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High calorie lunch ideas for weight gain could be the key to muscle gain consistency.
Lunch is one of your 2 most important meals of the day (along with dinner) but is often overlooked. It can be hard to prioritize a high calorie lunch when you’re out at work or studying, with the family, or have a busy day ahead of you.
By changing your lunch and using these high calorie lunch ideas, you can improve your whole day’s nutrition – taking the burden off the other meals and fuelling up before or after exercise.
Lunch: What it Means for Weight Gain
Lunch being the middle meal of the day makes it a keystone for good dietary practice but also a difficult one to optimize.
Being busy around lunch time can be a real pain for your nutrition and drastically adds to the challenge of getting nutrition right.
It’s also important more consistently than other meals – whether you train in the morning or evening, a lunch will either be your main post-workout or main pre-workout meal.
These are both crucially important for performance and recovery, as well as being useful for early birds and late eaters alike (1).
The better your lunch, the less pressure there is on the rest of your diet to do the work. A high-calorie lunch can completely change the eating structure of your day to support both exercise and pacing, reducing the sheer but-gusting challenge of a single, huge meal.
Let’s take an example where the goal is a 3,500-calorie day:
- Breakfast: 500 calories (Here are some great weight gain breakfast ideas)
- Lunch: 900 calories
- Dinner: 2100 calories
This puts a huge emphasis on dinner – which can leave you under-fueled during the day and then struggling to get enough food into the last meal of the day.
For a lot of skinny guys, hardgainers, and women new to bulking, this provides a serious challenge that just makes weight-gain harder.
- Breakfast: 500 calories
- Lunch: 1300 calories
- Dinner: 1700 calories
This is a similar day but the proper distribution of calories through dinner and lunch makes for better energy availability during the day (especially if you’re using an afternoon/evening training schedule.
It also brings down the calorie content of dinner to something significantly more reasonable – leaving you with a more natural and manageable spread of calories throughout the day.
High-Calorie Lunch For Weight Gain: How To
The best way to get a high-calorie lunch for healthy weight gain is to change how you prioritize foods – focus on high-calorie carbohydrate sources and proteins as your main fuel.
These are both a great way to eat more total calories, but also to fuel up after a morning workout or in preparation for an evening one.
This also means de-prioritizing lean proteins in favor of higher-calorie alternatives.
Chicken breast can be swapped out for thighs and wings, higher-fat beef can be used, and fatty fish instead of white fish. These all produce higher calorie intake for the purpose of better muscle growth – as well as improving flavor.
You should also try to add more nutrient-dense vegetables, but with a lower satiety.
Swapping broccoli for mixed beans, avocado, and/or a super-low-satiety choice like wilted spinach. These either increase your lunch’s calorie content or free up more space in the meal for other, calorie-dense foods.
The classic approach to any meal is meat, a carbohydrate source, and vegetable(s).
This is a simple formula that you can tweak to help gain weight with larger carbohydrate intake, calorie-dense vegetables, or a less lean protein source.
Combining these, we might get something like beef mince, rice, diced pepper, beans, and avocado.
Even relatively small portions can easily reach 1500 calories for lunch without neglecting any essential nutrients or filling you up too much. Creating a healthy meal plan is key to successful weight gain.
These kinds of meals are also really prep-friendly where they can be double-cooked and stored for the next day. The only real challenge is the notoriously poor shelf-life avocado – which you might need to use at once.
Liquid Calories With Lunch: Easy Calories to Gain Weight
Remember you can – and should – also add liquid calories to meals. A lunch that is accompanied by a mid-calorie slower digesting carb and protein source is an easy and non-filling option for improving calorie intake.
This is easier to take in than a whole food (due to taking up less space in the stomach and having a faster transit time through the digestive system), making it easy calories.
Drinks like whole milk (including coconut milk), protein powder shakes, and mass gainers all work.
Ideally, you’d blend fruit, protein powder, whole milk, and flavorful ingredients into a healthy homemade mass gainer – offering the best macronutrients, calories, and vitamins/minerals for healthy weight gain.
