calorie mass gaining shakes ideal for before and after workouts.
- 300-400 calories
- Use vegan protein powders
- Drink for muscle recovery
Blend banana, avocado, nut butter, protein powder, oats and soy/almond milk for 400+ calorie smoothies. They make a nutrient-dense breakfast or snack.
- 400+ calories
- Blend fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds
- Satisfying meal or snack
Fresh juices made from carrots, beets, apples, oranges and greens offer natural sweetness along with calories.
- Natural sugars for energy
- Feels indulgent when blended with veggies and fruits
Fortified Non-Dairy Milk
- 60-90+ calories per cup depending on fat content
- Soy, almond, oat, coconut
- Add to smoothies, cereal, or drink on own
With the right whole food choices, it’s easy to get all the quality nutrition you need on a vegan diet while still reaching calorie goals!
Ways to Add More Calories Throughout Your Day
Gaining weight in a healthy way requires being consistent – not restricting all day then binging at night. Here are tips:
- Eat bigger meals with larger portions of whole grains, proteins, fats and veggies.
- Have heartier snacks between meals – try trail mix, fresh fruit with nut butter, bean dips, dried fruits, smoothies.
- Drink calories from protein shakes, soy or oat milk, fruit smoothies, juices.
- Don’t skip meals – eat breakfast, lunch, dinner plus snacks.
- Satisfy cravings for treats like dark chocolate in moderation.
- Top off meals – add extras like avocado, tahini, olive oil, nuts, seeds.
Staying in a slight calorie surplus day-to-day allows gradual muscle and weight gain over time. Be patient and listen to your body.
Sample High-Calorie Vegan Meals and Snacks
Here are just a few ideas to spark your own creativity:
Breakfast: Tofu veggie scramble with sweet potato hash and avocado toast
Lunch: Burrito bowl with rice, black beans, quinoa, guacamole, salsa
Dinner: Coconut curry with chickpeas, lentils, and cashews over quinoa
Snacks: Trail mix with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and dark chocolate. Fresh figs with almond butter.
Smoothies: Banana peanut butter smoothie. Mango avocado smoothie with protein powder.
Dessert: Vegan chocolate avocado mousse. Banana “ice cream” dipped in dark chocolate.
See how easy crafting calorie-packed vegan meals can be? Have fun with it!
Answers to Common Vegan Weight Gain Questions
To wrap up, here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Are high calorie vegan foods less healthy?
Not necessarily! The foods suggested in this guide are all nutrient-dense whole foods that promote health. Control portions of higher fat/sugar options.
Do I need vegan protein powder to gain weight?
Protein powders can help athletes or very active individuals reach high protein targets. But they aren’t required. Focus on sufficient calories first.
How fast should I aim to gain weight?
Aim for a gradual gain of 0.5 to 1 pound per week. Gaining any faster than that likely means you’re adding extra fat, not muscle.
What if I’m still struggling to gain weight?
See a doctor to rule out any underlying issues hindering weight gain. Consider upping calories another 250-500 per day. Track your intake to ensure you’re eating enough.
Will weight gain change my body composition?
It’s normal for body shape to shift with weight gain. Some may go to hips and chest. Building muscle also helps reshape your frame as desired.
I hope these vegan muscle-building food options give you plenty of ideas for meeting your calorie and nutrition needs on a plant-based diet! Let me know if you have any other questions.
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