Whether you need to gain healthy calories or carefully restrict calorie intake, it’s important to know which foods are naturally high in calories, including veggies. Here is a list of the top 10 high-calorie vegetables and vegan-friendly plant foods for healthy bulk and weight gain.
The Benefits of High-Calorie Foods
While many processed foods are marketed as low-calorie for those looking to shed pounds, healthy caloric intake is important too. Athletes need energy-rich calories to perform at their best, children need to gain weight to match their growth spurts, and even those who are seeking safe weight loss still need calories from healthy foods to gain life-sustaining nutrition, to build muscle, and to feel full and satisfied.
We’ve compiled a list of high-calorie veggies and vegan foods for anyone seeking to build up their body’s strength.
The Top 10 High-Calorie Vegetables and Foods
Here are foods and vegetables with a hardy calorie count that benefit your health.
Well-known for their healthy fat content, avocados are nutritionally dense foods that can serve as a whole wheat toast spread, a rich green smoothie ingredient, or a tasty guacamole. Buttery and satisfying, avocados are low-carb, high-fat, and heart-healthy fruits full of micronutrients like potassium, folate, and vitamin C. Mash them into an omelet, blend them up in a meal replacement shake, or mix them with sour cream or Greek yogurt for a perfect veggie dip.
Any nutritionist will tell you that nuts and nut butters are fantastically beneficial foods to snack on. From soft nuts like pecans that can be easily added to a tasty dessert, to crunchy almonds or walnuts in a homemade granola bar (perhaps dotted with dark chocolate and held together with sweet maple syrup), nuts are high-calorie foods that can actually help prevent heart disease thanks to their unique nutrient profile. The Mayo Clinic explains that the unsaturated fats, plant sterols, and omega-3 fatty acids in nuts all contribute to improved cardiovascular health.
3. Dried Fruit
The natural sugars in fruit and their inherent antioxidant content make them perfect snack foods. Though you often find that commercially sold dried fruits are candied or sugared, added sugars just aren’t necessary to make these foods sweet. Drying fresh fruit yourself in a dehydrator not only preserves them longer but also concentrates the nutrients in fruit flesh and (especially) the skins. From apples to mangoes and dates, dried fruit of any kind can contribute to a high-calorie breakfast, lunch, or snack and sweeten dishes like oatmeal or yogurt with natural sugar content.
Quinoa is a pseudo-grain full of protein and fiber that can easily be used to replace starchier foods like brown rice for those who want lean weight gain. With all nine essential amino acids needed for new muscle growth, quinoa’s got the perfect amount of calories to serve muscle gain and bulk strength as a complete protein food. The copper, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and other plant-based nutrients in quinoa make this high-fiber superfood a worthwhile side dish or main course to include in your weekly meal plans.
Legumes are the umbrella over beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas, and, with quality fiber and protein, they’re a fantastic caloric contribution. Beans are uniquely classified as a vegetable (culinarily), fruit (botanically), and protein food (nutritionally), and they can make up any number of high-calorie plant-based food from hummus to tofu products. Invaluable as a meat replacement, legumes contribute to heart health, digestive health, and blood sugar control so thoroughly that sometimes they’re even included as medical advice by doctors who know that food is some of the best medicine around when it comes to preventative care.
Seeds, like nuts, are full of highly concentrated micronutrients, and so many people in the modern world don’t eat enough of them. With linoleic acid, polyunsaturated fats, and vitamin B6 (among so much more), sunflower seeds are an easy snack and perfectly included in salads, granola bars, smoothies, and sides. By sprinkling sunflower seeds into your food, you can gain important vitamins and minerals almost effortlessly.
Speaking of seeds, tahini (made from ground sesame seeds) is a high-fiber healthy fat often found in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. With the same consistency of peanut butter, tahini is a calorie-dense tasty paste that can be used as a spread on whole grain toast, a vegetable dip, or flavorful base for dressings and soups. The fiber content can contribute to digestive health, and tahini can help protect your liver and kidney detox functions.
8. Olive Oil
Like avocados, olive oil is a well-known healthy fat, the kind that can improve your cholesterol levels and help manage diabetes naturally. With monounsaturated fats, extra virgin olive oil cold-pressed from olive flesh can give you extra calories along with antioxidant protection against the oxidative damage caused by free radicals in the body. Cook with it, bake with it, or use it as a base for salad dressings to get a few more calories in one of the healthiest ways possible.
Whether sweet or savory, baked into fries or pies, sweet potatoes are gorgeously nutritious vegetables full of vitamin C, potassium, and all your daily vitamin A needs, important for retinal health and immune strength. Mash it, grill it, bake it, blend it, or roast it—no matter how you prepare, season, or further sweeten a sweet potato, this root vegetable can fill you up and help bulk you out while providing vital nutrients.
10. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is amazing—it can be used topically for skin and hair health, aromatically for that tropical, nutty scent, and, of course, nutritionally for targeted calories that can give you long-lasting energy. A staple for high-fat, low-carb diets like the keto diet and the early stages of Atkins, the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil can be isolated and made into a flavorless, high-calorie base for dressings, sauces, smoothies, cooking oils, coffee-boosters and more. Because of this nutritional density, coconut and MCT oils are often utilized for the weight-loss and muscle-building efforts of intermittent fasters, to replace meals without starving bodies of any needed vitamins or energy.
High-Calorie, High-Nutrient Content
For those looking to gain weight or bulk up, these natural, vegan-friendly foods don’t contain the empty calories found in processed foods and have the rich calories needed to help you gain muscle strength and bone density. That is the kind of bulk that keeps us alive and healthy every day, and ready to fight off viruses, disease, and premature aging for a long and vital life.