High Calorie Lunch Ideas For Weight Gain
If you are looking to gain weight, having a high-calorie lunch with a focus on protein and carbohydrates is a must. Here are some great healthy lunch ideas for weight gain:
- Mince + sauteed potatoes + roasted veg
- Mince + rice + veg + sauce(s)
- Rice + Beans + meat
- Meat + veg + avocado
- Fatty fish + potato
- Chicken + diced crispy bacon + carb of choice
- Wraps: fajita and burrito
- Paella or jambalaya
- Teriyaki with sticky rice
1. Mince + Sauteed Potatoes + Roasted Veggies
This is one of the simplest but best choices – rich in calories from carbs, protein, and additional veggies for health. They provide a host of important nutrients without sitting too heavily in the gut or spending too many of your daily calories on junk.
Potatoes and mince are both very digestible, while veg can be included independently or roasted. Potatoes can be any form of semi-processed: roasted, baked, or chopped and sautéed (or mashed potatoes).
2. Mince + Rice + Veg + Sauce(s)
Mince returns in another simple lunch – rice, mince, and veg are easy to combine with a wide range of options. Vegetables easily go with this meal – letting you swap in or out anything you’d like.
Sauces are the real winner here (or something like a sour cream), where it accepts anything from barbecue to sweet chili, and anything else you like along the way. The balance is just about perfect, and can be tweaked towards more carbs or protein at will.
3. Rice + Beans + Meat
The combination of rice and beans is a classic one for hearty cuisine and a high-carb meal.
Rice is a very high carb with a small amount of protein, while beans are a good split between the two – with added vitamins and minerals.
The addition of a meat or other protein source – and it can be beef, pork, chicken, or anything else you like – makes this super versatile. It’s another variation of rice, but there’s a reason for that – it’s a great lunch choice.
4. Meat + Veg + Avocado
If you want to keep it simple with protein and fats – for long-term energy without as many carbs – you can just combine meat, vegetables, and avocado slices. It’s great lunch meal to gain weight.
Combining red meat with green veg makes for a widely-varied and healthy nutrient intake without the digestive concerns some people have around red meats.
Alternatively, this works just as well with poultry – Mexican seasoned chicken thighs with avocado and a bean salad is an easy lunch but a nutritional powerhouse. You can also add sour cream for added taste.
5. Fatty Fish + Potato
If you want to make a simple but effective high-carb meal with healthy fats and protein, you can make grilled or pan-seared salmon with potatoes.
Typically, a higher calorie potato choice – like roasted, sauteed, or gratin – is a better choice to fill out this meal.
Salmon is the perfect fatty fish, but you can also use mackerel or sole – by preference. The important part is a large portion of carbohydrates to fill out those all-important weight gain calories.
6. Chicken + Diced Bacon + Carb of Choice
If you are looking for lunch ideas to gain weight, chicken and crispy bacon is a simple but effective choice that has been popular forever.
It’s an alternative to fatty chicken and has inspired things like hunter’s chicken, which is another great lunch choice if you have the appropriate prep time/facilities.
Combine this with a simple carb source like potatoes and you can add a cruciferous vegetable to round out the meal with tons of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
7. Wraps: Fajita and Burrito
Any form of wrap can be a great choice for lunches to gain weight – such as fajitas and burritos. These are self-contained, high in calories when using beans, whole milk cottage cheese, sour cream, rice, and meats, and are delicious.
The tortillas are an easy calorie source and way to keep everything together. You can also use things like enchiladas if you have a microwave at work or you don’t mind old whole milk cottage cheese – they’re just a bit harder to prep properly.
8. Quesadillas – Chicken or Beef
One of the best weight gain lunch ideas, quesadillas are similar to other forms of wraps, but offer a toasted alternative. The trade-off is a relatively difficult prep, or a difficult time actually getting the best of them when they’re cold – since they taste much better hot.
Even so, a chicken quesadilla is a simple calorie source that is rich in protein and fats, with additional carbs from the tortilla itself.
You can add vegetables like chopped tomatoes, peppers, and onions to get a well-rounded lunch with plenty of calories and important macro- and micro-nutrients. Also add sour cream or tomato sauce for better taste.
9. Paella or Jambalaya
Rice dishes with an existing and set series of ingredients are often great choices for weight gain. Paella is a good example with a combination of chorizo, seafood, and rice.
These are all great choices – though they do take a little more preparation and care than other lunches.
Jambalaya is another good example – and pairs relatively well with wraps, offering another carb source and culinary option. These are similar to the rice + meat template, but with more history and a more predictable outcome.
10. Teriyaki with Sticky Rice, Edamame, and Veg
Marinated, glazed, or brushed options are great. Teriyaki salmon and chicken, for example, are great choices for adding more simple calories to the classic meat + carb choice.
Teriyaki grilled chicken or salmon, sliced, and served with sticky rice is a great choice.
You can add edamame or sugar snaps on the side for a simple vegetable source that fits the aesthetic and complements the dish easily. You can also pair it with a greek yogurt for more protein.
Bagels are some of the best carbohydrate sources – with a simple but effective combination of carbohydrate and proteins.
They’re also incredibly convenient, versatile, and enjoyable.
You can use just about any toppings you want but some of the popular ones are great for high calorie lunches:
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese
- Chorizo and spinach egg scramble
- Beef patties and whole milk cottage cheese
- Pesto chicken and leaves
These are super simple and convenient options to have – and you can make a bagel with just about any form of heat – from a toaster to an oven.
These are only a few of the options on offer and can adapt to almost any nutrient goal.
NOTE: When trying new meal ideas, make use of common items in your house like sour cream, whole milk cottage cheese, cream cheese, mashed potatoes, peanut butter, maple syrup and whipped cream to add extra calories to your meal.
12. Toasted Sandwiches
One of the best weight gain lunch ideas, toasted sandwiches – especially those that rely on Emmental rather than cheddar – are an easy and effective way to improve your protein intake with the classic toasted cheese sandwich. They also offer a wide range of filling choices – such as chicken, beef, fish, and vegetables.
Again, some of the classics are some of the best choices to gain weight:
- Barbecue chicken and cheese
- Philly cheesesteak style
- Tuna, mayo, and sweetcorn
- Chicken Caesar
- Pesto Chicken
- The Reuben
These are great choices with their own dietary benefits and drawbacks, but they’re reliably high in calories, offering fats, carbs, and protein in combination.
13. Fish Tacos and Other Taco-y Things
Any form of taco that you can prepare and store for lunch is a great choice. A taco shell or soft tortilla will likely provide around 70-100 calories by itself, while ingredients like beef mince and fish goujons offer a simple protein source.
You can throw in all kinds of vegetables, sauces, and carbs – either beans or rice (e.g.) to get the best results.
Other classic choices include carnitas, chicken with cheese and salsa, or any other combination you’d prefer. There’s plenty of inspiration out there, and Mexican cuisine is typically one of the best to gain weight.
14. Daals and Bread
Daal is one of the best lunches for any healthy weight gain goal, offering a mixture of lentils, healthful spices, and vegetables.
The combination with a meat source, breads, and other options make it a versatile and effective choice to get a balance of carbs, fats, and protein in one place.
This is an easy and underrated choice with a great texture, taste, and the versatility you need to get the best out of your lunch.
Give it a try if you’ve got a little prep time and want something more rewarding than that same sandwich lunch.
Some other lunch ideas include Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Vegan Cobb Salad, Greek Yogurt and Cereal, Sweet Potatoes and Dried Fruits.
Frequently Asked Questions
What High Calorie Foods Are Good For You?
There are many high calorie foods that are good for health: avocado, whole milk, many types of fruits, fatty fish, beans, rice, oats and other wholegrains, some forms of cheese (like parmesan cheese), nuts and seeds, peanut butter and others.
You can also combine high calorie foods with healthy foods and the meal will be healthy. Consider combining potatoes and meats with dark leafy greens, a variety of colorful vegetables, and a small dessert of blueberries, nuts, and banana.
The end result of high calorie foods is a simple “picky” lunch that offers a wide range of nutrients and is a fantastic all-rounder for health.
Conclusion: Healthy Lunch Ideas for Weight Gain
High calorie lunch ideas for weight gain aren’t difficult – they’re just a combination of higher-calorie healthy foods than you’re using now.
It comes down to smart choices, knowing what to look for, and structuring your lunches with a bit of fore-thought.
Swapping to a higher-calorie option for each important food group – carb, protein, and vegetable(s) – is the easiest choice.
Adding healthy fats that don’t sit uncomfortably or take up too much of your diet is another simple and easy choice. Adding liquid calories is yet another boost to gain weight.
Making a few simple swaps in your lunch could make a world of difference to your day and your diet. With a higher calorie lunch, you might just find that healthy weight growth is easier, faster, and more consistent.
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Rohan Arora is a Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist and has been actively involved in sports and fitness for over 8 years. He now leads the team of fitness specialists and personal trainers who help people around the world with personalized workout and nutrition plans, along with providing the right information on sports supplements.